Helsinki Citizens' Assembly-Vanadzor

Part 2 of the Report on Assessment of the Policy of Prevention of Drug Use, Trafficking of Drugs and Psychoactive Substances

December 12, 2023

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Assessment of the legal field regulating the policy concerning drug users and drug trafficking  evidences that this policy is of punitive nature and is not effective. The same goals declared in those programs year after year are left unimplemented. Moreover, development trends contradict the declared goals. For example, one of the goals set in annual programs is to establish conditions necessary to reduce crimes related to trafficking of drugs, psychoactive substances and their precursors. Nonetheless, statistical data evidence crime increase, reduction of disclosure indicator, increase in drug prevalence and accessibility, reduction of drug users’ age.

 

As compared to 2021, the number of those held responsible increased by 26.7% in 2022; whereas the number of persons receiving methadone maintenance treatment in the RA National Center for Addictions Treatment increased only by 9.6% during the same period. 

 

Statistical data also evidence an increase in the number of registered drug users in Armenia. According to the data of the RA National Center for Addictions Treatment, their number increased by 9.5% in 2018-2022.  As of 31 December 2022, there are 7612 registered drug users (according to specialists, that number should be multiplied by at least 30). The number of registered women is also increasing, growing by 30% during the same period.

 

According to specialists, teenagers are the most vulnerable group in terms of drug addiction. There is an increase in the number of 18-25-year-olds undergoing an expert examination in the RA MoJ National Center for Addictions Treatment and RA National Bureau of Expertises, who have been identified to have used drugs. There were 97 such persons in 2019, amounting to 16.9% of the total number; 124 such persons in 2020 (amounting to 24.9% of the total number); and 146 such persons in 2021 (amounting to 32.6% of the total number).  This means that not only the number of young drug users,  but also the percentage ratio of this group is increasing as compared to other age groups. 

 

Punitive policy in the sphere of drugs inevitably leads to human rights violations. Avoiding criminal liability, drug users do not apply to get medical assistance, as a result of which their right to health is violated. As a result of ineffective struggle against stigma, a person’s right to be free from discrimination is violated. As a result of illegal activities of Police officers, the right to be free from torture, degrading treatment, as well as the right to a fair trial are violated.

 

Legal acts continue comprising discriminatory terms (narcomaniac, narcomania, suffering from narcomania). Since 2004, annual programs are titled “Action Plan of the fight against narcomania and drug trafficking in the Republic of Armenia”. The Government’s decree N 1599-N on “Establishing the procedure for medical monitoring of narcomaniacs and drug trafficking” has been acting since 2004, and no amendments to terms therein have been made to date. Moreover, 3.5.1.a indicator enshrined in sustainable development goals of 2015 is titled “The number of persons suffering from narcomania”. 

 

The RA Police declared 2023 as the year of combating narcotic drugs. However, during that year, illegal transit of a large amount of narcotic drugs was revealed by law enforcement of other countries. In particular, a large consignment of drugs (2.7 tons) was confiscated by law enforcement in Italy, while transit of 80 kg of heroin was revealed by Georgian law enforcement.

 

In another case, about 1 ton of cocaine was imported to Armenia in banana boxes, however there has been no public information regarding the “circle of persons who participated or carried out importation of the large quantity of bananas” or information as to which official allowed or as a result of which official’s negligence that amount of drugs was cleared through customs and appeared in Armenia. In addition there are also unanswered questions, such as with what purpose that large amount of drugs was imported to Armenia and what guarantees the potential recipient had that the amount of drugs would cross Armenia’s border and be possessed. 

 

At the same time police officers organized raids in clubs (Poligraf and Ban), using brute and disproportionate force to lay on the floor employees and visitors not showing any resistance, threatened with weapons, and confiscated a total of 1,95 grams of methamphetamine and 5.87 grams of Marijuana.  

 

In addition, 41 persons in the first case and 37 persons in the second case were cruelly beaten and stripped naked to be searched. Social network publications and interviews given to mass media by persons who have been apprehended to police stations show that they were mocked in the police station, were not provided with the necessary medical aid, and received degrading treatment.

 

As compared to 2021, cases of drug sale increased by 95% in 2022. There were 2266 cases of crimes related to psychoactive materials and their precursors in 2022. As compared to 2021, the indicator increased by 47% (1544 cases), by 85% as compared to 2020 (1226), and by 108% as compared to 2019 (1088). Over 5 years, the number of crimes increased by more than 150%.  

 

In addition, in 2021 the total amount of drugs, in particular, highly dangerous drugs such as cocaine and heroin, confiscated from trafficking sharply increased (434 kg heroin was confiscated in 2021, which is 33 times more than the heroin confiscated in 2020).

 

It is necessary to review state policy in this sector, radically change it to comply with the best international practice and human rights principles.  It is necessary to reject punitive policy and build the new policy based on the principle of safeguarding the right to health for persons with drug use disorder, and the vision of ensuring the necessary support and social inclusion. 

 

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