By Nikita Sologub

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has recommended that Russia change its punitive policy approach within 18 months and consider decriminalizing drugs for personal consumption.

Since 2010, the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice (a foreign agent according to the Russian Ministry of Justice) has attempted to make Russian drug policy more humane by addressing the UN Committee. At that time, the Foundation submitted its first Shadow Report on behalf of the Public Mechanism for Monitoring Drug Policy Reform in Russia. The report specified that Russia was not implementing Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (which Russia had ratified) in terms of ensuring access to drug treatment and HIV prevention, treatment and care for people who inject drugs. Paragraph 1 of this Article says: “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. “

Having reviewed the Report, the Committee adopted its conclusions addressing the Russian Government. In those conclusions, it requested that Russia support internationally acknowledged measures to prevent HIV among injecting drug users for example by legalizing opioid substitution therapy and supporting needle exchange and overdose prevention programs.  Russia ignored these recommendations, even as the number of people living with HIV in Russia almost doubled.

Having realized that the government‘s position would not change, the Foundation prepared another report. Its authors pointed at the fact that Russian authorities violated Articles 3 and 2 of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which they had ratified; these articles prohibit discrimination and proclaim equal opportunities for all citizens of the Parties to the Covenant. Specifically, the report said that as a result of measures taken by the authorities against civil society organizations, the HIV epidemic continued to grow in Russia while injecting drug users remained at risk. In response, the Committee provided a set of recommendations, dividing them into two points.