On July 12th, 2021, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention presented a pivotal study on arbitrary detention and drug policies, as requested by the Human Rights Council in 2019. The report illustrates the wide spectrum of violations of the right to liberty enabled or committed in the context of drug control – including mandatory drug testing and stop and search, torture and ill-treatment, disproportionate sentencing, and discrimination. In the report, the Working Group also pauses on the health and human rights impacts of compulsory drug detention and treatment, calling on all states to “close without delay State-run compulsory drug detention centres and private treatment facilities that hold persons against their will, and institute moratoria on further admissions awaiting reform. The same recommendation was made by 13 UN Agencies – including OHCHR, UNAIDS, WHO, and UNODC - in 2012, and reiterated in 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over 500,000 people are estimated to be detained in public drug detention centres in Asia alone. While this phenomenon has received substantial attention in Southeast Asia, less scrutiny has been devoted to trends and development in the South Asian region.

On 3rd August, Harm Reduction International will launch a new report on drug control and treatment in South Asia, shedding new light on abuses reported in public and private detention facilities, the militarisation of drug control, and the interlinkages between drug law enforcement, poverty, and incarceration.

Building on the study of the Working Group and on HRI’s report, this webinar aims at highlighting experiences from countries in the region, discussing key issues, and identifying opportunities for positive change. Particular attention will be devoted to the role of national and international civil society, as well as intergovernmental organisations, in driving this change.