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The (Moroccan) National Human Rights Council (CNDH) organized, in partnership with the Association for the Fight against AIDS (ALCS) and participation of RDR Maroc and Hasnouna associations, a national seminar to advocate against the stigmatization of drug users on Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at its headquarters in Rabat.

This gathering is held within a new context in Morocco, Mohammed Essabbar, CNDH Secretary General, said. Several human rights projects are being carried out, particularly the implementation of the newly adopted constitution which entrenches human rights and their universality and indivisibility, he explained. He added that article 31 of the new Moroccan Fundamental Law provides, expressly, for the right to treatment and health, which is directly linked to the topic of the seminar.

CNDH SG didn’t fail to mention that the Council is now a constitutional, pluralistic and independent national human rights institution. It is entrusted with the protection and promotion of human rights and the enrichment of debates on human rights and democracy. It also sees to strengthen the human rights based approach in all public policies and the legal system.

For CNDH, he said, stigmatization and discrimination are human rights violations that should be eliminated by all possible means. Fighting stigmatization and discrimination against vulnerable groups and injection drug users and ensuring the right to health and treatment were two major motivations for the Council to engage in a partnership on the subject with UNDP, UNESCO and the (Moroccan) Ministry of Health.

Under this partnership, a meeting on the role of national human rights institutions in the fight against AIDS was organized. Government departments and specialized civil society groups participated in this first meeting to draw a plan of action to strengthen the human rights based approach in the national strategy on the fight against AIDS.

Speaking to the seminar, the representative of the Ministry o Health praised the partnership of the Moroccan human rights council and the specialized civil society groups. He shed light on the Moroccan efforts to fight against AIDS. He shed light on the national program to fight against AIDS, the national strategic plan to fight against AIDS and the strategy adopted to reduce the risk of drug abuse....

“Ignoring human rights, in addition to several social and economic factors, contribute to spreading AIDS and increase the risk of HIV infection. We must take into consideration the human rights based approach in the national strategies adopted to fight against AIDS or anti-addiction drug strategies”, he said. This seminar is an opportunity to develop recommendations to orient the national strategy and be integrated into the main areas of any strategy adopted to fight against AIDS, especially the national strategy 2012-2016, he concluded.

For the representative of UNAIDS Morocco, choosing drug abuse and public health as a theme for the seminar reflects a wish to promote a strategy that helps reduce AIDS/HIV risks in Morocco, provide treatment services for injection drug users and respect their fundamental rights.

He shed light on UNAIDS three-zero based vision: zero new infections, zero new deaths and zero discrimination and stigmatization. The number of drug users is increasing, including in the Middle East and North Africa, he said. This requires the adoption of comprehensive, human rights based and effective strategies to reduce HIV/AIDS risks.

ALCS chairperson indicated that it is necessary and urgent to reform the political and legal system associated with the fight against AIDS and drug abuse, stressing, at the same time, the need to fight drug trafficking, organized crime, money laundering and corruption. The criminalization of drug use and the stigmatization against drug users are a major impediment to the access to prevention and treatment services, she said. Policies based on the principle of criminalization are ineffective, expensive and fruitless, so we should convince the authorities of the need to reform and adopt human rights based approach to prevent rights violations, she argues.

This seminar aimed to sensitize policy makers and the public to the need to fight against the stigmatization of drug users and improve their life and health conditions in order to ensure the success of policies aiming to reduce the HIV/AIDS risks. A number of recommendations were made at the end of this national gathering, including:

- Adopting policies to deal with drug abuse as an illness instead of a criminal act and recognize dignity and humanity of drug users;

- Ensuring access to prevention and treatment services and providing health care for detained drug users (in police custody or in prison);

- Opening discussion and promoting a policy to reduce drug abuse risks;

- Improving and ensuring free access to treatment services and specialized substance abuse services, including access to alternative therapy and comprehensive psychological and social care for drug users;

- Respecting drug users (men and women) and protecting them against violence and stigmatization.