On 26 June the central square of Kyiv hosted an illusion performance “The Rake of Ukrainian Drug Policy”, where drug users, civil society activists and human rights advocates presented real pictures and imaginary characters associated with the “war on drugs” and tortures of people who use drugs in Ukraine.
The most popular among the numerous “characters” of this illusionary performance were:
- Skeleton wearing a militia officer’s uniform who died after constantly stepping on the same “rake”;
- Policeman who is walking on the pavement wearing wooden skis;
- Drug user wearing a gas helmet, with his feet locked in a tub with concrete;
- Doctors and nurses who treat people of drug dependence with electric current and hypnosis;
- Officers of “special services” who plant drugs on people.
Participants of the performance called to give up the senseless “war on drugs”, which in many countries, including Ukraine, is reduced to criminal prosecution of people with chronic drug dependence.
“Stepping on rakes is a national tradition in Ukraine! The repressive drug policy is a failure, and the law enforcement agencies, including the new police, keep on “skiing on the pavement” wearing old Soviet wooden skis or just smashing sick people with a repressive “road roller”. In Ukraine, every tenth prisoner is incarcerated for “drug crimes”, and in 2016 over 5 thousand people were convicted for possessing drug in amounts, which in most European countries are not even considered as a criminal offence. At the same time, nobody interferes in the organized drug business. Due to inadequately low “thresholds” of criminal prosecution for illegal possession of drugs (“tables of drugs amounts” approved by the Ministry of Health of Ukraine), the level of criminalization of drug dependent people in Ukraine is 200-600 times higher than in Germany, Czech Republic, Spain or Portugal”, – said Pavlo Skala, representative of Alliance for Public Health, expert in drug policy and national coordinator of the Support. Don’t Punish campaign in Ukraine.
“We have got visa-free travel but we have still got no humane drug policy! As a result of longstanding war on us – people who use drugs – hundreds of millions hryvnias collected from tax payers continue to be wasted on conservation of the repressive model, with prisons turning into incubators of infectious diseases, where convicts die mostly of AIDS and tuberculosis, and the country continues fighting epidemics of social diseases, for the response to which the state has not got enough money. Today dozens of drug dependent people take part in this performance with open faces or wearing masks. In total, there are almost 350 thousand such people in Ukraine, and over 12 million in the world”, – told Anton Basenko, co-coordinator of the national campaign and leader of the Ukrainian Union of People Who Use Drugs (UkrPUD), with a second category of disability and over 20 years of drug use history, who was one of the first patients of opoid substitution treatment in Ukraine.
Support. Don’t Punish With the rhythmic sounds of improvised rap music on the background, the main square of Ukraine was hosting performance of costumed characters and activists calling to hold a course for liberalization of the drug policy approved within the government strategy back in 2013, decriminalize (cancelling criminal responsibility for) possession of drugs for personal use, use the money of tax payers effectively, fundamentally revise the thresholds of drugs allowed for possession and bring them in line with the European level.
The global campaign calling for changes in the repressive drug policy Support. Don’t Punish was initiated in 2013. Back then Ukraine joined this global initiative taking place in 41 cities of the world. This year campaign is a follow-up of the 2015 performance “Special Operation to Fight the Drug Business”. In 2017, events within the campaign were held in 190 cities in 80 countries of the world, including Kyiv and Kropyvnytskyi.
The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is marked since 1987 at the decision of the UN General Assembly.
The International Day in Support of Victims of Torture was established in 1997 by the UN General Assembly following recommendation of the UN Economic and Social Council to speak out against torture and to support the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which came into effect on 26 June 1987.
Organizers of the national Support. Don’t Punish campaign: Ukrainian Union of People Who Use Drugs (UkrPUD) and Alliance for Public Health. Partners: Eurasian Network of People Who Use Drugs (ENPUD) and Kyiv civil society organizations: (Club Eney NGO, All-Ukrainian Charitable Organization “Convictus Ukraine”, Vertical NGO, All-Ukrainian League “LegaLife) and other non-governmental organizations from many regions of Ukraine.