Andrey Rylkov Foundation
for Health and Social Justice
Русский

Russian Government shows reckless disregard for health and human rights


VIENNA, MARCH 21, 2011 – A report from prominent civil society organizations will be presented at the 54th Commission on Narcotic Drugs session on March 24th, 2011. The report highlights blatant disregard by the Government of Russia for health, human rights and scientific evidence related to the use of harm reduction measures for those who use illicit drugs. This is particularly troubling given the well-documented and concentrated HIV epidemic among people who use drugs in Russia

The report was penned by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network together with the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network and Andrey Rylkov Foundation on behalf of the Public Mechanism for Monitoring Drug Policy Reform in the Russian Federation. Entitled “Report on the course of implementation by the Russian Federation of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem”, it is a scathing indictment of the two political documents that outline the Russian Government’s “State Anti-Drug Policy Strategy” and plan for its implementation.

Simply put, these one-sided documents emphasizes drug control at the expensive of drug demand reduction – or efforts aimed at reducing public desire for illicit drugs – and measures to reduce harm, long proven to be effective and life-saving. This supply oriented strategy on the part of the Russian Government is actually contrary to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which confirms, among others, the right to health, physical integrity, and freedom from ill-treatment and punishment, needless to say is set to fail the actions outlined in the Political Declaration and the Plan of Action on drug demand reduction, which Russian Federation also supported in 2009. For those who use illicit drugs, these rights and freedoms are currently being denied – and people are needlessly suffering and dying as a result.

Despite ample evidence and international recommendations, the Russian Government continues to tout its hardline position of “zero tolerance” for drug use without recourse; to human rights and public health-oriented programs have been overlooked.

It is worth mentioning that while Russian Government continues to ignore proven harm reduction measures, it accepts considerable funding from other countries to study effective health-oriented programs abroad. The USA, for example, has invested taxpayer dollars to bring officials from the Russian Ministry of Health and Federal Drug Control Service overseas to gain valuable experience and knowledge. To date, however, this investment in Russia has done little to help those who use illicit drugs as these “study tours” have not resulted in any favourable change in policy or direction.

The report provides six key recommendations for action for the Government of Russia to be in compliance with its own Constitution. Chief among these are the need for widespread provision of opioid substitution therapy, harm reduction programs, and anti-stigma and discrimination training for medical and social workers, law enforcement officers and judges. The clearly disproportionate response to those who use illicit drugs without intent to sell – often via harsh criminal prosecution and punishment, including lengthy imprisonment – is another key issue that must be swiftly addressed. Finally, ensuring that people who use drugs have a voice in the planning and implementation of drug demand reduction programs is critical to successfully combating this important public health issue.

The full report is available in English here

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Commission on Narcotic Drugs, established in 1946 as the central policy-making body of the United Nations in drug related matters. It monitors the implementation of the three international drug control conventions.

The Public Monitoring Mechanism was established in December 2010 and is comprised of representatives of non-governmental organizations, representatives of people who use drugs, public health specialists, and independent Russian experts in the field of drug demand reduction, and receives technical support of representatives of the UNODC and UNAIDS in Moscow.



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