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The European Court of Human Rights protects the right to privacy of people who use drugs

The European Court of Human Rights reached a judgment against North Macedonia. With the judgment rendered on October 22, 2020, the European Court found that the state violated the right to privacy of two individuals by revealing their medical data to the police.

The judgment refers to a case from 2010, when the police received a report that an unspecified amount of methadone used to treat methadone addiction in Strumica was missing, after what police officers visited the hospital and without any legal ground inspected the medical data of the patients on treatment. The documents available to the police officers contained names and surnames of all patients who had received methadone therapy on specific dates and the amount of methadone administered. The unlawfully received data was abused by the police to additionally harass the damaged parties by using their personal and private data from their medical files.

ECHR believes the police had other means to inspect the allegations on the missing methadone, while the courts failed to balance the protection of patients’ rights against the right of the police to assess sensitive medical data without a court order. (Link to the judgment: https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?fbclid=IwAR1uw2GGRNGfUD35QmKOzv7PuQMNrQ2SiKGP9HdJaApFf8XsAeXCZLxBJ3A#{%22documentcollectionid2%22:[%22JUDGMENTS%22],%22itemid%22:[%22001-205146%22]}

 

Gostivar in the vicious circle of drugs

The number of new drug users and cases of illegal drug trade in the Gostivar region has been growing from year to year. The police newsletter publishes events related to new cases of drug discovery and abuse, in addition to illegal sale on an almost daily basis. The increased number of drug users, mostly younger individuals, is confirmed also by the services dealing with this occurrence. Managing the effects is difficult because Gostivar does not have a rehabilitation centre.

Due to the illegal production and releasing for sales of drugs, 21 individuals from the Gostivar region are facing criminal liability before the court, after the police caught them with drugs in the first couple of months of 2020. Only in February, 14 individuals, 13 adults and 1 minor, were deprived of their freedom under the suspicion of having committed a criminal offence pursuant to Article 215. Among the drugs discovered prevail cocaine and marihuana, but also hashish, amphetamines, ecstasies and heroin. In most cases drugs are discovered mostly when the police is doing searches of cars and individuals. (Source: https://civilmedia.mk/gostivar-vleze-vo-magepsaniot-krug-na-drogata/).

#OperationPlant: Let’s stand together for cannabis decriminalization and legalization

On the International Day of Cannabis, celebrated throughout the world as 4.20 or 420, Plant and other activists joined together in the initiative #OperationPlant, calling the citizens to stand together braver and openly regarding their demands on cannabis decriminalization and legalization for industrialization, medical and recreational use.

A spokesman for Plant stated that cannabis use is a constitutionally guaranteed right, and not a punishment.

Activists remind that the pandemics prevented them from continuing with the activities planned with #OperationPlant, an initiative launched in November 2019.

“The goal was to better organize ourselves in the few months leading to 20.04.2020, and call you to join us in the many activities intended to win back the freedom of our and your friends serving prison sentences at the moment. We hoped that the amendments to the Law would have been adopted before the elections, and that we would be able to look forward happily to Konop Fest, together with all detained and imprisoned friends and comrades who would have finally tasted freedom. However, it didn’t happen as planned. On the contrary, they are being held in detainment and prisons as dangerous criminals in a time of pandemics. Exposed to the high risk of being infected when the virus is threatening everyone. Why? Why should they rot in prisons and detainment for something the state legalized for export,” stated Plant.

The activists are demanding to know why citizens should be arrested for using and/or purchasing cannabis oil to save their mother, father, child, grandfather or grandmother, or, simply because they had used cannabis just as any other plant coming from nature, which is a personal decision. Activists stress that it is more than a personal decision, but rather a constitutionally guaranteed right. (Source: https://www.radiomof.mk/operacijabilka-da-zastaneme-pohrabro-za-dekriminalizacija-i-legalizacija-na-kanabisot/).

 

The pandemics made the life of young people using drugs without a proper state program even more difficult

State treatment and re-socialization programs for young people who use drugs are still non-existent in Macedonia. The Covid-19 crisis posed an additional challenge for these young people, while the health system was too burdened to be able to respond to them. However, drugs would remain always available, because whoever wants to reach drugs would do so easily. This means young people should be properly informed on their influence. Parents should also refrain from rigorous treatment and stereotypes and prejudices, but rather educate themselves and be open to having a conversation with their children, particularly since fear and discrimination arise from ignorance.

HOPS – Healthy Options Project Skopje is attempting to make these issues more available to the public but also the institutions by opening a discussion and project activities in order to improve the mental health and quality of life of young people and children who use drugs during the Covid-19 pandemic. The latest findings from HOPS reveal that children (under 18 years of age) and their families are less prone to being encouraged to start with drug-related psychotherapy, as opposed to those ranging from 18 to 25.

“The most common problem the individuals we contacted are facing is depression, followed by insomnia and anxiety, while the least common is panic attacks and difficulties concentrating. As many as 25% of the young people who have received psychological counselling had experienced a family conflict, while 8.3 % of them were referred to a psychiatric examination”, according to the research for the past month, supported by OSCE (Source: https://www.radiomof.mk/mladite-shto-upotrebuvaat-drogi-bez-soodvetna-drzhavna-programa-pandemijata-dopolnitelno-im-go-otezhna-zhivotot/).

 

Online discussion: “Young people, drugs and music”

The Facebook page of HOPS – Healthy Options Project Skopje hosted an online discussion on the topic “Young people, drugs and music”.

Young people find the means to satisfy their needs for socializing, music and drugs even in times of pandemic. They manage to reach their goal despite the bans and limitations for group gatherings. The youthful spirit, guided by curiosity and research, is always ready for new challenges and experimentation. Educating and informing young people on drugs leads to harm reduction but also encourages youth activism towards demystifying drug use as a socio-subcultural phenomenon.

The speakers were Davor Smilanov, M.D., educator and author, collaborator of HOPS for many years, who is directly involved in the harm reduction program and the DJAKA NAKOT, a philosopher and rapper from Skopje, working on creating hip hop culture in Macedonia since 1991. The conversation was moderated by Bogdan Kolev from HOPS. The online conversation was part of the project “Creative Action for Social Changes – Civil Engagement of People at Social Risk”, supported by Civica Mobilitas.

A link to the video where you can hear the entire conversation: https://www.facebook.com/hops.org/videos/373808673987019

Drug users are not recognized at the labour marked due to stigma and discrimination

People who use or have used drugs have an enormous potential, however they lack the opportunity to express that potential and develop further. Means for helping these communities are somehow always last on the list. For years in the past, it had been obvious that people who use drugs are practically not recognized on the labour market, even when possessing unique skills, because people, due to stigma and discrimination, refuse to provide them with the opportunity to earn for a living, which potentially creates various situations in the future.

Koceva Simjanov send a message to people not to avoid the communities different from themselves but rather hear them out and help them – do this and avoid condemning them.

Drug users at social risk use reclaimed materials to create small interactive installations intended for the children placed in group homes (Source: https://mia.mk/koceva-sim-anov-za-mia-korisnicite-na-droga-se-neprepoznaeni-na-pazarot-na-trud-zaradi-stigmata-i-diskriminaci-ata/).

 

 

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