DrugScope, the UK’s leading drug information charity, has responded today to the launch of the latest annual report by the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). DrugScope welcomes the INCB’s call for proportionality in the enforcement of drug laws around the world, but considers that the INCB must do much more to condemn the many human rights abuses perpetuated in the so-called ‘war against drugs’.
In its latest report, the INCB has highlighted the need for all countries to balance their obligations under the international drug treaties with those of UN human rights legislation. It describes a principle of ‘proportionality’ that should be applied to all national drug law enforcement (1). The principle states that member countries must ensure that drug law enforcement is proportionate and in full compliance with the rule of law, including international agreements on human rights.
In its consideration of the proportionality principle, however, the INCB makes no specific reference to specific countries where infringements or limitations of human rights are currently taking place. DrugScope and the IDPC are disappointed by these key omissions from the INCB’s discussion of proportionality, examples of which include:
- failure to discuss plans announced by Chinese officials to place a million drug users in compulsory detoxification prior to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
- despite a recent visit to Brazil, the INCB report does not mention the 449 people who were shot and killed in the first half of 2007 in drug enforcement operations by police. Brazilian children, recruited into drug gangs, are considered legitimate targets by police and are shot at frequently in incursions into Rio’s favelas.
- the INCB has remained silent on the many human rights abuses and deaths in Thailand during Thaksin Shinawatra’s ‘war on drugs’ in 2003/04; lack of such condemnation from the UN may be contributing to Thailand’s current willingness to consider another wave of such extreme enforcement tactics.
- 64 countries retain the death penalty and of those, half apply the death penalty to drug-related offences. This is in violation of international human rights law (1).
- each year, China uses the UN’s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking (26 June) as a day to carry out mass, public executions of drug offenders. In 2002, the day was marked by 64 public executions across the country (2).
DrugScope is a founding member of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), a coalition that aims to promote objective and open debate about national and international drug policy. In that capacity, DrugScope’s Director of Communications and Information, Harry Shapiro said:
“Drug users are vilified and marginalised worldwide. Some nations feel that any action against them is justified, including murder. We are encouraged that the INCB recognises this is unacceptable and that a balance must be struck between the enforcement of drug laws and the human rights and civil liberties of those with serious problems.
“But DrugScope and the International Drug Policy Consortium feel that the INCB, from their position of international authority, must follow their condemnation of human rights abuses through to its logical conclusion. The INCB must offer public criticism of particular countries with the worst human rights record in this area.”
Notes to editors
For more information or interviews please contact the DrugScope press office on 07736 895563 or 020 7940 7517 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) is a global network of national and international NGOs that specialise in issues related to illegal and legal drug use. DrugScope is a founder member of the consortium. You can find out more here: www.idpc.info where you can also download the ICDP’s full response to the INCB report.
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) is an independent and quasi-judicial organisation that monitors the implementation of the United Nations drug control conventions. Each year the INCB spotlights a particular issue of concern in international drug policy and this year the focus is on the principle of proportionality and drug-related offences. You can find out more about the work of the INCB and download the full report (from 00:01hrs Wednesday 5 March 2008) here: www.incb.org
(1) The principle of proportionality states that member countries are responsible for ensuring that their enforcement actions against the drug market and drug users are:
- allowed for in national legislation;
- not applied in an arbitrary manner;
- in pursuance of a legitimate aim;
- proportionate to that aim, meaning that the state limits or infringes on the human rights of its citizens no more than necessary.
Source: IDPC response to the 2007 Annual Report of the International Narcotics Control Board, available to download from www.idpc.info
(2) Source: The Death Penalty for Drug Offences: A Violation of International Human Rights Law by Rick Lines, is published by IHRA (ISBN 978-0-9557754-0-6) and can be viewed in its entirety at www.ihra.net
(3) Source: ibid.