Organisations: All-Ukrainian League “Legalife”
Joining Legalife, sex workers who use drugs gathered on the main street with posters and met with the Big Wave Promotion of “Witch Hunt in Ukrainian Drug Policy”. The campaign protested the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine with slogans and posters calling for better drug policy and treatment of drug users.
An action-performance “Witch Hunt” took place in front of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine in Kiev, as part of the global campaign “Support. Don’t Punish”. The action was organized by the All-Ukrainian Association of People Living with Drug Addiction (“VOLNA”) with the support of the Alliance of Public Health and the Eurasian Network of People Who Use Drugs (ENPUD). The event was attended by people who use drugs, public figures and human rights activists.
Participants of the action staged a performance to draw the government’s attention to the national drug policy and the problems of thousands drug users in Ukraine. The activists showed what a “witch hunt” meant for them. The so-called Inquisitor in a police cap and people dresses as public officials and judges tried to burn a “witch” – a female drug-user – on an improvised stake. Then the participants collected signatures under the “petition”. In the end, the witch was released, and that according to the organizers, meant liberalization of the law.
The participants of the action called on the government to end the “war on drugs”, abolish ineffective drug policy and replace the criminal prosecution of drug users with administrative sanctions.
The campaign included the following slogans:
* “We call the government to abandon the war on drugs which is a witch hunt”.
* “People who live with drug addiction have the same rights as all citizens of Ukraine, and should not become victims of unproven accusations, myths and stereotypes.”
- “Ukraine should abolish ineffective and punitive drug policy.”
* “Immediately decriminalize the possession of drugs for personal use”.
* “Replace criminal prosecution of drug users with administrative penalties”.
“5 years have passed since the first street action like that in Ukraine and we have to stare that instead of fighting serious crimes, thousands of law enforcement officers and millions of taxpayer money are diverted to daily systematic criminal prosecution of thousands of drug users who possess drugs for personal use due to their chronic dependence! A whole army of prosecutors, judges and penal settings officers are involved in maintaining this extremely inefficient punitive system of “combating drug trafficking” based on old Soviet approaches. While our country strives for progressive changes, including in the area of human rights, we urge the government of Ukraine to stop the “witch-hunt”, decriminalize drug use and make drug policy really effective and progressive,” Anton Basenko, the Chairman of the Board of the All-Ukrainian Association of People Living with Drug Addiction (VOLNA), said during the rally.
“The Ukrainian courts sentenced almost 9 thousand people in 2017. Over 6.6 thousand of them or 73% later got a criminal record for possession of drugs for personal use. They possessed such a
small amount of drugs that it is not even subject to criminal prosecution in most EU countries. Ukraine still has a system of “drug user registration” remaining from the Soviet repressive times, which provides unlimited exchange of information about drug users between doctors and law enforcement officers, which is also a gross violation of the Constitution of Ukraine and various international conventions. This shameful policy must be immediately changed. The government should review this issues on a primary basis. We hope that the flames of this symbolic inquisition hearth under the Cabinet of Ministers will burn the feet of Ukrainian officials, who are responsible for the developing and implementation of the state drug policy”, – Pavel Skala, Associate Director of the Alliance for Public Health and Co-coordinator of the global campaign “Support. Don’t Punish” in Ukraine, said during the interview.
A thematic video was broadcasted on the screen during the performance, the local band “Piaty Prihod” also took the stage. The band members are young drug users who are defending their right to humane drug policy by playing their music. The activists released black balloons with painted bars on them in memory of those who had died because of ineffective drug policy.
The cinema “October” showed a series of documentaries “One Day in a Life” (about activists of the community of drug users), “Positive People” (about the life of drug users living with HIV, and their daily struggles), “The Fifth Therapy” (a social documentary based on a series of autobiographical novels by the Odessa poet Stas Dombrovsky) on the same day. All these movies touched the topic of advocacy and decriminalization of drug addicts, explained their problems and tried to bust common myths about drug users.
There was a press briefing before the screening and the directors Stas Dombrovsky, Sergei Lysenko and Igor Kuzmenko had a chance to present their films to the public.
“It doesn’t matter if you hit the rock bottom. There is always an opportunity to fix everything and become a productive person again while you are still alive, it all depends on you. That’s what our movies are about” Stas Dombrovsky, the script writer and the leading actor of “The 5th Therapy” said.
“26 червня – Міжнародний день боротьби проти зловживання наркотиками.” July 4, 2018. https://www.legalife.com.ua/2018/07/04/26-chervnia-mizhnarodnyi-den-borotby-proty-zlovzhyvannia-narkotykamy/.
Cities: Zaporozhye and Berdyansk
Organisations: Charitable Organisation Second Life, All-Ukrainian Association of People with Drug Addiction
On this day, June 26 in Ukraine in the city of Zaporozhe and the city of Berdyansk, participants in substitution therapy (methadone) and just people who use drugs supported the 2018 Global Day of Action. T-shirts were given to participants in two substitution therapy rooms at the Zaporizhzhya Oblast Narcological Dispensary and the Regional AIDS Center. Badges and posters were also distributed to all participants of the action and to people who took part in information groups for patients of substitution therapy rooms at the Zaporozhe narcological dispensary, the Regional AIDS Center and the Berdyansk Psych neurological Dispensary.
Actions within the global campaign “Support. Don’t Punish” were held throughout Ukraine on June 26. ,, Almost all regions of the country took part in the actions: Kiev region, Poltava region, Sumy region, Ivano-Frankivsk region, Odessa region, Kharkiv region, Zaporizhia region, Zhytomyr region, Lugansk region, Dnipropetrovsk region, Chernivtsi region, Lviv region, Nikolaev region.
These actions were organised by: All-Ukrainian Association of People Living with Drug Addiction (“VOLNA”) with the support of the Alliance of Public Health, 100% of Life Network, Eurasian Network of People Who Use Drugs (ENPUD), Public Association “Meridian”, NGO “NA Club”, Chance Club, Parus, All-Ukrainian League “Legalife”, All-Ukrainian Association of Drug-Addicted Women (“ONA”), Second Life, as well as representatives of public, state and international organisations.
In small groups, holding hand-written posters, people took to the streets of their cities with one message: “Support. Don’t Punish”. They were all the activists and volunteers who responded to the call of the All-Ukrainian Association of People Living with Drug Addiction (“VOLNA”) to join the action, and were not afraid to speak publicly about decriminalization and repressive laws in the country.
The team of the Foundation “Second Life” and members of the regional representative office of the All-Ukrainian Association of People Living with Drug Addiction (VOLNA) held actions as part of the global campaign “Support. Don’t Punish» in Zaporizhia and Berdyansk. We have chosen the key slogan of the movement for our actions, which is “People who use drugs should no longer be prosecuted as criminals!”
The actions took form of informational meetings for participants of the substitution therapy programs and people who use drugs in Zaporizhia and Berdyansk. The activists told patients of OST and drug users about the international campaign “Support. Don’t Punish”, distributed t-shirts and badges.
T-shirts and badges with “Support. Don’t Punish” logo were also presented to the medical management of the narcology hospital and our colleagues from the “Spodivannya” Foundation, whose President supported this international campaign.
The meetings were facilitated by Denis Korshunov, a representative of “VOLNA” in Zaporizhia region and member of the Coordination Council of the Eurasian Network of People who Use Drugs (ENPUD).
The action “No witch hunt in Ukrainian drug policy” was held in Severodonetsk, Luhansk region, Ukraine as part of the international campaign “Support. Don’t Punish”. The participants of the action asked the residents and politicians of the city if the Ukrainian society is ready for changes in drug policy and tolerating people who use drugs.
The slogan of our action was “Silence kills!” and we tried to use the action to raise awareness about overdose. Activists drew attention to the inaccessibility of naloxone without prescription in the region, they monitored pharmacy chains to describe the problem in full detail and used the action to inform the regional administration about this issue.
Local media were invited to take part in the action, but no journalists came. This was another indication of the “unpopularity”, neglect and stigmatization of people who use drugs. But it doesn’t mean that we won’t continue our fight to make naloxone freely accessible and that we won’t defend our rights! Silence kills!
Organisations: All-Ukrainian Association of People Living with Drug Addiction (“VOLNA”) and The Alliance of Public Health and the Eurasian Network of People Who Use Drugs (ENPUD).
All-Ukrainian action-performance “Witch Hunt” by people who use or used drugs took place on the Greek Square in Odessa, Ukraine. The action was organized by the All-Ukrainian Association of People Living with Drug Addiction (“VOLNA”) with the support of the Alliance of Public Health and the Eurasian Network of People Who Use Drugs (ENPUD).
The activists made a small performance. The Inquisitor dressed as a police officer found drugs, which belonged to a “witch”. Then he hit her with a bat and tied to a stake. The detained witch was then “burned” at the stake.
Participants of the action demanded to abolish criminal persecution for drug use and introduce administrative penalties instead. Thus, part 1 of Article 309 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine on “Illegal production, manufacture, purchase, storage, transportation or shipment of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances or their analogues without the purpose of sale” should be abolished immediately. In their opinion, this provision in the Criminal code fuels discrimination of the citizens who use drugs.
“The number of people who were imprisoned for drug trafficking decreased by 25% in our country in 2017, while the cases of punishment for drug use and transportation of narcotic substances increased by 28%.” We are fighting to end the repressive drug policy”, – Julia Kogan, regional representative of “VOLNA” in Odessa, said during the action.
Organisations: All-Ukrainian Association of people living with drug addiction (“VOLNA”)
The “Witch Hunt” action also was performed in Poltava, Ukraine. It was an art performance, similar to those which the All-Ukrainian Association of people living with drug addiction (“VOLNA”) also had showed in Odessa and Kiev.
The activists staged a “witch hunt” during the action. “Inquisitors”, which symbolised criminalization and discrimination, tortured and tried to burn the “witch” – a person who lives with drug addiction. The action was aimed at changing the repressive Ukrainian laws on drugs, ending the decriminalization of people who use drugs, and providing them with access to harm reduction services.
“We urge to end the “war on drugs”, which turns into a” witch hunt” in our country, where witches are people who use drugs. We call for equal rights for people living with drug addiction and to get rid of myths and stereotypes. We urge you to abandon ineffective punitive drug policies. Decriminalization of possession of drugs for personal use should be a priority. It is also necessary to replace the criminal prosecution of people who use drugs with administrative penalties or completely abolish any punishment», – Velta Parkhomenko, the coordinator of the national action “Support. Don’t Punish” said.
A thematic movie was broadcast on the screen during the performance. It was made in memory of those who had died because of the existing drug policy. The activists released black balloons with printed prison bars on them into the sky after the action.
“People who use drugs are constantly discriminated and stigmatised. This prevents them from returning to society and receiving proper treatment, which in turn creates a risk of further spread of HIV/AIDS and other socially dangerous diseases. The purpose of our action is to draw public attention to the problem, so we could counter these threats together, as well as help representatives of key communities to get vital treatment and adequate support of the state instead of the prison sentence,” – Yanina Stemkovsky, the protest’s organiser and regional representative of “VOLNA” in Poltava, said.
The action was organised by the All-Ukrainian Association of People Living with Drug Addiction “VOLNA”, it was supported by “Meridian”. Local public organisations and activists from Poltava and its region joined the action.