Home » Side Event: Bringing human rights to the forefront of drug policy: development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation

Side Event: Bringing human rights to the forefront of drug policy: development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation

Organized by the Governments of Germany, Malta and Norway and the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe.

Keith Azzopardi, Permanent Representative of Malta: right to life needs to be respected under all circumstances; Pompidou Group documents “Drug Policy and Human Rights” are available.

Friedrich Däuble, Permanent Representative of Germany: German drug policy approach fully includes human rights including harm reduction etc; there are still serious human rights violations including extrajudicial killings and death penalty, condemned by German government; German government through GIZ supports development of international guidelines on human rights and sustainable development;  will clarify state obligations in international law.

Mr Jan Malinowski, Executive Secretary, Pompidou Group, Council of Europe: Pompidou Group is drug policy cooperation platform of Council of Europe, core business is protecting human rights; human rights now a major theme in UNGASS outcome document; commissioned Damon Barrett to prepare report on state of human rights in drug policy; then strong statement by Pompidou Group of Council of Europe; governments need to conduct human rights based review of their drug policies to assess intended and unintended consequences, suggests indicators.

Damon Barrett, University of Essex, International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy: A special thanks to my colleagues. It is a bit odd to be a keynote speaker. I was in Strasbourg recently and we had a lively debate about this document, we asked human rights questions which are difficult. Today, I want to introduce this document to you. It comes from a context in which the human rights debate has been picked up. I had the pleasure to negotiate for the UK at the time. We have come a long way since then. The discussion is still embryonic, for example, there are 4 UN international centres and the only one without an officer, when is that coming? The other way is we’re so focused on the worst offences like the death penalty. However, not executing people is a very low bar for HR. We need to look closer to home, not the worst based scenarios. This report is more internal looking, at their own doorsteps which is why it gets more challenging sometimes. Human rights begin at home, how do we advance human rights in a positive way while following drug policy goals? It’s not easy. We keep talking about a human rights based approach. We have a lot to learn from health and human rights. Applying it is very difficult. Nothing is about finger pointing. It has to be an ongoing process. Not about detailed policy prescription. It’s too simplistic. States are far too complex. We have an objective standard, for example this is the context of the EU. Internationally we can look at the UN treaties. Therefore, this paper took the approach to use the standards for drug policy problems. What are the human rights basics? We decided on four for the start of the conversation. If a policy is developed we need a forward looking view, with caution of negative human rights impacts. We adopted the principle of accountability. States must be held accountable. The principle of participation, involving affected communities to find out how human rights are experienced on the ground. The obvious principle of non-discrimination. Also the more positive sense to realise the rights of the most vulnerable groups. E.g. we need data from around the world. From there, we must locate HRs in our drug policy discussions. The international drug control mechanisms focuses so much on supply, but where is the right to health? We need to think about when human rights come into decision making. Structures in our policy frameworks and how we’ve included human rights. We apply some standard tests of human rights in this document. E.g. with regard to the right to health. it means services should be available to those who need it. Are they accessible to everyone? What are the barriers? Acceptability: gender and acceptability. Could be questions of dignity. Sufficient quality is a requirement for things to be evidence based. Another test we use is that certain rights have to be restricted in certain circumstances. It’s the proportionality test, if it’s lawful and pursues a legitimate aim. With that in mind we have to think about the duration and objectives. I want to conclude, none of what I said is easy or short term. The aim is for a good faith assessment of human rights in our own countries. If states can ask these questions together, it might seem like too big a question. We can start with interesting pilots. Could be one drug treatment programme that decides to do something a bit differently.

Zaved Mahmood ( Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights): The United Nations, its agencies and Member States are bound by overarching obligations under articles 1, 55 and 56 of the UN Charter to promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms.” In 2008, CND adopted resolution 51/12 which reaffirmed the importance of countering the world drug problem with full respect of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, and requested UNODC to work closely work with UN human rights entities in this endeavour.  In the last ten years, some progress have been made, including the inclusion of fifteen operational recommendations on human rights related issues in the UNGASS Outcome Document.  We also note that there are at least five draft resolutions that t are tabled at this session of CND includes human  rights principles and referred to human rights treaties, in particular CRC.  The day to day work of the CND must acknowledge how to bring its resolutions more in line with human rights standards. Who will monitor human rights impact drug policy at national level? In this regard, national human rights institutions (NHRI) should play a role. NHRIs should be engaged and supported at the debate on drug policies and their implementation. In this context, we commend  works of Commission of Human Rights of The Philippines. Its monitoring works led to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to open a preliminary examination in the situation in the Philippines, in particular they will examine the allegation of thousands extra-judicial killings that were carried out since June 2016 in the name of  so-called war on drugs.  Around the world, there are many national drug commissions or similar agencies. Is there any governing body of national drug commission that includes representative of NHRIs? Perhaps, we need to look at the structural aspects of national drug control bodies; and ensure that they have adequate and appropriate human rights expertise and representation, whether ex-official independent experts. Human rights approach should be taken into account while measuring drug policies, in particular with regard to  ARQ process. There are still many ARQ areas where HRs issues not being taken into consideration fully. For example, how drug policies impacted on the whole criminal justice system. In 2014, OHCHR produced a report on Tunisian prison system, which showed the  impact of wrong drug policy on criminal justice/ prison system. That report showed that 47% prison population of Tunisia was accused of so-called drug offences; and OHCHR  called for change of drug law and policy, and recommended to provide discretionary power to the judiciary. Recent amendment to Tunisian drug law may bring a positive change.  We are hopeful that more could be done in this area with the support of national authorities and other partners in Tunisia.  With regard to Damon Barrett’s question regarding UN Human Rights presence in Vienna, I would like say that we  see the importance of such presence.  A permanent human rights presence could support CND, UNODC and INCB to bring human rights at the front of drug debates, as well as support developing and implementing human rights based drug policies at the national level. Obviously, a week or few days presence in Vienna of OHCHR representative can’t guarantee such critical objective. A permanent UN Human Rights presence may be considered in Vienna, which is 3rd Headquarters of the UN, but we would need the necessary support of Member States.

Question from representative of HRI: what suggestions people might have to break through from side events to the main debates at CND? There is gap between language in side events and resolutions

Question from IDPC: Why does the UN not have a human rights presence in Vienna? Is OHCHR planning to open a liaison office in Vienna, which is urgently needed for the implementation of the UNGASS human rights commitments?

Question from Transform representative: Questions on the ARQs, are there going to be issues with states self reporting on human rights?

Office of the UN commissioner Human Rights: the issue is which source, why does it have to be only the state? There is different sorts of sources we can refer to. What sources and how we can get more information from other sources. I ask myself these questions. Member states need to consider this issue.

International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy: how we can incorporate periodic reviews, the INCB could improve their reports, we could get involved in treaty monitoring. There is a lot of good information there on progress. The EU commission on social rights reports are ready to be looked at. NGOs don’t get involved with the drug policy people.

International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy: In the plenary the term human rights was not mentioned often. These events are helping to make progress and we will persist in this area.

Secretary Pompidou: Why is it necessary only to think in terms of negative reporting? I would like to see countries boasting their human rights successes. I would like to see countries with good outcomes saying this is my human rights analysis of my policy, I have managed to avoid discrimination, I have managed to tweak my drug policies, so this is the positive outcome. No one tends to craft them from a human rights perspective. We may create a repository of human rights successes that will name and pride not name and shame and this may have a positive effect on others.

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