Guidance Note For UNODC Staff Promotion and Protection of Human Rights Position Paper

The severity of penalties must not be disproportionate to the criminal offence. Imprisonment should be used as a penalty of last resort and the choice between penalties should take into account likelihood of rehabilitation.


Not all differences of treatment are prohibited discrimination under international law. In order to be justified, a distinction must pursue a legitimate aim and be proportional. The means of achieving the legitimate aim must be appropriate and necessary and relevant to the differential treatment


Responses to drug law offences must be proportionate. Serious offences, such as trafficking in illicit drugs must be dealt with more severely and extensively than offences such as possession of drugs for personal use. For offences involving the possession, purchase or cultivation of illicit drugs for personal use, community-based treatment, education, aftercare, rehabilitation and social integration represent a more effective and proportionate alternative to conviction and punishment, including detention.

  • Proportionality of sentencing

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