CND Day 3 – Human Rights Watch statement to the plenary

Below is the text of Rebecca Schleifer’s statement to the CND plenary on behalf of Human Rights Watch.

‘Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am making this statement on behalf of Human Rights Watch.

We appreciate the commitment in last week’s political declaration to comprehensive drug demand reduction programs and evidence-based drug treatment. Such an approach is entirely consistent with international human rights norms.

In our research, however, we have found that drug treatment practices in many countries are, in fact, not based in evidence and violate human rights.

In some countries people who use drugs are forced into compulsory treatment programs without any form of due process or trial, sometimes for months or even years.

These programs often provide treatment that has no basis in scientific evidence; they are often run by military or public security offices; and they are staffed by people who have no medical training.

The treatment provided often consists of forced labor, psychological and moral re-education, and in some cases includes shackling, caging and caning.

In many countries, people who voluntarily seek treatment also face such abuses.

Let me give you some examples:

In Thailand, thousands of people have been arbitrarily forced into “drug treatment” centers run by security forces. Many are held for extended periods of time.

We appreciate China’s efforts to increase community-based drug rehabilitation programs. Notwithstanding, in China, as many as 350,000 people are interned in mandatory drug-detoxification and “re-education through labor” centers, where they can be held without due process for up to three years. Treatment consists of forced labor, and repeating slogans like “drug use is bad, I am bad.”

In Singapore, according to a government report distributed here this week, drug users can be arbitrarily detained for extended periods of time for drug use, and caned if they relapse – even though relapse is a common symptom of recovery. Singapore has also banned buprenorphine, one of the most effective treatments for opioid dependence, and is now jailing people for using it.

These approaches to drug treatment have no basis in science. There is also clear evidence that they have detrimental consequences for the health and human rights of drug users.

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs should take action to stop human rights abuses committed in the name of drug treatment, and to strengthen collaboration with UN human rights agencies. Last year’s human rights resolution was a good start but much more has to be done. We hope next year’s report on the implementation of the resolution will report progress in UN system-wide efforts to end abusive drug treatment practices, and more broadly to ensure human rights as a central part of drug policy.’

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