Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Estonian organization LUNEST and the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) submitted a report regarding the situation with the enjoyment of social rights among women who use drugs and/or living with HIV in Estonia to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). The report was compiled based on a number of human rights violations in Estonia, identified during a research study conducted by a team of non-governmental organizations in 2017.
The aim of this submission is to request the Estonian Government to address the issues of health, parental, child protection and labor rights violations incurred by women who use drugs.
An opportunity to voice concerns
Established in 1985, CESCR is a UN human rights body consisting of 18 independent experts that monitor implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by its States parties, which are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights are being implemented in their countries. The Committee’s rules allow for international, regional, and national organisations and human rights institutions to submit parallel reports with questions for governments in advance of the dialogue with the states.
“The submission of such reports is a unique opportunity for non-governmental organisations to directly participate in the monitoring of human rights violations in their countries and bring these violations to the attention of UN bodies. We hope that based on our report on women who use drugs in Estonia, CESCR will include these issues into the list of questions for the Estonian Government,” Mikhail Golichenko of Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network explains the importance of the submission. “If we succeed and our concerns are included, the Estonian State representatives will be expected to submit replies and explanations to them. Thus, the voices of people who use drugs will be heard and, hopefully, the violations of their rights will be addressed and solved.”
Pre-sessional Working Group Session, during which CESCR will present the Estonian Government with the list of questions will take place in Geneva, on 3-6 April this year. The final report from Estonia will be presented to the Committee at a later stage.
Despite rather good overall human rights record in Estonia, people who use drugs still experience discrimination and stigmatisation from a number of state institutions, such as the police, child protection, and public health services. According to the European Drug Report 2017, Estonia has the highest number of mortalities from overdose in Europe (103 deaths per million) and one of the highest number of HIV prevalece attributed to injecting drug use (41.9 cases per million).
“The report to the CESCR means that Estonia, which has shown good progress in terms of providing access to HIV prevention and treatment, if compared to its neighbouring states, still has a long way to go to eliminate systematic violations of human rights against its most vulnerable population groups. What we have learned during our research of women who use drugs last year was unexpected and shocking. The recorded numbers of the misuse of power, arbitrary detentions and deprivation of parental rights is a worrying sign that even such countries as Estonia, which has been long considered as one of the most-developed post-Soviet countries, violate the rights of people who use drugs” Dasha Matyushina-Ocheret, Policy Reform Advisor at EHRA states the reasons behind the report. “We truly hope, that through an open dialogue and cooperation with local and international non-governmental ogranisations, the Estonian authorities will ensure that the rights of vulnerable groups, such as women who use drugs, are respected and protected.”
Draft briefing paper, which served as a basis for the parallel report to CESCR, was conducted in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, and Northeastern Ida-Virumaa county, were 38 in-depth interviews with women who use drugs were taken and later analysed. Apart from violations of parental rights, non-protection against gender-based violence, labor, health and child rights violations, the study has also found that the respondents lack access to legal and social support services, there are insufficient gender-sensitive services for women who use drugs, including quality opioid substitution treatment and rehabilitation. The study was conducted by Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association and the Estonian organisation LUNEST.