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UN calls to close compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres without delay

Bangkok (Thailand), 9 March 2012 - In a landmark Joint Statement issued today, the United Nations has called upon its Member States to close compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres.

At present, over 300,000 men, women and children, suspected of using drugs, people who have engaged in sex work and children who have been victims of sexual exploitation, are detained in such centres in East and South East Asia alone.

The situation of compulsory centres in East and South East Asia was reviewed at the first Regional Consultation for Drug Users, organised by UNODC Regional Centre for East Asia and the Pacific, ESCAP and UNAIDS Regional Support Team in December 2010 in Thailand.

The Joint Statement highlights the concerns associated with the centres, including increased vulnerability to HIV and tuberculosis infection as well as insufficient legal safeguards and judicial review. Detention of people is such centres has also been reported to involve a range of other measures that violate human rights, including sub-standard conditions, forced labour, physical and sexual violence and lack of access to health care, including HIV prevention services, among others.

As an alternative to compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres, the UN agencies and entities that are signatories to the Joint Statement, advocate for states to make available voluntary, evidence-informed and rights-based health and social services in the community.

UNODC, along with other UN partners, has stated its strong commitment to continue to provide technical assistance and support to the ongoing efforts of governments in the region to demonstrate and scale-up such community-based treatment and rehabilitation services as an alternative to compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres.

For more information about examples of voluntary, evidence-informed and rights-based drug treatment programmes please see Innovative community based drug treatment pilot makes inroads in Cambodia and New Malaysia drug dependence treatment efforts lauded.