Andrey Rylkov Foundation
for Health and Social Justice

Andrey Rylkov Foundation inputed to the UNGASS 2016

In May 2015 members of the Russian Civil Society Mechanism for Monitoring of Drug Policy Reforms in Russia, with technical assistance of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network drafted and submitted to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights a paper named “Russian Drug Policy as a Distorting Reflection of the UN Drug Conventions: Stigmatizing Language, Overreliance on Punitive Restrictions, Indifference to Human Rights, and Obliteration of Science“.

This paper was submitted in a response to the request from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the input regarding any relevant information with regard to the implementation of the resolution A/HRC/28/L.22 – a special resolution of the Human Rights Council on the contribution of the Human Rights Council to the special session of the General Assembly (UNGASS) on the world drug problem of 2016.

At paragraph 1 of this resolution the Human Rights Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a study, in consultation with States, United Nations agencies and other relevant stakeholders, to be presented to the Human Rights 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.

Russia is one of the countries most severely affected by the world drug problem. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), about 2.29% of the Russian population between the ages of 15-64 inject drugs; unsafe drug injection remains a leading cause of HIV infection in the country; and nearly one-quarter (23%) of all adults imprisoned in penitentiary institutions were people convicted for drug-related offences.

The response of the federal Government of the Russian Federation to the world drug problem is heavily based on the UN drug conventions and the supremacy of international treaties of the Russian Federation over domestic laws. For the last several years, Russian authorities have been trying to improve drug laws, including for the purpose of shifting a focus of law enforcement from drug users to drug traffickers. However several principal factors prevent positive changes from coming into practice.  These factors, outlined in the submitted paper, are deeply rooted in the punitive and stigmatizing nature of the drug control system which has been shaped in Russia in line with the UN drug conventions.

The United Nations General Assembly Special Session, or UNGASS, is a meeting of UN member states to assess and debate global issues such as health, gender, or in this case, the world’s drug control priorities. The last time a special session on drugs was held, in 1998, its focus was the total elimination of drugs from the world. Today, political leaders and citizens are pushing to rethink that ineffective and dangerous approach.

UNGASS 2016 is an unparalleled opportunity to put an end to the horrors of the drug war and instead prioritize health, human rights, and safety.

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