Contribution of the Executive Director of the UNODC to the high-level review of the implementation of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem, to be conducted by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 2014 (UNODC/ED/2014/1)

To implement drug control policies and programmes within the framework of the rule of law and fully in line with human rights standards. When fighting drug trafficking or illicit drug use, fundamental human rights must be respected. The application of the death penalty for drug-related offences has never been in the spirit of the conventions; and it has the potential to be an impediment to international cooperation in fighting drug trafficking, as there are national laws that do not allow the exchange of information and extradition with countries which may impose capital punishment for the offences concerned (Footnote 25)

Footnote 25: In accordance with United Nations policy, UNODC advocates the abolition of the death penalty. The resolutions adopted by the General Assembly in 2007, 2008 and 2010, supported by an increasing number of Member States, seek to establish an international moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to progressing towards abolition. These resolutions call upon all States that still maintain the death penalty to progressively restrict the use of the death penalty, reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed and establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty altogether. The resolutions also call upon Member States to follow international standards, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, that specify, in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, that the sentence of death may be imposed only for the “most serious crimes”, which are generally not understood to include drug-related crimes (see UNODC, “Drug control, crime prevention and criminal justice: a human rights perspective — note by the Executive Director” (E/CN.7/2010/CRP.6-E/CN.15/2010/CRP.1)

  • Human rights
  • Death penalty

50. It is important to reaffirm the original spirit of the conventions, focusing on health. The conventions are not about waging a “war on drugs” but about protecting the “health and welfare of mankind”.
  • Alternatives to punishment

52. (…) (d) To differentiate between criminal and public health issues, where criminal justice efforts focus on the criminal side of drug trafficking and public health focuses on evidence-based measures for prevention and treatment of persons with drug-use disorders considering drug users as patients being treated for a chronic disease and not as criminals. Imprisonment of people for drug use increases their vulnerability to drug-use disorders and numerous health conditions, including HIV, tuberculosis and viral hepatitis. A public health response to the drug problem should consider alternatives to criminalization and incarceration of people with drug-use disorders. The conventions encourage the use of alternatives to imprisonment and “depenalizing” drug use can be an effective way to “decongest” jails, reallocating resources to treatment and facilitating the eventual rehabilitation, “reskilling” and reintegration of drug users;
  • Alternatives to punishment

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