[…]to be presented to the Council at its thirtieth session, on the impact of the world drug problem on the enjoyment of human rights, and recommendations on respect for and the protection and promotion of human rights in the context of the world drug problem, with particular consideration for the needs of persons affected and persons in vulnerable situations.
This is some really important stuff. Here are some highlights…
The Special Rapporteur on the right to health has underlined the distinction between drug use and drug dependence. Drug dependence is a chronic, relapsing disorder that should be medically treated using a biopsychosocial approach. Drug use is neither a medical condition nor does it necessarily lead to drug dependence. People who use drugs and people who are dependent on drugs possess the same right to health as everyone else, and those rights cannot be curtailed if the use of drugs constitutes a criminal offence […]
The Special Rapporteur has emphasized that health-care personnel have an obligation to provide treatment on a non-discriminatory basis and not to stigmatize or violate a patientâ€™s human rights. […]
Individuals have sometimes been denied access to medical treatment on the grounds of their prior or current drug use, where evidence does not justify denial of treatment. Such denial has occurred on the rationale that a personâ€™s drug use would make him or her unable to adhere to treatment. The Special Rapporteur notes that adherence to medical treatment is not necessarily lower among persons who use drugs, and should be assessed on an individual basis […]
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,8 the Committee on the Rights of the Child9 and the Special Rapporteur on the right to health have all determined that a harm reduction approach is essential for persons who use drugs. […]
Providing drug users with access to drug-consumption rooms can contribute to preventing the transmission of diseases and to reducing damage to the veins, as well as encourage users to make use of treatment and other services. Drug-consumption rooms have contributed to reducing overdose rates and increased access to medical and social services […]
The lack of needle and syringe programmes, in particular, has a direct impact on the spread of HIV. […]
The Special Rapporteur on the right to health has stated that if harm reduction programmes and evidence-based treatments are made available to the general public, but not to persons in detention, this contravenes the right to health. […]
The Special Rapporteur on the right to health has noted that drug users in States that criminalize drug use may avoid seeking health care for fear that information regarding their drug use will be shared with authorities, which could result in arrest and imprisonment, or in treatment against their will. The use of drug registries (lists of people who use drugs) may deter individuals from seeking treatment, especially given that violations of patient confidentiality have been frequently documented in States that maintain such registries […]
The Special Rapporteur has observed that criminalizing drug use and possession has led to risky forms of drug use designed to evade criminal prohibitions, which has in turn resulted in increased health risks for drug users. […]
He added that criminalizing the dissemination of information, including on safe practices pertaining to drug use and harm reduction, is not compatible with the right to health because it hinders individualsâ€™ ability to make informed choices about their health. […]
WHO has recommended decriminalizing drug use, including injecting drug use, as doing so could play a critical role in the implementation of its recommendations on health sector interventions, including harm reduction and the treatment and care of people who use drugs. UNAIDS too has recommended decriminalizing drug use as a means to reduce the number of HIV infections and to treat AIDS […]
The Special Rapporteur has identified many ways in which criminalizing drug use and possession impedes the achievement of the right to health. He has called for the decriminalization of drug use and possession as an important step towards fulfilling the right to health. [emphasis added] […]
The Special Rapporteur has noted as positive the decriminalization experience in Portugal […]
Restricting access to opioids affects not only the availability of opioid substitution therapy but also three unrelated areas where access to controlled medicines is essential: (a) management of moderate to severe pain, including as part of palliative care for people with life-limiting illnesses; (b) certain emergency obstetric situations; and (c) management of epilepsy […]
Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides that, in those States which have not abolished the death penalty, the sentence of death can only be applied for the â€œmost serious crimesâ€. The Human Rights Committee has determined that drug-related offences do not meet the threshold of â€œmost serious crimesâ€ […]
In some States, it has been reported that accused persons may be given a choice between serving a sentence after conviction or submitting to drug treatment. Bearing in mind the right of a person to refuse treatment, this practice may be a cause for concern, in particular given the level of coercion involved. […]
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has called for reform to ensure that sentences for drug-related offences are proportionate to the nature of the crime […] The Working Group has found that overincarceration for drug-related offences contributes significantly to prison overcrowding and that overcrowding can call into question compliance with article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees that everyone in detention shall be treated with humanity and respect for their dignity […]
Different forms of discrimination may result once an individual has a criminal record resulting from a conviction for a drug-related offence. These may include obstacles to obtaining employment, adverse effects on the custody of children or visitation rights, losing government benefits such as access to public housing, food assistance or student financial aid, or difficulties concerning travel abroad. […]
It has been reported that members of ethnic minorities, in particular those who are poor and live in marginalized communities, may be particularly subject to discrimination in the context of drug enforcement efforts. In the United States of America, for example, African Americans make up 13 per cent of the population, yet account for 33.7 per cent of drug-related arrests and 37 per cent of people sent to state prisons on drug charges. […]
It has been reported that women who use drugs may, depending on the laws and policies in force, face losing custody of their children, forced or coerced sterilization, abortion or criminal penalties for using drugs during pregnancy.
In every aspect, the drug war violates basic human rights. It’s time for the world to wake up to that basic fact.