Organisations: Young Wave, Resetas
- In Vilnius, Lithuania, the youth organization Young wave and its supporters, Vilnius students for freedom, Green Circle Society and the initiative group Two Not One held a series of pickets in support of the the international campaign “Support. Don’t Punish” calling on the state and society to support drug users and not punish them.
- As planned, on June 26th 2018 NGO Young Wave organised “Breaking the Taboo” film screening. The screening took place in the bar “Platforms” – a popular gathering place for young people. About 50 people gathered in the movie. After the screening, there was a discussion with pre-invited participants as followed: 2 politicians (members of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania: A. Armonaitė and A. Maldeikienė), a judge of the Supreme Court of Lithuania (A. Gutauskas) and a representative of Young Wave (A. Petuškaitė). The discussion topics were: War on drugs, drug policy in Lithuania and abroad, changes needed and future visions for drug policy in Lithuania. One of the topics of the discussion was the education of influential people (politicians, lawyers, famous people) and the drug policy implemented in Lithuania and its consequences and how can NGO’s reach out more stakeholders.
There was also a video statement created by a collaborator for three organizations: Young Wave, Reset, and Initiative Group of Methadone Program Participants. The topic of the video statement was OST provision in Lithuanian prisons. The video statement referred to human rights violations and non-correspondence to WHO recommendations of newly adopted order of OST treatment in prison settings. The video statement was sent together with a press release to media channels, as well as to Lithuanian Health Ministry, Ministry of Justice and the Prison Department. The community was involved in sending slogans and statements to the ministries. In parallel, a peaceful demonstration was held at the prisons department.
- “Support. Don’t Punish” campaign calls to implement policies that do not violate human rights but protect the health of all citizens. Today’s policy in Lithuania discriminates people who use drugs, expels them from society and persecutes them. By joining the campaign, we show that our country has a civil society that seeks to change the situation. Criminalization of drugs shows that there is a great lack of knowledge among legislators and decision makers on this issue, who are often very reluctant to listen to science, relying only on their moral assessments, while the entire Western world is moving towards a more liberal drug policy. We are the young generation of this country, and we still hope to see modern and advanced Lithuania. Therefore, we believe that it is time to speak louder and bolder about all the problems that exist in society today,” said Milda Arlauskaite, the head of the Young Wave organization
- Drug policy became more stringent over the past three years in Lithuania. Young people who use drugs are an “easy prey” for law enforcement agencies. “We don’t want to see it in Lithuania. Moreover, the long-term experience of other countries shows the complete ineffectiveness of such “solutions” as criminalization. The level of drug use is not decreasing, while the damage to health, social care and economy is growing. Reallocating to the medical area only 10-20% of the funds currently allocated to “police” operations against teenagers, youth clubs or those suffering from drug dependency could bring significant benefits for the whole country,” said Andrews Ramonas, Chairman of the Green Circle Society.
- On June 26, the planned activities were not limited to young people – activists also raised the problem of prisoners who use drugs. A group of OST patients contacted the Department of prisons, the Ministry of justice and the Ministry of health of the Republic of Lithuania on the procedure of availability of substitution therapy in the penitentiary system of the country.
- “Until recently, we were one of the two countries in the European Union, where, contrary to the laws of Lithuania and possibly all possible global conventions on human rights, people were forced to interrupt their methadone substitution therapy in prison. This problem was solved this year, but the procedure for providing this treatment in prisons not only does not comply with the recommendations of the World Health Organization, but also significantly differs from the procedure provided in the usual medical institutions of the country. The initiative group “Two Not One” made a public video, which explains this situation. If the situation does not change in the near future, we will attract the attention of all responsible institutions to these and other similar negative processes,” said Aista Petushkaite, a member of the “Young Wave”. According to activists, the biggest absurdity of repressive drug policy is to punish the disease, that is why it is so important to participate in the campaign “Support. Don’t Punish ” in Lithuania. In this regard, all the processes launched on June 26 will be continued.
- The Lithuanian organizations Resetas, Jauna Banga (Young Wave), a self-group of methadone therapy patients “Two in One” and EHRA help a picket in front of the Department of Prisons in Vilnius, Lithuania. The main message was to change / improve the law on OST in Lithuanian prisons according to the scientific data.The core of the problem is that for many years Lithuania has remained one of the two States in the European Union, where prisoners could not receive substitution therapy in prisons as a treatment for opioid dependence. It was the only disease for which the treatment guaranteed by the Lithuanian laws wasn’t provided in prisons.In fact, it was a gross violation of Lithuanian and international law, which had long been ignored at the state level.
It was confirmed in April this year that the failure to provide such treatment to prisoners is against the recommendations of the World Health Organisation and the European Union Action Plan on Drugs. Lithuania remains one of the last countries in Europe where it is still impossible to start opioid substitution therapy if a patient is diagnosed with opioid dependence.
In the absence of evidence-based treatment, drug-dependent prisoners have to use illicit drugs, share syringes, which are also illegal in prisons, leading to the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C in detention facilities.
Organisations: RIGA Support Foundation, Lithuanian Initiative Group of psychoactive substances users.
RIGA Support Foundation together with the Lithuanian Initiative Group of psychoactive substances users held a picket within the «Support. Don’t Punish” campaign in Kaunas, Lithuania. Activists of the community of people who use drugs from several cities of Lithuania – Klaipeda, Gargždai, Vilnius and Alytus, gathered together in the city of Kaunas. Activists took to the streets of Kaunas to publicly protest against the cruel and senseless national policy against people who use drugs. They handed out leaflets to passers-by (translated into Lithuanian) and spoke about the drug policy in Lithuania.