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Vietnam drug users in "forced labour": HRW

08 september 2011, 13:54
©RIA Novosti
©RIA Novosti
Vietnamese drug users are held in "forced labour" centres that fail to provide appropriate treatment and are rife with physical abuse, AFP reports, citing Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report issued Wednesday.

The 126-page report by the US-based campaign group was based on confidential interviews with 34 men, women and children who were recently held in 14 drug detention centres in or around Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's biggest metropolis.

"Tens of thousands of men, women and children are being held against their will in government-run forced labour centres in Vietnam," said HRW health and human rights director Joe Amon.

"This is not drug treatment, the centres should be closed, and these people should be released."

The group voiced fears that similar abuses were occurring in other such centres, numbering more than 100, elsewhere in Vietnam.

But Hanoi accused the watchdog of distorting the facts and described the facilities as a "humane" way to help people kick their drug addiction and prepare to return to society.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said the addicts were "able to exercise all rights and responsibilities in accordance with law".

"Treatment labour" helps addicts improve their health, professional skills, and responsibilities to family and society, she said.

"Compulsory detoxification is a humane measure that supports and helps the addicts," Nga added.

The HRW report said detainees can be held for years without due process, which is against international law. While some are "volunteered" for drug detention by family members, others are rounded up by police.

Rather than getting therapy, detainees had to perform manual labour by processing cashews, farming, sewing garments or working in construction -- again in violation of international law, the watchdog said.

Detainees who refused to work or violated other rules were subjected to beatings or "torture" including electric shock, HRW said.

On Tuesday the United Nations called on Vietnam to urgently change its practice of detaining drug users.

It stressed that people in compulsory detention should not be forced to perform labour if they have not been convicted by a court following due process.

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