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Mar-01-2012 20:37printcomments

Peru: Laws Threaten Fundamental Human Rights of People with Drug Dependence Eye on the World Report.

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Serious questions in Peru over complying with Human Rights laws established by the United Nations.

(DHAKA- Bangladesh) - Peru's Law No. 29737 and related provisions in Peruvian law, permit involuntary detention for treatment of people who suffer from addiction, in circumstances that do not comply with international human rights law. The law threatens fundamental human rights protections against arbitrary detention and ill-treatment deny the right to health, they are contrary to sound public health policy. Peru's law does not conform to international standards.

Our goal with Eye on the World is to illustrate and highlight politically oriented problems and tragedies that traditional media channels don't have time or interest in covering.

The world has its own set of laws that were agreed upon by the ruling nations in 1948, and many people are not aware of this simple fact. At the root of the concept of world citizenry itself, is the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an overriding and supreme law that ensures many essential human rights that governments today fail to observe. Also central to any hope of human success, is the understanding of the human hierarchy of needs, as defined by Abraham Maslow- more information on this at the conclusion of this entry. We must use the Internet as a tool of justice at every junction, and we need to assist all human beings, everywhere, and not allow cultural, racial or religious preferences as determiners.

In this appeal, William Gomes urges Peru's President of Congress, Minister of Justice and Human Rights, and the country's Minister of Health, to take prompt action in closing forced drug rehabilitation facilities, and establish voluntary, effective drug treatment in their place. He also urges the officials to speak publicly and strongly in support of the right to voluntary, effective treatment for all those who need it.

March 1, 2012

Daniel Abugattás Majluf
President of Congress
Juan F. Jiménez Mayor
Minister of Justice and Human Rights
Dr. Carlos Alberto Tejada Noriega
Minister of Health

Re: Peru: Laws threaten fundamental human rights of People with Drug Dependence

Dear Sirs,

I am writing to express my concern about Law No. 29737 and related provisions in Peruvian law that permit involuntary detention for treatment of people who suffer from addiction, in circumstances that do not comply with international human rights law. I believe that such laws threaten fundamental human rights protections against arbitrary detention and ill-treatment and for the right to health and are contrary to sound public health policy. I urge that, so long as Law No. 29737 remains in effect, it be regulated to conform to international standards and that you support expansion of voluntary, evidence-based treatment instead of involuntary treatment.

I understand that the Executive is currently discussing regulation of Law No. 29737, which amended article 11 of the General Health Law, Law No. 26842 to permit family members to authorize detention for people suffering from “mental health problems,” defined to include those “who suffer some level of addiction and due to lack of consciousness or responsibility of their illness, refuse to give informed consent.” In such cases, involuntary detention is subject to periodic review by health professionals and by a judge.

Law No. 29737 expands on existing law permitting involuntary detention for treatment of drug dependence. Peru’s Civil Code permits family members of people who are dependent on drugs or alcohol — and in some cases the government — to seek their judicial interdiction. Legal guardians of those interdicted can “volunteer” their admission for drug or alcohol treatment and rehabilitation without their consultation or consent. Peruvian Law No. 29765, which governs therapeutic communities, specifically authorizes legal guardians of those interdicted and of minors to seek admission for treatment; treatment can also be required by judicial order.

I consider forcible detention may constitute arbitrary detention, in violation of international human rights standards, even if it has a lawful basis provided by Peruvian law. Art. 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention [or] deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.” Under the ICCPR detention may be “arbitrary” even if it is in accordance with the law, but is random or capricious or disproportionate, that is, not reasonable or necessary given the circumstances of the case. The State party concerned has the burden to show that such factors exist in a particular case.

I am concerned that Law No. 29737 and its regulation, and related legal provisions described above, would permit involuntary detention for drug treatment in circumstances that were neither reasonable nor necessary, threatening rights to liberty and security.

Drug dependence treatment is a form of medical care, and therefore must comply with the same standards as other forms of health care. Under international law, people dependent on drugs have the right to access medically appropriate, effective drug dependence treatment, tailored to their individual needs and the nature of their dependence. International human rights standards further require that drug dependence treatment be based on free and informed consent (which includes the right to refuse or withdraw from treatment), be scientifically and medically appropriate and of good quality, culturally and ethically acceptable, and respect fundamental rights to health, privacy and bodily integrity, liberty, and due process.

The presumption that people who use drugs lack capacity to consent to treatment is dangerous because it ignores relevant legal safeguards regarding competence to make treatment decisions, and widens the scope of potential abuse.

This position is also contrary to the UNODC and WHO position in its “Principles of Drug Dependence Treatment” that “only in exceptional crisis situations of high risk to self or others, compulsory treatment should be mandated for specific conditions and periods of time as specified by the law.” Compulsory treatment in such exceptional circumstances can only be legally justified where the treatment provided is scientifically and medically appropriate, and with independent oversight. Absent such conditions, there is no justification for compulsory treatment.

Compulsory detention for treatment of “mental problems” also violates Art. 12 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This treaty requires governments to “recognize that persons with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life,” including the right to decide whether to accept medical treatment. The CRPD inscribes the presumption that persons with disabilities can act in their own best interests and that, when needed, they should be given support to do so. It also makes clear that persons with disabilities – including intellectual and psychosocial disabilities — enjoy an equal right to health care as others, explicitly recognizing that medical care must be provided on the basis of free and informed consent, and without discrimination based on disability (Art. 25). Mental disabilities do not justify forced medical treatment, or the presumption that a person lacks the capacity to provide informed consent.

There are exceptional circumstances when a person’s drug dependency may create a crisis situation in which medical treatment is appropriate and that person’s capacity to consent to such treatment has been temporarily compromised. In such clearly defined, exceptional circumstances, where qualified healthcare professionals, subject to review by an independent authority, have determined that a person poses a serious and imminent risk to him or herself or to a third party, but lacks capacity to give informed consent to treatment due to drug dependence, a temporary period of mandatory treatment without consent may be justified.

In such cases, treatment should not be imposed unless it is a medically appropriate, individually prescribed plan, subject to regular review, that comports with international standards. Treatment should not be longer than is strictly clinically necessary to return the person to a state of autonomy in which he or she can take decisions regarding his or her own welfare. The treatment should be subject to a statutorily defined time limit, which should be as short as possible, subject to review by an independent authority for its continued necessity. When the compulsory treatment is up for review, continued treatment without consent should not be permitted unless the authority seeking to administer the treatment establishes that the exceptional circumstances for continued treatment persist. The person subject to compulsory treatment (or his or her legal representative) should have the right to challenge the necessity of treatment before a court or the independent authority.

The tragedy at “Christ is Love” drug treatment center last month, in which residents trapped behind locked doors and barred windows were killed or critically injured when a fire swept through the facility, has drawn attention to the dearth of qualified drug treatment facilities in Peru. The Public Ombudsman has pledged to investigate conditions at Christ is Love, and local governments, together with the attorney general and the Ministry of Health, are inspecting local facilities and have already ordered their closure in some cases.

These are important efforts. But Peru has legal obligations to ensure that no one is subject to forced detention in the name of addiction or “mental health” treatment in violation of international standards. Congress should approve proposed laws abolishing Law No. 29737 and to reform the General Law on Disability to fully comply with the CRPD. The government should also take immediate action to end interdiction of drug users and support them in making their own decisions about treatment.

I urge you to take prompt action to close forced drug rehabilitation facilities, and establish voluntary, effective drug treatment in their place. I also urge you to speak publicly and strongly in support of the right to voluntary, effective treatment for all those who need it.


William Nicholas Gomes

William’s Desk

Download : Peru- Laws threaten fundamental human rights of People with Drug Dependence

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

As children we are educated in right and wrong, we are told how to conduct ourselves; we learn both expectations and limitations, and from that point we go forth with these tools, and our individual personalities, and fail or succeed accordingly.

In school we quickly understand that without paper, there is no place to write. Once we have paper, a pen or pencil is required to move to the next point. There is a great analogy that exists between this simple concept of paper and pen, and what we know today as Maslow's hierarchy of needs- the theory in psychology proposed in Abraham Maslow's 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation.

He demonstrated how without the correct necessities, a person can do little good for themselves, and has none to offer for others. However when people are housed and have clothing, heat, food, health and security, anything is possible. However if just one of these dynamics is removed from the mix, the chance for success can be adversely affected.

Wikipedia describes Maslow's hierarchy of needs as a pyramid consisting of five levels:

The lowest level is associated with physiological needs, while the uppermost level is associated with self-actualization needs, particularly those related to identity and purpose.

The higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are met. Once an individual has moved upwards to the next level, needs in the lower level will no longer be prioritized. If a lower set of needs is no longer be met, the individual will temporarily re-prioritize those needs by focusing attention on the unfulfilled needs, but will not permanently regress to the lower level.

For instance, a businessman at the esteem level who is diagnosed with cancer will spend a great deal of time concentrating on his health (physiological needs), but will continue to value his work performance (esteem needs) and will likely return to work during periods of remission.

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