Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death. They apply regardless of where you are from, what you believe or how you choose to live your life. They can never be taken away, although they can sometimes be restricted – for example if a person breaks the law, or in the interests of national security.
These basic rights are based on values like dignity, fairness, equality, respect and independence. But human rights are not just abstract concepts – they are defined and protected by law. In Ireland these are protected under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Act 2014.
A number of recent policy documents have come out in support of promoting the human rights of drugs users. In Ireland, this is not just a nice idea, it is the law: the 2014 Human Rights and Equality Commission Act makes equal treatment and basic human rights a public sector duty. But old prejudices die hard, and some services and providers see only the drug user and not the human behind them. Therefore we must help them view the world differently.
So what are human rights? Here is an easy rule-of-thumb: if you are a human, you have a right to the same treatment, care, and dignity that should be given to every other human. This includes the right to:
-life and security of one’s own person
-highest attainable standard of health and access to care
-right to work in safe conditions, without coercion
-assembling, associating, and forming organizations
-protection of the law
–not be discriminated against for any reason (gender, ethnicity, sexuality, etc.)
–not be subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment