Drugs Use and Human Rights

People who use drugs (PWUD) in EECA face systematic human rights violations. Mass incarceration, ill-treatment by police, denial of essential medicines and basic healthcare services are common in the region and are driven by repressive drug policies. Existing drug enforcement practices increase the exposure of PWUD to drug-related harms and undermine the regional response to HIV, TB, viral hepatitis and other public health issues.

EECA remains a region where widespread and systematic human rights violations take place in the name of drug control. PWUD face torture and ill treatment by the police, mass incarceration, arbitrary and prolonged detention, as well as the denial of essential medicines and basic healthcare services. Drug enforcement has led to systematic discrimination against people who use drugs, undermining the ability of PWUD to access needed healthcare services. Many human rights abuses committed against people who use drugs in the name of drug enforcement go unreported due to fear of harmful consequences including prosecution. Investigations by government into violations of rights against people who use drugs remain rare.

Access to healthcare services and investment in a comprehensive public health response are further undermined by the financial demands of running drug enforcement programmes. The high costs of bolstering law enforcement and penitentiary systems drain resources that could be invested in tried and tested harm reduction and other public health strategies.

International human rights standards, including the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on Rights of the Child, and the Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women, place mandatory expectations on governments to promote and protect rights. Governments have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfill these obligations by adopting relevant legislative, judicial, administrative, educative and other appropriate measures. However, drug policy enforcement practices in EECA result in PWUD being systematically denied the opportunity to exercise their human rights, leading to PWUD being further exposed to violence, multiple stigma and discrimination. 

EHRN has worked with drug user activists to document human rights abuses against PWUD. This evidence was submitted to the Global Commission on HIV and the Law in 2011. EHRN also documented abuses against women who use drugs, highlighting the role of state actors in the commission of such violent acts. EHRN helps to undertake strategic advocacy and litigation to highlight and challenge the denial of the right to health and other human rights violations committed against PWUD.

EHRN invites harm reduction networks, drug user groups and human rights organizations to join in championing and defending the human rights of PWUD in EECA.

Harm reduction programs exemplify human rights in action by seeking to eliminate hazards faced by people who inject drugs. 

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

The health and human rights impacts of drug law enforcement in the Eurasian regions – count the cost campaign Vienna, CND 2012
Former UN special Rapporteur on right to heath Paul Hunt video – 2008 – Hunt underlines drug policies and human rights for the first time in the UN human rightsn mechanisms history
The Human Rights Costs of the War on Drugs – Count the costs series (2012)
Damon Barrett - Drugs and human rights: is drug law enforcement proportionate? (2012)
Anya Sarang: harm reduction and human rights in Russia