Call for compulsory drug detention centres to be closed

legalThe World Medical Association and IFHHRO today condemned the operation of administrative drug detention centres for users of controlled substances.

The two organisations stated that because they violated the human rights of people detained in the facilities and operated without following accepted principles of medical treatment they should be closed.

They said the detention centres, sometimes referred to as compulsory detoxification centres, drug rehabilitation centres and education and labour centres, were institutions in which people testing positive or suspected of illicit drug use were detained against their will. Such systems detained people routinely and were estimated to detain 400,000 people worldwide. The facilities were neither part of the criminal justice system nor did they provide evidence-based rehabilitation treatment. While doctors sometimes worked inside the centres, they were typically run by police or the military and suspected drug users were often detained without regard to legal standards, procedural safeguards or actual need for treatment.

Authorities that detained drug-dependent people in facilities that offered no treatment and often indulged in forced labour and other abuses of detainees was a practice that both the WMA and IFHHRO denounced out of hand as it contravened ethical behaviour.

Dr. Wonchat Subhachaturas, President of the WMA, said:

‘The medical community has recognised that treatment of addiction, like treatment for any disease or condition, should be undertaken in the best interests of the patient and according to established principles of medical ethics. Drug therapy should be administered according to professional guidelines and supervised by specially trained physicians.’

IFHHRO and the WMA said individuals who used or were addicted to controlled substances retained their fundamental human rights, including the right to the highest attainable standard of health and freedom from discrimination, arbitrary detention, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. They had a right to equitable access to medical treatment and allied rehabilitation services in accordance with generally approved medical principles.

Dr. Adriaan van Es, Director of the International Federation of Health and Human Rights Organisations, said:

‘As in other forms of medical care, drug dependency treatment should be voluntary and should respect and validate the autonomy of the individual. Patients should be fully informed about the risks and benefits of treatment choices. Furthermore, programmes should create supportive environments and relationships to facilitate treatment, provide coordinated treatment of co-morbid mental and physical disorders, and address relevant psychosocial factors.’

In joining other organisations in calling for the closure of these detention centres the two organisations urged that these facilities should be replaced with evidence-based, voluntary drug treatment in the community that conformed to ethical standards and human rights norms.

For further information please contact us.

Website of the World Medical Association (WMA)

Update 25 May:

On Wednesday 25 May 2011 IFHHRO issued a position statement, which was widely distributed. You can download this statement here and find more information in our news release on this issue.

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