Drug users to be jailed in Russia

Coat of Arms of the Russian Federation (1993-p...

Changes to the criminal code will see repeat drug users jailed in Russia

Here is a news item published in RT news during October as Russia made moves to change its criminal code, so that people who used drugs who were repeatedly caught, would automatically face jail or enforced rehab. They are planning to roll out state run treatment programmes in Russia which is disconcerting to say the least when looking at the current state of health care in Russia and the punitive treatment approaches for people who use drugs. How Russia plans to cope with its 2million strong drug using population if its forces them into rehab and jail isn’t clear, but it certainly throws up a red flag for human rights and harm reduction based organisations around the world.. Click here for the link to RT video on this. Below is the news report from RT.

Published: 06 October, 2011, 21:19 Follow link for this news story in full from RT  The country’s anti-drugs agency has drafted changes to the Criminal Code that would see repeat drug users go to jail.

The agency proposes to outlaw drug abuse, which covers any use of drugs prescribed for medical reasons. Those caught using drugs will be either sent to prison or sent to obligatory rehabilitation centers.

“Passing prison sentences for drug users is not our target,” said Sergey Yakovkev, aide to the head of Russia’s anti-drugs agency. “We want it to be an additional legal mechanism that would cause people to quit drug abuse.”

In 2004, the laws on drug use were significantly relaxed. When caught, drug users could simply pay a fine between 500 and 1,000 rubles or be detained for a maximum of 15 days. Instead of paying a fine, an offender could agree to call a doctor and go through voluntary treatment.

Annually, Russian anti-drug services confiscate more than three tons of heroin and arrest more than 100,000 people, while 7,500 people die of drug overdoses. In total, there are around two to six million drug users in Russia (according to different estimates) – five per cent of the able-bodied population.

The criminalization of drug abuse has been discussed for years, and the subject is still a source of much debate.

“Any civilized country pulling itself out of a drug crisis has done the following: on the one hand, it has criminalized drug use, while on the other, it has opened the door to medical and social rehabilitation,” Evgeny Roizman, director at City Without Drugs Foundation, told RT. “This has had a huge impact. But since we don’t have any law on compulsory medical treatment, this measure will only go halfway.”

“This idea is despicable for two reasons,” Oleg Zhukov, doctor and member of Public Chamber, told RT. “First, I think it’s immoral to jail a person for being sick. And second, this measure will only increase the number of drug addicts. When they get out of prison, people have a criminal mentality based on violence. And violence in any form is exactly what pushes them to drugs.”

Russian Embassy Protest – Dec 1st 2011

Stamp of Russia. AIDS 1993, 90 rubles, CPA #?

World Aids day, Dec 1st

On World Aids Day, Dec 1st this year, people will gather outside Russian Embassies and consulates around the world to protest against the brutal and inhumane treatment of people who use drugs in Russia today. This blog will provide an opportunity to post a variety of important, shocking and truthful accounts of what is happening inside Russia today, events in a country that expects to be taken seriously on the world stage, while allowing thousands upon thousands of its citizens to die needlessly of diseases like HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis, drug overdoses, drug poisonings, and hepatitis C.

It is clear that in Russia today, we are bearing witness to one of the biggest avoidable catastrophes in the history of HIV – the lack of response to the epidemic in Russia. In particular, we must point directly to the special responsibility that Russian medical and public health officials bear for creating and sustaining this disastrous situation.

Methadone and Subutex, have been recognised and listed for years by the World Health Organisation as essential medicines for people dependant on opiate type drugs, and country after country has adopted the evidence based science behind such drug treatment strategies. Russia however, still refuses to acknowledge the huge benefit Opiate Substitution Therapy (OST), meanwhile estimates on the numbers of injecting drug users are growing -1.6-3million people are believed to use drugs -with no access whatsoever to OST such as methadone. Overdose rates stand at around 30,000 per year -that is around 80 mothers, brothers, sisters, and children, dying each and every day. No other country in the world has as many overdoses per head of population, than Russia does today. Why? Because of it’s insistence on using outdated methods to ‘treat’ or simply ignore drug dependence; because it continues to treat people who use drugs as criminals that must be locked away in prison, chained to beds in rehab centres, and stripped of their rights within Russian society. Due to this insistence to ignore the obvious evidence base for harm reduction, an HIV pandemic has exploded across the EEC region, as hundreds and thousands of people become infected with HIV. With extremely limited numbers of needle exchanges available offering sterile syringes to injectors, (all of them funded by NGO’s and not the Russian government), the rate of new infections is set only to grow as rapidly in the future as it has over the last decade.. Currently, eighty per cent of all new HIV infections are in the injecting drug using population, most of which are under 30 years of age and, following the UN office of Drugs and Crime, 40% of Russia’s 1.6million injecting drug users (1) are estimated to be women. Yet the local groups who do manage to provide harm reduction services report as few as one in six of their clients as female. Where are they going for help or support? Answer – They remain off the radar. As NGO’s struggle to fill the huge gaps in services for people who use drugs, poverty, stigma, domestic violence, police harassment, and fear of losing custody of their children are only some of the barriers preventing women who use drugs from seeking medical and counseling services. And, research has shown that if they do come for medical care, they are likely to be denied access or receive substandard services from doctors and nurses who are not trained and not prepared to deal with their issues. Remembering those with HIV/AIDS this World Aids Day Overwhelmingly, women who use drugs do not have access to basic medical care on a regular basis, although they are at a high risk of HIV and other life-threatening illnesses. Drug treatment options are also extremely limited, since drug treatment programs inRussia rarely— if ever— accommodate women with children or pregnant women. Another frequent barrier to care is the requirement that patients present a full set of legal documents— their passport, residence registration, and proof of medical insurance— to receive treatment at AIDS centers. Women and men who use drugs often lack some or all of these papers and thus are denied care. Again, much needed harm reduction programs offer help with residency registration and other documents through legal advocacy. This is the first post in a series that will lead up to World Aids day, and will follow in the footsteps of Russian drug users who took up a protest in Russia on International Drug User Day November 1st 2009, where they attempted to lay flowers and white slippers (a symbol that is put of the coffins of the dead in Russia) on the steps of their embassy. Immediately police rushed out of the building and chased the peaceful demonstrators arresting 5 of them. See link here On  21st July 2011, on International Remembrance Day for people who have died from drugs, the protest expanded again, this time with demonstrators in countries including Spain, Hungary and Germany who also appeared out front of their Russian embassies. All calling for Russia to adopt evidenced based, scientifically sound, cost effective harm reduction and hiv prevention programmes and to stop the human rights abuses of people who use drugs -each and every one who deserves a chance to live a healthy life, free from prison, disease and discrimination. This year on World Aids day, protests will continue again, expanding further, being held in the UK (London), USA (New York), Australia (Sydney, Canberra), France (Marseilles) Romania (Bucharest), Spain (TBC) Canada (Toronto), Sweden (Stockholm) Germany (Berlin). Follow us on FaceBook to find out times and places or stay tuned to this blog (you can subscribe to updates here). (1) UNAIDS, Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, 2010p.38