50th Session of the Human Rights Council: joint oral statement on the right to health

Date: 20 June 2022

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Oral Statement

Item 3 - Interactive Dialogue with UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health

20 June 2022

UN Human Rights Council (50th Session)

Mister president

On behalf of Harm Reduction International, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, International Drug Policy Consortium, Penal Reform International, and ​​Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, we welcome the Rapporteur’s’ report on violence and its impact on the right to health and remain grateful for her constant attention to promoting to health of marginalised and vulnerable groups’, including women, young girls and gender non-binary people.

We use this opportunity to highlight, once again, the impact of violence carried out by States in the name of the ‘war on drugs’ on the most marginalised and vulnerable groups. Punitive drug laws, which reinforce stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs, remain key barriers in accessing harm reduction services and HIV treatment when needed.

Of particular concern are laws that directly or indirectly criminalise these services, including through criminalisation of possession of paraphernalia, provision of Opioid Agonist Therapy, or that exclude people who use drugs from receiving anti- retroviral treatment, despite the lack of any health justification for it.

As also recommended by the High Commissioner in her report on HIV/AIDS and human rights that will be presented next week, we urge the Rapporteur and Member States to reaffirm their commitment to a human rights approach to drug policy and HIV, and to ensure that historical and structural violence do not prevent the most marginalised and vulnerable in society from accessing essential health services, including harm reduction and HIV treatment. We further encourage Member States to repeal ineffective and punitive laws, policies, and practices, and to promote the leadership of communities, including those marginalised and criminalised, in policymaking and in the implementation of drug policies and HIV strategies.

Thank you.

© 2023 Harm Reduction International.

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