VIENNA, June (UN Information Service) – On the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) would like to recognize and encourage the efforts being made around the world to prevent and alleviate the suffering caused by drug abuse and drug trafficking.
Drug abuse unleashes untold suffering upon the people affected and their families, friends and communities; drug trafficking and illicit drug crop cultivation and production also have a grave impact on society as a whole.
At the United Nations General Assembly special session on the world drug problem in 2016, Member States reaffirmed the pivotal role of the three international drug control conventions as the cornerstone of international cooperation in ensuring the availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific purposes, in preventing illicit cultivation and production and in addressing drug trafficking and abuse.
The health and welfare of humankind is at the heart of the drug control conventions, which require governments to take all possible measures to prevent drug abuse and provide for treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration.
INCB has repeatedly emphasized that the conventions are founded upon respect for human rights and the principle of proportionality in responding to drug-related offences, which is in fact a key aspect of sound and effective drug policy.
In some countries, many “low-level drug offenders” are imprisoned, such as those in possession of drugs for personal use: this approach is not mandated by the international drug control treaties. A State’s response to illegal behaviour should be proportionate and any punishment should be in proportion to the seriousness of the crime. The Board continues to encourage States that retain capital punishment to consider abolishing the death penalty for drug-related offences.
The extrajudicial targeting of people suspected of drug-related criminality is not only contrary to the treaties, but is also a serious breach of human rights and an affront to the most basic standards of human dignity. The Board strongly, categorically and unequivocally condemns extrajudicial targeting of people suspected of illicit drug-related activity.
Upon my election last month as INCB President, I set out a number of priorities for my term, one of which was to encourage the application by States of the principle of proportionality in responding to drug-related crime, particularly through using alternatives to imprisonment, such as treatment and rehabilitation. Unfortunately, the flexibility provided for by the Conventions to apply such alternative measures remains underutilized.
Too often women involved in minor drug-related offences are imprisoned, often serving long sentences in countries in which they have no family, social or institutional ties. In the thematic chapter on “Women and drugs” of the INCB Annual Report for 2016, we noted that the proportion of women involved in drug-related offences is increasing and we drew attention to the impact that imprisonment can have upon women and their families, particularly children. We urge states to consider alternatives to imprisonment in cases of a minor nature.
On the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, I urge all States, particularly those that have seen high rates of arrest and imprisonment for minor drug-related offences, to adopt more proportional, alternative measures, such as treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration.
The theme of the 2017 International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is “Listen First: Listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe”. I encourage all national authorities to listen to the needs of their communities, to gauge whether alternatives to punishment and imprisonment, such as treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration, might be more appropriate, depending on the nature of the case. Rather than imprisoning and removing people suffering from drug dependency or affected by drug abuse from society, let’s work together to break the cycle of drug abuse and suffering.
The International Narcotics Control Board is the independent quasi-judicial body monitoring and promoting the implementation of the three international drug control conventions: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.