Plenary Day 4: Statement from HRI

Statement on the Death Penalty

My name is Patrick Gallahue and I am making this statement on behalf of Harm Reduction International.

Each year there are approximately 1,000 people executed for a drug offence. Despite the fact that many capital drug laws were introduced in response to the drug control treaties, the International Narcotics Control Board has remained silent on the issue.

We understand the drug control treaties require States to make certain activities around controlled substances illegal though they do not prescribe specific sanctions.

This can lead to the impression that the INCB and the bodies entrusted with overseeing the drug control treaties have nothing to say on the matter of penalties.

But international law makes clear, no treaty exists in a vacuum and must observe other obligations under law and the death penalty for drugs has been identified as a human rights violation throughout the UN system.

Many of the people sentenced to death and executed are vulnerable people — often young, almost invariably poor, and commonly non-nationals of the prosecuting State, and from countries where the death penalty is not applied for drugs – or at all.

Many States in this room have appealed to governments to spare the lives of their citizens – often in vain.

We rely on treaty bodies to navigate the complexity of international responsibilities so it is with dismay that we learned, the International Narcotics Control Board, refused to clarify its position on international legal standards and the death penalty for drug offences on several occasions in the last week.

There has been a lot said about shared responsibilities in drug control. However the death penalty is a stark reminder that without respect for international standards, there are shared human rights consequences to this shared responsibility.

We hope the INCB will demonstrate the aptitude to make this clear.

Thank you.

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