- Death penalty
26. In accordance with the Human Rights Committee, drug-related offences do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes”. Nevertheless, 33 countries or territories continue to retain the death penalty for drug-related offences in their legislation, though only a few of these countries actually impose and enforce this punishment.
27. During the reference period, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran continued to raise concerns about the use of capital punishment in the country, including for crimes such as alcohol consumption and drug trafficking, which do not constitute serious crimes by international standards (A/67/369, paragraph 56). Reportedly, executions for drug-related offences also took place and people were sentenced to death for such offences in several States, including China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
28. Human rights organizations expressed concerns about the international funding and technical assistance for drug control programmes in States that retain the death penalty for drug-related offences. According to these organizations, there is no persuasive evidence that the death penalty contributes more than any other punishment to eradicating drug trafficking or any other drug-related offences.
29. In his report to the General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions emphasized that clear guidelines are needed to help States to engage in cooperative drug control efforts without departing from the human rights framework, including international standards on the use of death penalty (A/67/275, paragraphs 84-86).
30. Such guidelines are also being explicitly sought by regional organizations that are major donors with regard to drug control efforts. For example, in its December 2010 resolution on the European Union’s annual report on human rights and democracy in the world, the European Parliament called upon the European Commission to develop guidelines governing international funding for country-level and regional drug enforcement activities.
31. The European Union emphasized that “actions, such as legal, financial or other technical assistance to third countries, should not contribute to the use of the death penalty”.
32. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published a position paper in 2012 articulating its position on the promotion and protection of human rights as part of its work. Taking note of applicable international norms and standards, it stated that if “a country actively continues to apply the death penalty for drug offences, UNODC places itself in a very vulnerable position vis-à-vis its responsibility to respect human rights if it maintains support to law enforcement units, prosecutors or courts within the criminal justice system”. It further noted that “at the very least, continued support in such circumstances can be perceived as legitimizing government action. If, following requests for guarantees and high-level political intervention, executions for drug-related offences continue, UNODC may have no choice but to employ a temporary freeze or withdrawal of support”.
The UN Secretary General releases a regular report on the question of the death penalty. It has consistently opposed the death penalty for drug offences on the grounds of international law and developing state practice.