Dear friends, (just a couple words for russian spearkers: druzja esli hotite otchet po russki, ya ego skoro poveshu na sait!!) we would like to give you a short update on some of important directions of ARF work.
The most exciting news in the last several months is that we have received an International Award for HIV and Human Rights from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal network and Human Rights Watch. This is really a big honor for ARF and an important token of solidarity from the international community for our efforts both in advocacy and service provision! We had a celebration of the award in Moscow and were happy to see our dear drug user participants, artists, social activists and other friends who came to share our joy.
Last month we also had continuation of our trial with the Federal Drug Control Service on the issue of closure of our web-site in February 2012. As it happened, not unexpectedly, FDCS could not provide the court with any documents which served a basis for closure of our website. For now, the judge issued a request to the hosting provider asking to provide a copy of the website. So for now, the trial focuses mostly on technical issues, while we’d like to focus on more content ones (precisely, can documents such as the WHO recommendations and WHO/UNODC/UNAIDS position paper on substitution treatment, or Recommendations of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights be considered as drug propaganda or not. What do you think? It will be interesting to know what the court thinks as well.
As some of you know, an appalling new law on internet censorship has been passed in Russia which allows to ban any undesirable web-sites. So even our website that is hosted abroad can also be banned now. On a positive side, our web-site was N one to be protected under the community initiative for free internet coordinated by our friends from the Pirate Party of Russia. This initiative provides access to websites that are or will be banned in Russia in the nearest future.
Together with our partners from International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, the Creative Bureau How does it work, and the Trade Union of Street Artists we have organized an action in front of the Roche building in Moscow in order to protest their refusal to negotiate price reduction of Hepatitis treatment medicines. We also greet excitingly the great developments in India, where Roche patent on pegylated interferon was defeated by the united effort of the community and lawyer activists!
Last week we participated in the 49 Session of the UN Committee Against Torture, which reviewed the 5th Russian periodic report on the Convention against Torture. We have previously submitted a comprehensive report to the Committee on the drug policy of Russia as providing rich soil for tortures and inhumane, ill treatment of drug users. You can read the report called Atmospheric Pressure: Russian Drug Policy as a Driver for Violations of the UN Convention against Torture. Based on our report, the Committee has posed a question regarding drug policy to the government delegation and we’re expecting the official Recommendations of the Committee next week.
One extremely exciting news, is that one of our dear activists and friends Dima Polushkin has been released from prison. Dima fought for access to Opioid Substitution Treatment in Russia - he wrote a letter to the Ministry of Health asking to provide him with evidence based OST. Instead of so wanted treatment, just a month after he submitted the application to the Ministry, Dima was set up by Federal Drug Control Service, tortured and humiliated during the investigation and finally charged with drug procurement on false charges and spent several month in prison. Together with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and a local lawyer in Lesosibirsk (Krasnoyarsk Kray) we fought for justice and (surprisingly!) at the stage of the court of appeal, Dimas case was sent to revision and the court ruled to release him from prison until the final decision on his case is taken. This rarely happened in Russia and we are very happy for this, albeit not final, victory. Dima has already applied to the European Court on Human Rights and his complaint clearly outlines situation when instead of quality treatment he asked for, the government decided to simply throw him in prison.
Finally, but not least importantly, our outreach services continue daily, we serve our dear participants, provide them with prevention materials, tests, referral, care and support. The winter has hit Moscow, and unfortunately we are still far behind our aim of collecting 60K of the money for the bus - so far we have collected only 1/10th of this sum. So we ask you if possible to reach out to your friends who are likely to donate and support our efforts and ask them to do so! we’re immensely grateful for your support to our work and for your kind donations and we send you much love and respect from Moscow!
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