1. Dear Drugs-Forum readers: We are a small non-profit that runs one of the most read drug information & addiction help websites in the world. We serve over 4 million readers per month, and have costs like all popular websites: servers, hosting, licenses and software. To protect our independence we do not run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations which average $25. If everyone reading this would donate $5 then this fund raiser would be done in an hour. If Drugs-Forum is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today. Donations are currently not sufficient to pay our bills and keep the site up. Your help is most welcome. Thank you.

UN Report Highlights Abuse as 'Drug Treatment'

By BitterSweet, Mar 4, 2013 | Updated: Mar 7, 2013 | | |
  1. BitterSweet
    19100.jpg A United Nations report about torture and other abuses in healthcare settings points to the need for donors to withdraw funds to compulsory drug detention centers, Human Rights Watch and Harm Reduction International said today.

    The report was presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 4, 2013, by the special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez. It says that people identified as drug users are held without due process in government-run detention centers where they face serious abuse – including physical and sexual violence and forced labor – all in the name of “rehabilitation.” Human Rights Watch has done extensive research on the subject in Vietnam, China, Cambodia, and Lao PDR, and Harm Reduction International has also reported on donor support to centers in these countries.

    “Illegal detention, forced labor, and sexual violence are not drug dependency treatment,” said Rebecca Schleifer, health and human rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “The UN’s expert on torture has made it clear that governments should close down these centers and donors should stop subsidizing these abuses.”

    International donors have provided funding and other assistance to these centers, which deny effective drug treatment and operate without adequate human rights oversight.

    Mendez, who is mandated to monitor and call attention to torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment around the world, called on governments to close drug detention centers “without delay” and to create voluntary, evidence-based health and social services that respect human rights in the community for drug users. He called on donor countries to “cease support” for existing drug detention centers or for opening new ones, and to establish an effective mechanism for monitoring drug dependence treatment practices.

    In March 2012, 12 United Nations agencies, including the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Health Organization, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and UNAIDS, issued a joint statement calling for the closure of drug detention centers and the release of the people detained there “without delay.” But international donors continue to provide funding and other support to many centers, despite the known human rights consequences.

    In June, for example, the US Government pledged $400,000 to support the Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision to “upgrade” facilities at Somsanga Treatment and Rehabilitation Center, adding to a decade of support by the US, the UN, and other international donors.

    Past US funds have paid for the construction of fences surrounding the center, and of dormitories to expand the capacity of the government to detain drug users, street children, and ethnic minorities. A 2011 Human Rights Watch report documented brutal violence and other serious abuse of adults and children at Somsanga.

    Australia and EU countries have also contributed money to support the operation of drug detention centers. According to a 2012 report by Harm Reduction International, Australia, Luxembourg, and Sweden contributed more than a million USD for a multi-year UNODC project on “capacity building” for drug detention center staff in Vietnam, a country where drug users are subjected to forced labor and held in “punishment rooms” using torture techniques.

    “The idea that these abusive drug detention facilities offer education or rehabilitation is absurd, since people are forced to work in the service of private companies, starved if they miss their work quotas, and tortured for disobeying the rules or attempting to escape,” said Rick Lines, Harm Reduction International executive director. “Donors would not tolerate this at home.”

    Mendez’s report comes at a time when there is increasing scrutiny of international aid spent on drug control in countries with extremely poor human rights records. Donors such as Denmark continue to fund drug enforcement in Iran, for example, despite widespread executions, including public hangings, of people captured in drug cases in recent years.

    “All governments – including international donors – are on notice that supporting compulsory drug detention centers puts them at risk of complicity in torture and other serious human rights abuses,” Schleifer said. “They should make it a priority to end these abuses and redirect their support to voluntary, community-based treatment and other programs that truly respect drug users’ human rights.”

    Author: Human Rights Watch Reporting (hrw.org)
    Date: March 2, 2013


  1. Baba Blacksheep
    It is from my understanding that many low level drug crimes such as use and possesion of small quantities in countries such as Vietnam often result in detention for two years or so where forced labour is endorsed on a state level. The victims of this form of punishment are often released without the misdemeanor even coming to trial as the justice system is so over-loaded and it wouldn't be profitable to do so anyway.
  2. Rob Cypher
    U.N. Report Suggests Some Autism & Addiction Treatments Are Akin to Torture

    So-called treatments for drug users and the disabled in some places of the world—including the U.S.— are far from helpful, says a new United Nations (U.N.) report.

    The U.N. special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, presented the report to the agency’s Human Rights Council in Geneva this week, and says that some practices used to treat autism and addiction are “tantamount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

    The report singled out tactics such as forced labor, punitive use of electric shock, prolonged restraint and isolation, rape and other sexual violence in detention, as well as and denial of maintenance medications like methadone or buprenorphine (Suboxone) in treating addiction. It also reported on failures to provide adequate pain treatment as potentially constituting torture. Even when these practices fall short of outright torture and are merely “ill treatment,” they should be banned in health settings because they “frequently facilitate torture,” the report says.

    Citing accounts from human rights organizations on centers in Asia where drug users and homeless people are rounded up for “treatment,” the special rapporteur details sickening abuses including “tate-sanctioned beatings, caning or whipping, forced labour, sexual abuse and intentional humiliation,” and ‘flogging therapy,’ ‘bread and water therapy’ and electroshock resulting in seizures, all in the guise of rehabilitation.”

    The report notes that these “[c]ompulsory treatment programmes that consist primarily of physical disciplinary exercises, often including military-style drills, disregard medical evidence.” Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) say that that simple incarceration and forced labor are not “recognized by science as treatments for drug use disorders.”

    While the U.S. does not place drug users in brutal work camps without trials— as has been documented in countries like Vietnam, Laos and China— there are some American correctional boot camps, rehabilitation centers and treatment facilities for the disabled and mentally ill that rely on tactics Mendez wants banned.

    The special rapporteur, who is responsible for bringing international attention to inhumane practices wherever they are found, met in December with addiction and disability advocates in Washington. His report specifically mentions the use of punitive electric shock treatment, which is practiced at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Canton on autistic children, as a therapy that should be prohibited internationally.

    The facility—the only one in the world still using such tactics— has long been targeted by advocates for the disabled because of its use of electric shocks. The “treatment” is delivered by a device on the skin whenever patients break rules, even for violations as mild as talking or moving restlessly during class. Of JRC, Mendez said, “the rights of the students of the JRC subjected to…electric shock and physical means of restraints have been violated under the U.N. Convention against Torture and other international standards.” Mendez had previously called for a U.N. investigation of the facility and an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice is ongoing.

    In December, the FDA sent a letter to the program warning officials that the shock devices were not approved and must be removed. That same month, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services announced that it would no longer pay for treatment of any type at Rotenberg.

    Nonetheless, many parents of children at the center want to continue the shock treatment because they claim it is the only thing that works for their children. But the center has never published randomized controlled trials documenting that the treatment is better than non-punitive alternatives.

    The U.N. report also criticizes more widespread treatment approaches used in the U.S. Many treatment programs — including those demonstrated on television by Dr. Drew in programs like Celebrity Rehab and Sober House — oppose the use of long term maintenance with methadone or buprenorphine (Suboxone), which are considered among the most effective treatments for heroin or painkiller addiction.

    “A particular form of ill-treatment and possibly torture of drug users is the denial of opiate substitution treatment,” the report says, noting that this is considered a human rights violation when done in jails and prisons. “Similar reasoning should apply to the non-custodial context,” it says, meaning that provision of such treatment should be required when desired by patients and where evidence suggests it would help. Some countries — like Russia — completely ban the use of maintenance treatments, despite the fact that they have been shown to cut overdose deaths dramatically. American prisons also routinely deny access to maintenance medications, citing concerns about inmates selling them, which puts them in violation of these human rights.

    “I think this is the most powerful U.N. statement calling denial of opioid substitution treatment a denial of the right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” says Rebecca Schleifer of Human Rights Watch, which exposed many of the international treatment abuses.

    Mendez also cites denial of access to pain treatment as a torturous practice in health care settings. According to the WHO, 83% of the world’s population has little or no access to treatment for severe pain with the most effective medications like morphine, even at the end of life. Poor and middle income countries house half the world’s cancer patients and 95% of all new HIV cases, but only use 6% of the world’s supply of morphine. “Failure to ensure access to controlled medicines for the relief of pain and suffering threatens fundamental rights to health and to protection against cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” the report says.

    Mendez says such treatment can constitute torture in many cases. “Medical care that causes severe suffering for no justifiable reason can be considered cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and if there is State involvement and specific intent, it is torture.” Based on this argument, the report calls for bans on inhumane practices and prosecution of people who continue to carry them out.

    While it is highly unlikely that a U.N. report will eliminate all of the abuses that continue in the name of treatment, simply acknowledging that they are unacceptable represents an important first step in addressing, and potentially eliminating them.

    Maia Szalavitz
    March 06, 2013

To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!