October 11, 2011

Annex 1

July 15, 2011

Minister Soubanh Srithirath, Chairman

Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision (LCDC)

Dear Minister,

Human Rights Watch is an international nongovernmental organization that monitors violations of human rights by states and non-state actors in more than 80 countries around the world.

I am writing to you in reference to research Human Rights Watch is conducting on human rights abuses in the Somsanga drug detention center. The center, also known as the Somsanga Treatment and Rehabilitation Center, is located in Somsanga village (Saysetha district) near Vientiane.  Specifically, I am writing to request descriptive and programmatic information about compulsory drug treatment efforts in the Somsanga center.

Our research to date has documented a number of serious concerns in Somsanga center, including:

  • People are detained in the center without due process. Detainees have no practical opportunity to access a lawyer, have a legal hearing, or to appeal the decision to detain them.
  • The center detains a range of people for whom there is no clinical requirement of drug dependency treatment, such as beggars, the homeless people, children and the mentally ill.
  • Physical abuse is meted out as punishment for infringements of center rules (including the prohibition on attempting to escape).
  • Some detainees in Somsanga have attempted to commit suicide, and in some cases were successful.

Human Rights Watch is committed to producing material that is well-informed and objective. We seek this information to ensure that our report properly reflects the views, policies and practices of the Government of Lao PDR regarding Somsanga center and the system of compulsory drug treatment.

We hope you or your staff will respond to the attached questions so that the government’s views are accurately reflected in our reporting. In order for us to take your answers into account in our forthcoming report, we would appreciate a written response by August 12, 2011.

In addition to the information requested below, please include any other materials, statistics, and government actions regarding the system of compulsory drug treatment in Lao PDR that you feel is important for us to have in order to understand the system.

Thank you in advance for your time in addressing these urgent matters.

Sincerely,

Joseph J. Amon, PhD, MSPH

Health and Human Rights Division

Human Rights Watch

We would appreciate any information you can provide regarding the following:

Background and descriptive information

1.       How many government-run drug treatment centers currently operate in Lao PDR? Please provide a list of all centers, their locations and current residential population, and maximum capacity.

2.      Does the Government of Lao PDR plan to increase or decrease the number of drug treatment centers in the future? Please describe any plans to expand or decrease the number of centers or the capacity of existing centers and the time period for that change.

3.      Please provide data (disaggregated by sex) for 2009, 2010 and 2011 – to date, indicating:

  • How many people were detained in government-run drug treatment centers in Lao PDR?
  • How many people under the age of 18 were detained in government-run drug treatment centers in Lao PDR?
  • How many people (or what percentage of the total detainee population) were detained on a compulsory basis?

e.g.

 -

2009

2010

2011-date

Total number of detainees in drug detention  centers in Lao PDR

 

 

 

Total number of detainees under 18

 

 

 

Total number  (or percentage) detained on a compulsory basis

 

 

 

4.      Please provide data (disaggregated by sex) for 2009, 2010 and 2011 – to date, indicating:

  • How many people were detained in Somsanga center?
  • How many people under the age of 18 were detained in Somsanga center?
  • How many people (or what percentage of the total detainee population) were detained on a compulsory basis?

e.g.

 -

2009

2010

2011-date

Total number of detainees in Somsanga center

 

 

 

Total number of detainees under 18

 

 

 

Total number  (or percentage) detained on a compulsory basis

 

 

 

Legal and policy framework

1.       On what legal basis are people detained in drug treatment centers in Lao PDR? Please specify the provision(s) under Lao law and what legal authority authorizes this detention. Please also specify how decisions of that legal authority may be appealed.

2.      Please specify how decisions whether to detain someone in a drug treatment center — as opposed to criminal prosecutions — are made, and by whom.

3.      Please specify for 2009, 2010 and 2011 – to date:

  • The number of individual case files submitted by Heads of the Village recommending detention in Somsanga center;
  • The number of submitted individual case files (or a percentage of the total) in which management of Somsanga center in fact ordered detention in a drug treatment center;
  • The number of individuals who had legal representation during the process of taking the decision to detain them;
  • The number of people who formerly lodged an appeal of the decision to detain them, and the number of these appeals that were successful.

e.g.

 -

2009

2010

2011-date

Total number of case files submitted recommending detention in Somsanga center

 

 

 

Total number of case files in which detention in Somsanga center was ordered

 

 

 

Total number of individuals who had legal representation during this process

 

 

 

Total number of individuals who lodged an appeal against their detention

 

 

 

Total number of individuals whose appeals were successful

 

 

 

 

4.      Human Rights Watch understands that homeless people, beggars, street children, and the mentally ill are frequently detained in Somsanga center.

For 2009, 2010 and 2011 – to date, please provide the following information:

  • In Vientiane, the number of arrests made for each of the following categories: people who use drugs, homeless people, beggars, street children, and mentally ill people. If you cannot provide such data, please explain why not.

e.g.

 -

2009

2010

2011-date

Total number of arrests of people who use drugs (in Vientiane)

 

 

 

Total number of arrests of homeless people (in Vientiane)

 

 

 

Total number of arrests of beggars (in Vientiane)

 

 

 

Total number of arrests of street children (in Vientiane)

 

 

 

Total number of arrests of mentally ill (in Vientiane)

 

 

 

  • The laws or policies which authorize police or village militia to carry out such arrests.
  • In Somsanga center, the number of detainees for each of the following categories: people who use drugs, homeless people, beggars, street children, and mentally ill people. If you cannot provide such data, please explain why not.

 

e.g.

Total number of Somsanga detainees who are people who use drugs

 

 

 

Total number of Somsanga detainees who are homeless people

 

 

 

Total number of Somsanga detainees who are beggars

 

 

 

Total number of Somsanga detainees who are street children

 

 

 

Total number of Somsanga detainees who are mentally ill

 

 

 

  • The laws or policies which authorize Somsanga center to detain such people.

5.       Human Rights Watch understands that people with a mental illness are detained in Somsanga center. Why are these people detained there? Please provide details about policies and practices for providing treatment, care and support specifically to detainees with a mental illness.

6.      Human Rights Watch understands that children are detained in the same sleeping dormitories as adults. Does Somsanga center detain people under age 18 separately from adults? If not, why not? Please provide details about policies and practices for providing treatment, care and support specifically to people under age 18.

7.       Please provide any specific rules, regulations, guidelines, etc. detailing the internal disciplinary regime for infringements of Somsanga center rules. Specifically:

  • What are the permitted types of discipline for infringements of center rules?
  • Are detainees permitted to discipline fellow detainees?
  • Are forms of corporal punishment permitted by either centre staff or fellow detainees? If so, under what circumstances is corporal punishment used?

8.      Please specify for 2009, 2010 and 2011 – to date:

  • The (national government) budget allocation per Somsanga center detainee;
  • The percentage of the total budget allocation per detainee for food expenditures;
  • The percentage of the total budget allocation per detainee for health-related expenditures.

e.g.

 -

2009

2010

2011-date

Budget allocation per Somsanga detainee

 

 

 

Percentage for food expenditures

 

 

 

Percentage for health expenditures

 

 

 

Previous reports of abuse and deaths in custody

1.       How are reports of ill-treatment of detainees by center staff or fellow detainees addressed and investigated? What punishment or sanctions are given to those found responsible for ill treatment of detainees?

2.      How many complaints of ill-treatment have been lodged since 2006?   In how many cases have complaints been upheld and sanctions imposed? What sanctions were imposed?

3.      Have there been any detainee deaths in custody (including suicides) since 2006? If so, how many? Have there been any investigations into detainee deaths in custody during this period? If so, what has been the outcome of these investigation(s)?

4.      Please identify any actions adopted to prevent detainee suicides, such as protocols to identify detainees at risk, counseling of depressed and suicidal detainees, medical protocols to respond to suicide attempts, mitigation measures changing the physical setting of the detention center, suicide prevention training for staff, etc.

External involvement

1.       Which external organizations (such as UN agencies, multilateral or bilateral donors or international and/or national NGOs) are currently, or have previously, provided funding support, operating programs or providing services inside Somsanga center? If funding, how much funding? If running programs or providing services, please specify the nature of these programs and/or services.

Drug treatment

1.       UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that compulsory drug treatment should only be forced on people “in exceptional crisis situations of high risk to self or others” and that treatment should only be mandated for specific conditions and periods of time. Does government policy take into account this recommendation? If so, please indicate how.

2.      What is the Government of Lao PDR doing to increase access to voluntary, evidence-based drug treatment provided on an outpatient basis?