SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Training to strengthen the Dominican Republic drug treatment court programme began on 22 October in Santo Domingo, as part of the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) strategy to tackle the drug problem from the demand side.
The two-day capacity building initiative is part of the response under the Drug Demand Reduction (DDR) component of the Tenth European Development Fund (EDF) Crime and Security Programmed between the European Union and CARIFORUM, of which the Dominican Republic is a member.
In the brief opening ceremony, the human rights approach to dealing with the drug problem was a central theme of the remarks delivered.
CARICOM Secretariat coordinator of the human and development programme, Beverly Reynolds, noted that drug treatment courts (DTCs), by its very nature, bring together the judiciary and other criminal justice partners, alongside health, civil society and policy makers, which provide an integrated and multi-sectoral approach for addressing the health, and human rights issues in treating with problematic drug use.
“This allows for the crafting of interventions that are in the best interest of the group of offenders, the community and the society of large,” she said
President of the National Council for Drugs, Rafael Guerrero Peralta, reiterated this point. He referred to the model of drug treatment under judicial supervision, as an “innovative method” which represented an opportunity for the clients to change his way of life, heal his addiction and become a useful entity to his family and society.
Peralta, in declaring his country’s acceptance of the approach, emphasised that such approach recognises “human beings as the centre of national and international policies on drugs, the defence of the law and its application, as well as the state of law and security of the people, strengthening public health, respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people”.
He urged the gathering of participants representing the judiciary, treatment and rehabilitation programmes, social workers, among others, to take advantage of the training.
Head of the European Union’s delegation in the Dominican Republic, Ambassador Gianluca Grippa, noted that, while Caribbean countries provide alternative routes to the traffic of drugs to markets in Europe and other countries, drug consumption in the Caribbean was also a problem, hence the relevance of the workshop.
“We have to sort out the demand for illicit drugs, which is negative for individual health and for the society,” he said.
He also noted there was strength in the European Union working with government entities in the region’s drug demand programme, building the capacity of the judicial and health sectors and members of government to unify the efforts to more humane justice, which saw drug offenders as patients and persons who could be reinstated in society.
“The workshop is relevant, given its participation by public institutions and non-governmental organisations who reach the people. Strengthening of human rights is a good investment that we could provide and promote,” the ambassador added.
DIGICOM’s deputy director, architect Jaime Felipe, noting DTCs work with other alliances and support other entities, he said that the fight against drugs was a “complex work” and it required individuals, the region and the of states to look for solutions, the justice and health system cannot solve alone. He commended the approach of incorporating human rights in the drug demand reduction strategy.
The CARICOM Secretariat has collaborated with the government of the Dominican Republic and the Executive Secretariat of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the Organization of American States (OAS) to implement this initiative, the expected outcome of which is capacity built to strengthen the DTC and to expand its operations to include juveniles.