Addressing human rights abuses against people who use drugs: A critical role for human rights treaty bodies and special procedures

Mikhail Golichenko, Suzanne Stolz, Tamar Ezer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Since the 1980s, United Nations (UN) Member States have seen issues of drug policy predominantly as problems of law enforcement and security, alienated from other UN priorities, including human rights. However, developments in the UN and global challenges, like HIV/AIDS have made have made it more difficult to separate drug policy from its impact on the health and human rights of people who use drugs, particularly drug dependent people. As a result, several UN and human rights bodies have all begun to include human rights considerations in their policy documents. Despite these positive developments, the UN human rights system lags behind and UN human rights bodies fall short in addressing human rights violations against people who use drugs. To remedy this shortfall, this article first explains the need for new guidelines on drug policy and human rights by describing the impact of drug policy on human rights and the ways in which UN human rights bodies have thus far failed to adequately address violations suffered by people who use drugs. The authors join other international organizations and activists calling for the adoption of the guidelines (a human rights impact assessment tool) to provide the UN human rights treaty bodies and special procedures with clear guidance on how to assess drug policy issues through the prism of international human rights standards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-102
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Human Rights Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • drug policy
  • drug use
  • UNGASS 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Law


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