Compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres in Asia and the Pacific in the context of COVID-19
June 1, 2020
Against the backdrop of COVID-19, recalling the 2012 Joint Statement on compulsory
drug detention and rehabilitation centres and the 2020 Joint Statement on COVID-19
in prisons and other closed settings, United Nations entities urgently appeal to Member
States to permanently close compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres and
implement voluntary, evidence-informed and rights-based health and social services in
the community as an important measure to curb the spread of COVID-19 and to facilitate
the recovery and reintegration of those in the centres back into their families and
The COVID-19 pandemic is posing multiple challenges to countries in Asia and the
Pacific in designing and implementing response and recovery measures that are
efficient and respect the rights of all people, with the objective of leaving no one behind.
Among the groups particularly at risk of contracting the virus are people in compulsory
drug detention and rehabilitation centers. They are often comprised of people who are
suspected of using drugs or being dependent on drugs, people who have engaged in
sex work, or children who have been victims of sexual exploitation.
Criteria for detention in these centres vary within and among countries, but people are
often detained without sufficient due process, legal safeguards or judicial review in the
name of “treatment” or “rehabilitation”. They face higher vulnerabilities, including HIV,
TB as well as COVID-19, as a result of sub-standard living conditions, including massive
overcrowding and related challenges in maintaining physical distancing. Moreover,
detention in these centres has been reported to involve forced labour, lack of adequate
nutrition, physical and sexual violence, and denial or comparatively lower access to and
quality of healthcare services.
During this global health emergency, United Nations entities reiterate their call on
Member States that operate compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres to
close them permanently without further delay, to release individuals detained as an
important additional measure to curb the spread of COVID-19 and to refrain from the
use of any other form of detention.
The United Nations entities stand ready to work with Member States as they take steps
to permanently close compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres and to
transition to an evidence-informed system of voluntary community-based treatment and
services that are aligned with international guidelines and principles of drug dependence treatment, drug use and human rights.
For media enquiries:
Todd Pitman, Public Information Officer, UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia, + 66 63 216 9080, firstname.lastname@example.org
Michela Polesana, Advocacy Adviser, UNAIDS Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, + 66 94 519 4092, email@example.com