Human rights apply to everyone. Drug users, traffickers and growers do not forfeit their human rights, and must be able to enjoy the right to the highest attainable standard of health, as well as to social services, employment, education, freedom from arbitrary detention and so on. The trend has been to toughen drug laws and sentencing guidelines, setting mandatory minimums, disproportionate prison sentences and even death penalties in several countries. Consideration of human rights are becoming essential elements in a growing number of countries’ application of drug legislation.

  • Human Rights and drug policy

    Drug control should respect human rights

    The Transnational Institute (TNI) has always believed in the need to find global answers to global problems, been a strong defender of multilateralism and an advocate of a well-functioning United Nations which stands as the guarantor of universal human rights. On the drugs question, our position is straightforward: drug control should respect human rights. An accessible but comprehensive primer on why TNI believes that human rights must be at the heart of any debate on drug control.

  • International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy

    Established in 2009, the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy is dedicated to developing and promoting innovative and high quality legal and human rights scholarship on issues related to drug laws, policy and enforcement.

    The Centre pursues this mandate by publishing original, peer-reviewed research on drug issues as they relate to international human rights law, international humanitarian law, international criminal law and public international law.  The Centre also fosters research on drug policy issues among postgraduate law and human rights students through its engagement with universities and colleges around the world.

  • Connecting the dots...

    Human rights, illicit cultivation and alternative development
    Martin Jelsma
    Transnational Institue (TN)
    October 2018

    How can we resolve the tensions between current drug control policies and states’ human rights obligations? The international human rights framework clearly establishes that, in the event of conflicts between obligations under the UN Charter and other international agreements, human rights obligations take precedence. As legally regulated cannabis markets start to grow, now is the time to secure a legitimate place for small farmers using alternative development, human rights and fair trade principles.

    application pdfDownload the report (PDF)

  • Drug Control and Human Rights

    Health and Human Rights Journal
    Volume 19, Issue 1, June 2017

    The Health and Human Rights Journal published a special section on Drug Control and Human Rights. This special section examines some of the many ways in which international and domestic drug control laws engage human rights and create an environment of enhanced human rights risk. The authors address specific human rights issues such as the right to the highest attainable standard of health (including health protection and promotion measures, as well as access to controlled substances as medicines) and indigenous rights, and how drug control laws affect the protection and fulfillment of these rights. Other authors explore drug control though the lens of cross-cutting human rights themes such as gender and the rights of the child. Together, the contributions illustrate how international guidelines on human rights and drug control could help close the human rights gap — and point the way to drug laws and policies that would respect, protect, and fulfill human rights rather than breach them or impede their full realization.

  • The Case for International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Control

    The UN exerts little energy toward ensuring that the domestic drug laws mandated by the treaties are drafted and implemented in a manner that safeguards human rights
    Rick Lines, Richard Elliott, Julie Hannah, Rebecca Schleifer, Tenu Avafia & Damon Barrett
    Health and Human Rights Journal
    March 2017

    The international drug control treaties contribute directly to an environment of human rights risk and violations. The drug treaties are what are known within international law as “suppression conventions.” Suppression regimes obligate states to use their domestic laws, including criminal laws, to deter or punish the activities identified within the treaty, and are therefore “important legal mechanisms for the globalization of penal norms.” However, while suppression treaties mandate all states to act domestically and collectively to combat crimes defined as being of international concern, they offer no obligations or guidance on what is and is not an appropriate penal response.

  • The human rights 'win' at the UNGASS on drugs that no one is talking about, and how we can use it

    A provision within the UNGASS resolution offers an opportunity for the two regimes to bridge the human rights gap
    Rick Lines and Damon Barret
    Monday, May 9, 2016

    The April 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the world drug problem offered a unique opportunity to re-examine the approach of punitive suppression that underpins global drug control. As the first such meeting to be held since 1998, it was a chance to set a new course, leaving behind what the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has called the negative ‘unintended consequences’ of the ‘war on drugs’.

  • Remarks Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

    United Nations Special Session on the world drug problem (UNGASS 2016)
    Round Table Three: Cross-cutting issues: drugs and human rights, youth, women, children and communities
    Wednesday, April 20, 2016

    "When drugs are decriminalised and health care, including harm reduction, is available, which is the case in a number of Member States, drug dependent persons are less likely to resort to criminal behaviour to get funds to support their drug dependence. They can obtain opioid substitution therapy where controlled substances would be applied under medical supervision. We would have liked accordingly to see a clear reference to the right to health as provided by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights."

  • As UNGASS approaches, yet another devastating UN critique of the drug war is published

    Steve Rolles (Transform)
    Tuesday, December 8, 2015

    A significant positive outcome has already emerged from next year’s UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs in the form of much more direct engagement in key drug policy issues from a range of UN agencies - beyond the prohibitionist silo of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Civil society organisations have, for years, been attempting to highlight the negative impacts of the international drug control system on issues relating to the core UN pillars of human rights, development, and peace and security.

  • World drug problem violates human rights in five key areas, says UN official

    UN News Centre (UN)
    Monday, September 28, 2015

    The global drug problem violates human rights in five key areas – the right to health, the rights relating to criminal justice and discrimination, the rights of the child and the rights of indigenous peoples, a senior United Nations official said. “It is clear that the world’s drug problem impacts the enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, often resulting in serious violations,” said Flavia Pansieri, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights. (See also: The impact of the world drug problem on the enjoyment of human rights | HRC holds panel discussion on the impact of the world drug problem on the enjoyment of human rights)

  • Indonesia's executions: Drugs diplomacy in a diplomatic crisis?

    In 2007 the Indonesian constitutional court cited the international drug trafficking treaty of 1988 to justify such killings
    The Huffington Post (UK web)
    Thursday, February 26, 2015

    All diplomatic efforts earlier this month to save Brazilian and Dutch citizens from execution in Indonesia failed. Both were executed by firing squad. The harrowing final hours of Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira have since been revealed. Australia has been told that two of its citizens face imminent execution and nationals of the United Kingdom and elsewhere must now be losing hope. Indonesian Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo has said that 'nothing whatsoever' will stop the executions.

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