A report by the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights (HCDH) is calling for the abandonment of criminal sanctions for drug possession in favor of policies based on human rights and public health. The excessive use of criminal sanctions is believed to be harmful.
The UN report urges countries to create effective drug policies, including considering depenalizing drug possession for personal use.
“If properly designed and implemented, decriminalization can be a powerful tool to ensure that the rights of drug users are protected,” the report says.
“Laws, policies, and practices to combat drugs should not increase human suffering. The drug problem remains of great concern, but treating drug users like criminals is not the solution,” said Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“States should move away from the currently dominant orientation of prohibition, repression, and punishment and instead adopt laws, policies, and practices anchored in human rights and focused on minimizing harm.”
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UN Report shows the importance of ending the war on drugs
A report by the UN Human Rights Office, commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, indicates that the excessive use of criminal sanctions deters people who use drugs from seeking help, leading to stigmatization and social exclusion.
According to the latest available statistics from the World Drug Report 2023, drug users are unequally exposed to blood-borne viruses, nearly 660,000 people die each year from drugs, and 10% of all new HIV infections worldwide in 2021 were among people who inject drugs.
The impact of these policies is profound and widespread, the report highlights. The militarization of law enforcement forces as part of the “war on drugs” leads to serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions. The excessive use of criminal sanctions contributes significantly to prison overcrowding.
The UN report stresses that the effects of these policies are most severe on people of African descent, women, indigenous peoples, and youth from poor backgrounds
“Current drug policies have the greatest impact on the poorest and most vulnerable people,” Mr. Türk pointed out.
The use of the death penalty for drug-related convictions has also increased worldwide, contrary to international human rights standards. The number of people executed for drug-related crimes in 2022 was more than double that in 2021, accounting for 37% of all executions worldwide, the report indicates.
“The current excessive focus on coercion and control in the war on drugs is leading to an increase in human rights violations, despite growing evidence that decades of criminalization and the so-called war on drugs neither protect people’s well-being nor deter drug-related crimes,” Mr. Türk said.
The UN report shows that a growing number of countries in all regions are adopting policies and practices that decriminalize drug use and treat it as a public health and human rights issue, using evidence-based approaches, taking into account gender equality and risk minimization.
The UN Commissioner for Human Rights has called on UN member states to take advantage of this positive trend.
A group of UN representatives and human rights experts had already called for an end to the “global war on drugs” last June.
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First published in Fakty Konopne. A third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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