Human rights documentation and advocacy: a guide for organisations of people who use drugs

Karyn Kaplan, IHRD

The International Harm Reduction Development Program of the Open Society Institute has released a new guidebook that we would like to share with you: Human Rights Documentation and Advocacy: A Guide for Organisations of People Who Use Drugs. Written by veteran activist Karyn Kaplan, it is available at: ihrd/articles_publications/publications/hrdoc_20090218

People who use illicit drugs face daily harassment, discrimination, and abuse—incidents that often go unreported, due to fears of reprisal and other harmful physical, mental, social, or legal consequences. Investigations into rights violations against people who use drugs or efforts to bring perpetrators to justice are rare. Often law enforcement and the society-at-large do not recognize the basic rights of people who use drugs, and blame the victim for any human rights abuses endured as a result of their drug use. Moreover, some government laws and policies directly violate the rights of people who use drugs or create the conditions for violations to occur.

Human Rights Documentation and Advocacy: A Guide for Organizations of People Who Use Drugs aims to help activists recognize human rights abuses that are systematically conducted and condoned by state and non-state actors and silently suffered by people who use drugs. The guidebook provides activists with the tools necessary to develop a human rights advocacy plan, particularly by documenting abuses against people who use drugs.

The guidebook includes the following topics;

  • Starting human rights documentation
  • Guidelines for documenting human rights violations committed against people who use drugs
  • Guidelines for conducting interviews
  • Monitoring legal systems

The guidebook is being printed in English and Russian.

Although intended primarily for drug user activist organisations, the principles, strategies and international law described in the guide are universal and should be very useful to anyone seeking to support drug user health and rights through documentation efforts. A Russian language edition as well as print copies will be ready soon and can be had from IHRD’s Roxanne Saucier (

Links to other websites are current at date of posting but not maintained.