Drug Policies Fuel Deadly Hepatitis C Epidemic

Punitive Approach Endangering Public Health

(New York) – Governments should ensure that efforts to reduce illicit drug use do not increase vulnerability to infection with hepatitis C or impede access to treatment, Human Rights Watch said today in response to a report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy. The report, released on May 30, 2013, urges reform of existing drug policies to protect public health, minimize human rights violations, and ensure access to health care for drug users.

The 20-page report, “The Negative Impact of the War on Drugs on Public Health: The Hidden Hepatitis C Epidemic,” was released in advance of the 23rd International Harm Reduction Conference, Vilnius, Lithuania, June 9 to 12.  Lithuania lies on the frontiers of the world’s fastest growing hepatitis C and HIV epidemics in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

“Punitive drug laws expose drug users to unnecessary illness and even death from hepatitis C,” said Rebecca Schleifer, health and human rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “The epidemic makes it urgent for governments to reform these laws to protect both drug users and the public health.”

The report recommends urgent and wide-ranging reforms of international drug control policies to protect the health and other human rights of drug users.

The report says that repressive drug policies have failed to reduce the worldwide illicit drug supply, and fueled the growth of organized crime, violence, and mass incarceration of people who use drugs. These failed policies have also fueled a “viral time bomb” – a massive hepatitis C epidemic that threatens serious and long-term global human, social, and economic costs.

Human Rights Watch research in many countries including the US,Ukraine, Russia, Thailand, Canada, Kazakhstan, and Bangladesh – has documented how criminal laws relating to drug use and possession for personal use, and related law enforcement practices drive people away from lifesaving information and health services.

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Chinese cleared of blasphemy in Pakistan

Chinese worker cleared of blasphemy in Pakistan

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MUZAFFARABAD: Authorities in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on Thursday cleared a Chinese man accused of committing blasphemy by desecrating a Quran, officials said.

Lee Ping, the administration manager of a Chinese consortium building a major hydropower project, was accused on May 17 of throwing the Islamic holy book on the ground, prompting hundreds of workers to attack his company offices.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in Pakistan, where 97 per cent of the 180 million population are Muslims. Even unproven allegations can spark a violent and sometimes deadly public response.

Police took Lee into protective custody at a secret location after protests erupted at the company offices near Muzaffarabad, the main town of the disputed Himalayan region, but on Thursday he was cleared.

“Police investigation has cleared the Chinese worker of desecration of Quran charges,” cabinet minister Matloob Inqalabi told reporters.

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