Today is the International Day to remember our loved ones who have died as a result of the so-called war on drugs. They have died as a result of their unnecessary criminalisation; they have died as a result of prohibition. It is criminalisation and prohibition that make drugs so dangerous. It is the society in which we live that shows such callous indifference to the deaths of so many.
Thousands of people in the last year have been murdered as a result of the war on people who use drugs. They have been killed in extrajudicial killings; they have been executed; they have died as a result of blood-borne infections; they have died unnecessarily from overdose. Our governments – the government in the UK, and governments in almost every jurisdiction in the world – seem entirely indifferent to these countless deaths, to the suffering of the drug using community, their families, their loved ones. Every one of these deaths is a tragedy, and is an avoidable tragedy.
As a result of criminalisation, drugs are produced in the black market, resulting in people who use heroin in the UK, and internationally, dying from heroin contaminated with anthrax, heroin contaminated with fentanyl, and with carfentanyl. Due to prohibition, and due to politicians’ failure to adopt comprehensive harm reduction, drug consumption rooms, and drug testing, there is simply no possibility to ensure the content of drugs.
Re: Open Letter, for attention of the president of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena
Death Sentences for Drug Offences in Sri Lanka
This week, Sri Lanka’s president signed death sentences for four people convicted of drug-related offences. This follows a 43-year moratorium on the death penalty in Sri Lanka, and the decision to reinstate the death penalty seems to have been driven by the hope that this will increase chances of presidential re-election later this year.
The Ultimate Denial of Human Rights
The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights, to the fundamental right to life. Sri Lanka seems to be following in the steps of other states who are increasingly violating the rights of marginalised communities in order to gain political support. In fact, the Sri Lankan president, Maithripala Sirisena, has previously praised the horrific war on drugs of President Duterte in the Philippines on numerous occasions, a violent war that has seen tens of thousands of people murdered in extrajudicial killings on the streets, a war that has seen mass detentions, human rights violations, and attacks on human rights defenders and civil society.
Opposition of the Death Penalty for Drug Offences
But Sri Lanka and these countries are out of step with other nations who are abolishing the death penalty. There are 1,200 people on death row in Sri Lanka, all of whom are now at great risk of execution, but the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have both clearly opposed the death penalty for drug-related offences, and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has explicitly called upon states to abolish the death penalty for drug-related offences.
INPUD is very pleased to announce the appointment of Mauro Guarinieri, RCF Consortium Coordinator. As of June 2017, Mauro will work with the INPUD Secretariat as the Coordinator for INPUD’s current Robert Carr Fund for civil society networks (RCF) grant, and will be responsible for the operationalisation of INPUD’s RCF project.
Mauro has been involved in the AIDS movement since the late 1990s, focussing on injecting drug use, harm reduction, access to the highest standard of care for active drug users, and the end of prohibition. Mauro has been openly living with HIV since 1985, and has worked towards ensuring that the issues that impact upon the lives of communities of people who use drugs are properly represented within the larger movement of people living with HIV/AIDS. Mauro has attended many Commissions on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, and was the first person openly living with HIV to address the CND plenary. He has been a member of the UN expert committee on HIV and drug use between 2005 and 2018, now referred to as the Strategic Advisory Group (SAG).
As one of INPUD’s early members, Mauro was involved in the formal formation of the international network, and was one of the authors of INPUD’s founding document, the Vancouver declaration. His work in drug user rights activism has involved concentrating on the inception and establishment an Italian Network with EuroNPUD, the European Network of People who Use Drugs, with Italian activists setting up the first ever national network of people who use drugs in Italy.
We welcome Mauro to the INPUD Secretariat, a new chapter in his work in the movements of people living with HIV/AIDS and people who use drugs.
Following the publication on 17 May 2019 of the zero draft of the political declaration to be approved at the high-level meeting on Universal Health Coverage, please see a statement co-signed by global HIV, civil society and key population networks from the Free Space Process and the Partnership to Inspire, Transform and Connect the HIV response (PITCH).
We very much hope our concrete recommendations for language in the ongoing intergovernmental consultations - to ensure universal health coverage is strongly grounded in the right to health, equity, solidarity and community participation and engagement - are considered and acted upon.
This report focusses on challenging the stigma and discrimination experienced by individuals who engage in chemsex, in order that they can equitably enjoy the full range of human rights afforded to all people. As with all of INPUD’s community-driven documents, it discusses and documents the human rights, health, wellbeing, and lived realities and experiences of people who use drugs, in this case, people who engage in chemsex. As INPUD’s first document focussing on this community, it draws illustratively from a chemsex consultation undertaken in South Africa by INPUD. Though the focus on one context is a limitation of this consultation and document, the community of people who engage in chemsex in Cape Town has been thriving for well over a decade; the document also supplements relevant perspectives from consultations with communities of people who use drugs in other regions and contexts in order to ground discussions in a global setting.
INPUD hopes that this report is of particular interest to communities who engage in chemsex around the world. It will also be of interest and relevance to a broad range of service providers and health professionals who cater to the unique needs of people who engage in chemsex, people who use and inject drugs, including gay and bisexual men, queer people, trans people, and other communities who engage in chemsex.