Deputy human rights chief calls for drug decriminalisation

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Flavia Pansieri. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Top UN human rights expert Flavia Pansieri added her weight to calls for the decriminalisation of drugs on Monday, in view of the discrimination that results from the current global stance.

Supporting a similar call by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization, the Deputy Human Rights Commissioner told UN member states in Geneva that 33 countries enforce the death penalty for drug-related offences.

This results in more than 1,000 executions a year, Pansieri said, even though drug offences should not qualify for the penalty according to international rights covenants.

Ana Carmo has more.

Addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Flavia Pansieri questioned the current prohibitionist approach to drugs.

Stressing that she was not calling for their legalisation, the Deputy Human Rights Commissioner did say that criminalisation has resulted in the discrimination of drug users in many areas, including health.

"Criminalisation of possession and use has been shown to cause significant obstacles to the right to health…In states where drug use is criminalised, drug users may refrain – and one can understand that – from seeking health care for fear that they could be arrested or imprisoned, included in drug registries or subjected to drug treatment against their will."

Pansieri also explained that drug users suffer an increased likelihood of arbitrary arrest, as well as disproportionately harsh prison sentences.

In no less than 33 countries, Pansieri added that executions for drug-related offences were the norm and resulted in 1,000 deaths per year.

In certain states, moreover, drug-related executions represent the majority of executions.

The global stance on narcotics also adversely affects drug users' benefits, Flavia Pansieri continued, making them less eligible for social housing , jobs and child custody.

On the prosecution of youngsters for minor drugs offences, Pansieri told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that states should consider other options, considering the serious impact a criminal record can have on their wellbeing.

Ana Carmo, United Nations.

Duration: 1’40″

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