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.

  • Thematic Briefings on Human Rights and Drug Policy

    International Harm Reduction Association
    October 2010

    In many countries around the world, drug control efforts result in serious human rights abuses: torture and ill treatment by police, mass incarceration, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, denial of essential medicines and basic health services. Drug control policies, and accompanying enforcement practices, often entrench and exacerbate systematic discrimination against people who use drugs, and impede access to controlled essential medicines for those who need them for therapeutic purposes. Local communities in drug-producing countries also face violations of their human rights as a result of campaigns to eradicate illicit crops, including environmental damage, displacement and damage to health from chemical spraying.

  • Abused and Afraid in Ciudad Juarez

    An Analysis of Human Rights Violations by the Military in Mexico
    Maureen Meyer
    Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) / Center Prodh
    October 2010

    Residents in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, are caught between the drug-related violence and the human rights violations committed by the security forces. The report focuses on human rights violations that occurred in Ciudad Juarez in the context of Joint Operation Chihuahua, which began in March 2008. The five cases described in the report involve acts of torture, forced disappearance and sexual harassment of women by Mexican soldiers deployed in Ciudad Juarez.

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  • Right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

    Anand Grover, Special Rapporteur
    United Nations General Assembly
    August 2010

    The current international system of drug control has focused on creating a drug-free world, almost exclusively through use of law enforcement policies and criminal sanctions. Mounting evidence, however, suggests this approach has failed, primarily because it does not acknowledge the realities of drug use and dependence. While drugs may have a pernicious effect on individual lives and society, this excessively punitive regime has not achieved its stated public health goals, and has resulted in countless human rights violations.

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  • The United Nations and Drug Policy

    Towards a Human Rights-Based Approach
    Damon Barrett & Manfred Nowak
    The Diversity of International Law: Essays in Honour of Professor Kalliopi K. Koufa, pp. 449-477
    Aristotle Constantinides and Nikos Zaikos, eds., Brill/Martinus Nijhoff, 2009

    In 1945, the United Nations was established to 'save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.' Today, the language of war has been adopted for policy objectives. The 'war on drugs' is now more widespread and higher in financial and human cost than ever, and has impacted negatively across borders and across human rights protections. The war on drugs has left in its wake human rights abuses, worsening national and international security and barriers to sustainable development.

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  • Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development

    Manfred Nowak
    Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
    Human Rights Council A/HRC/10/44
    January 14, 2009

    The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment submits his third report to the Human Rights Council. The Special Rapporteur focuses on the compatibility of the death penalty with the prohibition of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment discusses a human rights-based approach to drug policies.

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