CND Intersessional – 23rd January: Operational recommendations on cross-cutting issues: Human rights, youth, children, women and communities

UNODC Justice Section: Chapter contains 2 sets of recommendations concerning vulnerable members of society and criminal justice proceedings. Those concerning vulnerable peoples discuss the needs of children drug offenders/those affected by drugs and mainstreaming a gender perspective in drug policy. Children must be appropriately considered in criminal justice proceedings. UNODC developed a global programme to eliminate violence against children within criminal justice – some clauses are of relevance to drugs. Strategy 15 (risk of violence in drug trafficking to children) recommends the risk should be addressed by the development of specific prevention methods including prevention of recruitment by organised crime. Strategy 28: The General Assembly agreed that member states should design training programmes for criminal justice professionals to educate them on the needs of children under influence of alcohol or drugs. Strategy 38, discussing children in detention, recommended that countries ensure treatment and support is available to children with special needs, including pregnant girls, HIV+, those with mental health issues. Strategy 39: Prevention of violence against children with mental illness or under the influence of drugs. UNODC have tailor made drug demand reduction programmes for children. Possible areas of assistance & guidance: develop handbooks or tools/regional guidelines for alternatives to imprisonment. It is, of course, important that these materials are disseminated and reinforced with further capacity building.

Robert Husbands (OHCHR): In my remarks today I will be using a rights-based approach in discussing implementation of the UNGASS outcome document. Let me begin with the right to life, which is without doubt the most fundamental of all human rights. The outcome document calls for the implementation of effective criminal justice responses to drug-related crimes and, in this regard, for the elimination of impunity for human rights violations. The report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the world drug problem in 2015 also called for an end to impunity, including in particular for summary or extra-judicial executions that have been reported to have occurred in some States during drug enforcement operations. States should take effective action to prevent summary or extra-judicial executions, and also to reinforce the principle that no one is above the law.  And when summary or extra-judicial executions do occur, there should be a prompt investigation of such offences by an independent and impartial body with a view to bringing perpetrators to justice. Again concerning the right to life, the outcome document calls for measures to prevent and treat opioid overdoses, notably by the increased use of the medication naxalone which has been demonstrated to be effective in preventing overdose-related deaths.  Although the use of naxalone is commonly thought of as part of the right to health for drug users – and it most certainly is – its important potential to save lives also makes it a right to life issue. It has been estimated that more widespread use of naxalone could potentially save tens of thousands of lives.  States should ensure naxalone is widely available and accessible at a reasonable cost. Concerning the imposition of the death penalty for drug-related offences, the Human Rights Committee and other human rights mechanisms have determined that this is a violation of the right to life.  While we acknowledge that there was no consensus on this issue at UNGASS, we nevertheless continue to urge States to eliminate the death penalty for such offences.

In terms of the outcome document’s call for respecting the prohibition of arbitrary arrest or detention, it is useful to recall some of the abuses cited in the High Commissioner’s report. These include the targeting of drug users in areas at or near drug treatment centres and the targeting of drug users to meet arbitrarily determined arrest quotas. In addition, abusive practices include the harassment of drug users for money, or in the case of women, for money or sexual relations, in exchange for not being arrested. States should take steps to prevent such practices and, when they do occur, to hold those responsible accountable. The High Commissioner’s report also indicates that in some States there has been a practice of automatic pre-trial detention for persons subject to drug-related charges, without examining the circumstances of each case individually. Similarly the report notes that in some States, persons arrested or detained for drug-related offences are not brought promptly before a judge to have the their arrest or detention reviewed. These practices are a violation of the prohibition of arbitrary detention and should be changed.

Concerning the outcome document’s call for the prohibition of torture and other forms of ill treatment, it should be emphasized that drug dependent persons in custodial settings should never be denied medication assisted therapy as a means of eliciting confessions or for obtaining other information.  Physical violence against persons in custody on suspicion of drug-related offences should be prohibited, as well as acts intended to cause mental suffering or pain.

Concerning the right to fair trial, persons charged with drug-related offences should in principle be tried in the ordinary courts and not in military or special drug courts. Some States do not allow persons convicted of drug-related offences to be considered for suspended sentence, parole, pardon or amnesty, measures that are available to those convicted for other crimes. This has been criticized by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which has called on States having such measures to eliminate them. In regard to the outcome document’s appeal for the use of alternative measures to conviction or punishment in cases of an appropriate nature, States should take steps to ensure that persons who are arrested for personal use or possession of drugs are not imprisoned.

Concerning the right to the health, the outcome document recognizes that medication assisted therapy and injecting equipment programmes, more commonly known as opioid substitution therapy and needle and syringe programmes, are effective measures at minimizing adverse public health and social consequences of drug use, and that such programmes should also be made available to those in prisons and other custodial settings. For States that do not presently use medication assisted therapy or injecting equipment programmes, they should seek technical assistance from States that have such programmes or from international or civil society organizations with the required expertise. The outcome document calls for non-discriminatory access to health care and services by drug users, including those individuals in prison or pre-trial detention. The High Commissioner’s report found that drug users have sometimes been denied access to medical treatment based on their past or current drug use. It also found that the use of drug registries to identify drug users has had the effect in practice of discouraging drug users from accessing health care. These practices should be discontinued. The outcome document recognizes that individuals with drug use disorders should only participate in treatment programmes on a voluntary basis and on the basis of informed consent. States should closely monitor drug treatment programmes to ensure that there is no element of coerciveness in efforts to encourage drug users to participate in such programmes.

In terms of the prohibition of discrimination in implementing drug policies, efforts should be made to not disproportionately target ethnic minorities and women in law enforcement actions. Training should be provided to law enforcement, health personnel and social service workers who come into contact with drug users to help eliminate discrimination. It is positive that the outcome document calls for a gender perspective and the involvement of women in developing, implementing and monitoring drug policies.

With regard to the rights of the child, and consistent with the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, children should not be subject to criminal prosecution for drug use or possession, and responses should be focused on health education, treatment and social integration.

And finally, concerning the rights of indigenous peoples, States should amend their laws to provide a clear and unambiguous legal framework for indigenous peoples to use drugs in their traditional, cultural or religious practices or ceremonies.

Malta, on behalf of the European Union & Turkey, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Bosnia + Herzogovina, Ukraine, Moldova, Andorra and Armenia:


In regard to items 44 to 46 of the remarks of H.E. Ambassador Pedro Moitinho de Almeida, which in effect are a proposal for a way forward, the EU and its Member States fully support the three recommendations pertaining to, action that could be taken by the CND to support Member States in the implementation of the UNGASS operational recommendations, reviewing the work of the UN subsidiary bodies in order that they are able to better support the implementation of operational recommendations of the outcome document at regional level, and finally, to strengthen the use of the CND post UNGASS website.

It has now been nearly 70 years since the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms has been adopted. This Convention calls for the commitment to respect, protect and promote human rights, fundamental freedoms and the inherent dignity of all individuals. Furthermore, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and of the International Covenant on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and their optional protocols remain the universal standards for the promotion of human rights.

The EU and its Member States would like to underline that a gender perspective must be integrated into all relevant aspects of drug policy. It must not be treated as an isolated issue or a separate track, so that women’s and men’s specific needs and conditions permeate all relevant activities and actions.

There are a number of actions CND could envisage to promote human rights in drug policies. To begin with, the EU and its Member States fully support CND’s efforts to collect information on the promotion of human rights, health, safety and the welfare of all individuals, communities and societies in the framework in which nations implement the three international drug control conventions.

Moreover, the EU and its Member States encourage the CND to proceed on activities already undertaken to collect the necessary information on the manner in which nations implement proportionate criminal justice policies and sentencing, again in relation to the implementation of the three international drug control conventions.

The EU has also lately published a study on alternatives to coercive sanctions as a response to drug law offences and drug related crimes. This study could be a helpful resource for the CND to examine the practical implementation of different alternatives.  We intend to present the main outcomes of this study at the side event at the CND session in March.

In this respect the EU and its Member States find the collection and collation of information related to the use of the death penalty for drug related offences crucially important and considers that CND needs to collect and collate information also in this subfield. The use of the death penalty for drug-related offences in contrary to the principle of proportionate sentencing and thus the implementation of the Human Rights chapter of the UNGASS outcome document. Let me also point out the complete unacceptability of extra judicial killings wherever they may take place.

The EU and its Member States consider that the CND should examine how its subsidiary bodies can better contribute to the implementation of the UNGASS outcome document, including through the regular exchange of information, good practices and lessons learned among national practitioners from different fields. We should also consider additional measures to further facilitate meaningful discussion among those practitioners. We are happy to note that a working group on specific needs and circumstances of children and youth with regard to the world drug problem and a working group on mainstreaming gender perspectives in drug-related policies have been created following the UNGASS outcome document.

CND would also profit from human rights expertise provided by other UN bodies, therefore we welcome the organisation of joint events with Human Rights Council as well as organisation of coordination meetings with UNHCR so as to mainstream human rights into drug policies.

The above-mentioned aspects are completely in line with the current understanding within the EU and its Member States that substance use disorder is primarily a public health issue and that drug policies should aim to protect and improve the well-being of society and of the individual, to protect public health, to offer a high level of security for the general public and to take a balanced, integrated approach.


I will conclude by reiterating the stance taken by the EU and its Member States that the CND needs to have all information in hand in relation to criminal justice policies if it is to understand which nations are indeed implementing the operational recommendations under this chapter and thus committing to the promotion of human rights since substance use disorders is a public health issue.

Thank you, Chair.

Russia: Eradication of illicit trafficking is the collective responsibility of states through international collaboration. Ensure human rights and a fundamental freedom: the right to life. Right to life is the inalienable right of each human being – Russia notes with alarm some 450,000 people die annually from drugs – CND should decisively declare that freedom from drugs should be a basic human right. Progress towards a drug free world should not be taken as a pious wish rather a prime responsibility of each member states to ensure freedom and dignity of its citizens.

Peru. Operational recommendations on cross cutting issues on youth women and communities, our opinion always necessary to implement strategies in full compliance with human rights, emphasis protection youth, women and other vulnerable groups and communities. Peru believes there is a direct relationship between a society free of drug and individual rights. Scientific research that would give gender dimension to the issue important. Another aspect has to do with assessment of non-custodial alternatives for minor offences.

China. Three comments. First CND and UNODC should stick to principle of comprehensive balanced approach. Implementing drug policies, HR should be respected protected and promoted. Balance should be struck between proportional law enforcement, deterrence and HR protection. HR of drug related persons must be protected. On basis of UNGASS OD, CND and UNODC can strengthen cooperation, provide guidance for member states. China against stepping beyond mandate of CND and establishing abstract assessment criteria such as HR and development, deviate from central task of CND. Three, in process of development of relevant guidelines in field of criminal justice, no one size fits all model. In conformity with three drug control conventions. Not in favour of abolishing death penalty for drug related matters, also promote deterrence against drug related crimes

Judy Chang, INPUD. INPUD is a global peer based organization seeking to promote the health and protect the human rights of people who use drugs. We achieve this through international level advocacy, whilst supporting people who use drugs at regional and national levels.

We have previously welcomed the UNGASS Outcome Document operational recommendations on cross-cutting issues; drugs and human rights, youth, children, women and communities. We welcome the commitment of member states’ in paragraph 4 to work towards drug policies that respect the human rights, fundamental freedoms, and inherent dignity of all individuals, including people who use drugs; and to cooperate with relevant UN agencies including those with mandates relevant to human rights, and with civil society to realise these goals.

The operationalisation of the recommendations on human rights, women and communities is more critical than ever. A regression in human rights and drug policy is underway; and occurring under the umbrella of the three drug control conventions.

Alarming trends to which our communities are subject to include:-

  • the scale up of compulsory drug detention centres in some countries
  • attempts to reinstate the death penalty for drug offences
  • an epidemic of drug overdose deaths, where globally over 200,000 people die each year. Many of these are preventable through harm reduction, including accessibility of naloxone
  • 6000 state sanctioned killings of our peers in just over six months in one country alone

INPUD has advocated on the above issues, using the human rights mechanisms, and building public awareness. To operationalise Paragraph 4 of the UNGASS Outcome Document effectively, we urge the UN and member states to:

  • Invest in Community Systems Strengthening: so that communities can build resistance and resources in order to protect our human rights. This strategy was recognised as best practice by the UNAIDS PCB in December 2016.
  • Invite community members – and national networks of people who use drugs where they exist – to policy and programming decision making forums, such as on national delegations to the CND. People who use drugs bring many resources to these processes. We can advise on what works; and what is acceptable, feasible and most importantly realistic for our communities.
  • Promote and allow human rights observers access to monitor policies and programmes to ensure that they are aligned with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Convenants (ICCPR, ICESCR), International Conventions, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; and to report on human rights to the CND pursuant to operational recommendation 4(h)
  • We urge progressive national, bilateral and multilateral states and agencies to continue to pressure, and use economic and political means at their disposal to halt the continued human rights violations on people who use drugs.

Attention to cross cutting issues of drugs, human rights, youth, women and communities is critical to survival. Our rights as citizens are not revoked due to drug use. We are already a part of society, at times a significant part. Finally, we must move towards the decriminalisation of drug use, as the most effective and surest way of realising the human rights of people who use drugs, as well as wider communities. In closing I’d like to thank the Chair, the Facilitator and the CND for giving the International Network of People who use Drugs the floor.

NIERICA AC. I am President of the Multidisciplinary Association for the Preservation of Indigenous Traditions of Sacred Plants. Our Organization works closely with Tribal Governments and Traditional Medicine practitioners of many different tribes. Some in North America who use the Peyote plant in ceremonial contexts and some from the Amazon who utilize Ayahuasca for healing and personal evolution also in structured rituals. These plants have been revered by indigenous people for thousands of years and have gained the status of Master Plants or Teacher Plants and constitute fundamental pillars of culture and traditional medicine practices for many indigenous people in North and South America and they are referred to as Medicines by such tribal groups. Nierika promotes sustainability of the practices and protection of the territories where these plants grow, as well as,  promoting scientific research on the therapeutic potential of the structured and medicinal use of these plants within their cultural contexts. We are also active in educating policy makers as to the importance of preserving this knowledge for future generations of both indigenous and non-indigenous people.

I travelled all the way from Mexico to speak to this Commission as Civil Society in different capacities: First and foremost as President  of Nierika an NGO committed to Indigenous rights and Public Health, but also, As a recovering addict with 29 years of sobriety, As a Certified Addiction Counselor with close to 25 years experience having treated thousands of people who have struggled with substance abuse and dependence, and, as a human being who has benefited immensely by participating in ceremonial consumption of these psychoactive plants in supervised contexts with indigenous healers. Such participation has inspired my dedication to this human rights cause and has also supported my psychological wellbeing and has strengthen my sobriety from narcotic and stimulant drugs.

I have come here to protest the fact that these psychotropic plants and the people who use them (indigenous and non-indigenous) have become for the past 35 years collateral victims of the so called: War on Drugs. In spite of the fact that none of these plants are identified in any of the three International Conventions their psychoactive substances are scheduled as class I and are therefore treated as having no therapeutic potential, as being inherently addictive and as important public health hazards. This classification is outdated and misinformed as it not based on scientific evidence when we consider these plants from an Intercultural Medicine perspective. Scientific research on the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics is resurgent, in spite of exceeding restrictions, with very promising outcomes in the treatment of: Depression, Nicotine addiction, Anxiety related to terminal illness, Addictions, PTSD, Eating Disorders among other mental health challenges in prestigious universities such as the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, Imperial College of London and University of Zurich to name a few.

Nierika respectfully requests to this CND, to the INCB and The WHO to consider creating a Multidisciplinary Commission comprised of scientists, indigenous experts and stakeholders to review and update policies governing these psychoactive plants and substances that can derive in sound regulations taking into account scientific data and human rights of indigenous and non-indigenous people who benefit from the appropriate use of these plants preventing diversion and standardizing procedures and best practices to protect users from malpractice and abuse but allowing for the maximization of their benefits to public health.

Norway. Thank you chair. Must work with communities, drug users have same rights as any other person. WHO recognises right of health, this is what we must strive for. Drug control operations only legitimate if in accordance with hr standards. Death penalty does not reduce crime more than prison sentence. Extrajudicial killings have to stop. Agreed UN Charter exactly to prevent this misuse of power. Highly appreciate participation of civil society. Must recognise inclusive dialogue with civil society and academia is key. Thank you chair.

Netherlands. Netherlands associates itself with Malta statement on behalf of EU. Netherlands believes HUMAN RIGHTS fundamental and equal for men, women and children. No discriminatory access to treatment. Drug policies should be in line with all UN conventions without exceptions. Taking step to promote HUMAN RIGHTS. advocate for evidence based drug policymaking, should gather more evidence. Helpful to collect and disseminate info on criminal sanctions and report on it on a regular basis, for ex through world drug report. Second, like in our statement this morning appreciate work relating to children and gender mainstreaming. Lastly, appreciate efforts joint efforts with WHO, call for similar efforts between CND and HRC. Thank you very much.

Romania. Thank you for giving me the floor. Associate with statement of Malta on behalf of EU. Regarding implementation of recommendation on human rights, children, women and communities. On alternative measures to imprisonment, Romania stipulates people who use drugs can be referred to program. Like to reiterate policy of prohibition of death penalty in all cases. Thank you Chair.

USA. Thank you. CND should examine other ways to include law enforcement stakeholders. Encourage broader participation in these meetings. Support adding public health to other meetings. Thank you.

Indonesia. Thank you facilitator. As democratic country, always committed for protection of human rights. Situation of illicit drug trafficking at critical state, disastrous consequences. Countless women children and youth suffered. In addressing issues of human rights and drug problem, Indonesian government believes access to care should be provided in non-discriminatory. Human rights should be protected in balanced manner, protection of individuals from criminals. Families should be considered an important aspect. On issue of capital punishment, does not violate international law including human rights laws, not a breach of international law. Capital punishment inalienable of sovereignty, important deterrent. Thank you.

Chair. Thank you, that was last intervention for member states. Request from floor from UNODC.

UNODC. Thank you facilitator. Would like to add information to Malta intervention inviting UNODC to collect practices relating to alternatives to incarceration. In October last year with WHO we organised meeting focusing on treatment and care with people with drug use disorders as well as alternatives to imprisonment and working on handbook with WHO. Invite all member states to event. At that point provide information on meeting and handbook. Thank you facilitator.

Maria Santos, WOLA. Male prison population large but female growing at faster rate. Highly punitive measures fuel massive incarceration of women. Need to look at social dynamics. Reasons why involved in narcotrafficking, need to survive, most forced to participate by partners or other individuals. Main scapegoats are rarely a threat to society, most jailed for first time, incarceration has no impact on dismantling networks or security. Prisons should be last recourse, non-custodial initiatives should be implemented. Full statement in Spanish here.

Chair. I see that there is a delegation from member state. Portugal you have the floor.

Portugal. States not confronting with choice between international law and human rights principles. Current international legal framework allows to pursue more humane drug policy. In this session would like to give impression how to best implement recommendations.  First, importance of mainstreaming gender perspectives. Second, importance of public health perspective. Strongly oppose death penalty in all cases including drug related offenses. Thank you Mr facilitator

Chair. Thank you this concludes the interventions on Chapter 4. Would like to go back to video from India. Lets pay attention please.

M. R. Rajagopal, Pallium India. I direct the World health organisation’s collaborating Centre at Trivandrum for training and policy on access to pain relief. We provide palliative care and demonstrate quality care. We saw a child, 2 years old, in agonising pain. According to the sister who was playing the role of the mother because the mother had lost her mind due to the suffering over the previous months, the child never slept for more than 15 minutes at a time during the last three months. The father had lost his job and the sister had lost her childhood. The father later confessed that he had planned to poison the whole family and kill himself. A few Rupees worth of morphine relieved the child’s pain almost completely and the child lived and eventually died reasonably pain-free. And the family is saved, the sister is in school and the father is back at work. This is what we can do.

In India, we grow poppy, we make opium and export it to the rest of the world while our own problems limit its use so that it is inaccessible to 99% of our population. The Indian Parliament changed the law which was a major barrier in 2014. But 29 states have to implement it. And two generations of doctors have not studied pain assessment or management, and that training has to happen as recommended in the UN General assembly special session on drugs. We have to overcome the regulatory barriers state by state and train our professionals if we are to remove this needless burden of pain and suffering.

Chair. Going to wrap up today’s work. Concluding remarks at end of thematic discussion on Wednesday. As facilitator not subject to negotiation. If no further comments, will continue tomorrow on cross cutting issues. Have a nice evening and see you all tomorrow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *