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Feature: UN, Western Nations Complicit in Drug Offender Executions, Report Says

With the United Nations' International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking set for tomorrow, the timing couldn't be better for a new report from the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA) decrying the complicity of Western governments and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in international drug control efforts that result in the execution of drug offenders.

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International Anti-Drugs Day drug burn, Tehran, Iran
Take what happened in China on global anti-drug day 2008 as a case in point. As has been its wont in the past, the Chinese government used the occasion to execute numerous drug offenders, including Han Yongwan, a regional trafficker who had been arrested by police in Laos and later extradited to China. Han had been arrested thanks to the East Asian Border Liaison Office program, initiated by UNODC in 1993, and chiefly funded by the United Kingdom (24%), the United States (24%), Japan (24%), and Australia (10%). Other funders included the European Commission (3%), Sweden (3%), Canada (2%), and UNAIDS (5%).

Although the European Commission and nearly all of the donor nations reject the death penalty, the funding of programs like the East Asian Border Liaison Office means that those governments and organizations are complicit, if inadvertently, in the application of the death penalty to drug offenders, the IHRA found in a report issued this week, Complicity or Abolition? The Death Penalty and International Support for Drug Enforcement.

The report's findings are worth repeating:

  • The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the European Commission and individual European governments are all actively involved in funding and/or delivering technical assistance, legislative support and financial aid intended to strengthen domestic drug enforcement activities in states that retain the death penalty for drug offences.
  • Such funding, training and capacity-building activities -- if successful -- result in increased convictions of persons on drug charges and the potential for increased death sentences and executions.
  • Specific executions and death sentences can be linked to drug enforcement activities funded by European governments and/or the European Commission and implemented through UNODC.
  • Donor states, the European Commission and UNODC may therefore be complicit in executions for drug offenses in violation of international human rights law and contrary to their own abolitionist policies and UN General Assembly resolutions calling for a moratorium on the death penalty for all offenses.
  • The risk of further human rights abuses connected to drug enforcement projects, and the complicity of donors and implementing agencies in such abuses, is clear and must be addressed.

In a report issued last month, the IHRA found that 58 countries still adhere to the death penalty and 32 of them have on the books the death penalty for drug offenses. But those countries don't all apply the death penalty with the same enthusiasm. IHRA identified six "retentionist" countries that have especially egregious records when it come to the death penalty for drug offenses: China (thousands of cases a year), Iran (10,000 drug traffickers executed since 1979), Malaysia (70 drug death sentences in the last two years), Saudi Arabia (at least 62 drug offenders executed in 2007 and 2008), Vietnam (at least 109 people sentenced to death for drug offenses between 2007 and 2009), and Singapore (more than 400 people executed, most for drug offenses since 1991).

All of them are the recipients or beneficiaries of anti-drug spending by the UNODC, the European Community and individual member countries, Japan, and the United States. That means donor organizations and countries are flouting UN human rights law, which states that the death penalty should be applied only for the "most serious offenses." Neither the UNODC nor the UN rapporteur on executions and the death penalty considers drug offenses to be among the "most serious offenses."

If developed countries are to continue funding anti-drug law enforcement efforts in countries that apply the death penalty to drug offenses, IHRA recommended:

  • In keeping with Resolution 2007/2274(INI) of the European Parliament, the European Commission should develop guidelines governing international funding for country level and regional drug enforcement activities to ensure such programs do not result in human rights violations, including the application of the death penalty.
  • The abolition of the death penalty for drug-related offenses, or at the very least evidence of an ongoing and committed moratorium on executions, should be made a pre-condition of financial assistance, technical assistance and capacity-building and other support for drug enforcement.
  • A formal and transparent process for conducting human rights impact assessments as an element of project design, implementation and evaluation should be developed and included as part of all drug enforcement activities.
  • International guidelines on human rights and drug control should be developed to guide national responses and the design and implementation of drug enforcement projects.

"Many people around the world would be shocked to know that their governments are funding programs that are leading people indirectly to death by hanging and firing squads," said Rick Lines, deputy director of IHRA and coauthor of the report. While agencies and countries were not intentionally funding programs that led to people facing the death penalty, it is "a fact" that such executions are happening, he said.

Rebecca Schleifer, advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, told the Guardian newspaper that while the UNODC has "taken steps in the right direction" by acknowledging the human rights implications of its programs, its drug enforcement activities, as well as those of other countries and organizations, "put them at risk of supporting increased death sentences and executions in some countries."

There was an urgent need for political leaders in the US and Britain to rethink their "disastrous' war on drugs' policy and tacit support for regimes that continue executing people for relatively minor offenses," said Sebatian Saville, director of the British drug policy and human rights group Release.

Even the UNODC welcomed the report. A spokesman told the Guardian it raised "legitimate concerns" about how global drug prohibition enforcement "may indirectly result in increased convictions and the possible application of the death penalty." The spokesman added that UNODC had taken "concrete steps" to include human rights assessments as part of "all drug enforcement activities."

Death Penalty: Iran Goes On Drug Offender Execution Binge

Just three weeks ago, we did a feature article on the International Harm Reduction Association report, The Death Penalty for Death Offenses: Global Overview 2010 and the associated international campaign against the death penalty through the Harm Reduction and Human Rights campaign known as HR2. Since then, Iran has been on an execution binge, proving the report's contention that it is one of the world's most egregious offenders and highlighting the need for the anti-death penalty campaign to continue and intensify.

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International Anti-Drugs Day drug burn, Tehran, Iran
According to the anti-death penalty group Hands Off Cain, which compiles information about death sentences and executions from local sources, Iranian hangmen have been very busy with drug offenders indeed lately.

On May 23, two days after our article came out, a man identified only as "SR" was hanged in Khuzestan's Karoun Prison for carrying 675 grams of heroin. Two days later, four people identified only by their initials were hanged in Yazd Prison, three for trafficking crack, marijuana, opium, and heroin, and one for trafficking 125 kilos of opium. On May 31, Afghans in Afghanistan's western Herat province reported that seven of their relatives had been executed in Taibad prison and asked the government's help in retrieving their bodies. That same day, another Afghan citizen, Nour Jamal S., was hanged at Isfahan prison for smuggling 1,385 kilos of crack cocaine, and two more people were hanged in Shirvan Prison in Khorasan province for drug trafficking.

There was no let-up so far this month. Last Friday, Jalil B. was hanged in Mianeh Prison in East Azerbaijan for drug trafficking. On Monday, 13 people were reported hanged for drug trafficking in Ghezel Hesar Prison in Teheran. On Tuesday, a man identified only as Masoud, 33, was reported hanged in Teheran for drug trafficking.

That's 30 people executed for drug offenses in the Islamic Republic in the last three weeks. But Iran isn't the only offender, even if it's the only one that actually put someone to death for a drug offense in that time period. Death sentences for drug offenses were handed out to a methamphetamine trafficker in Malaysia, five drug offense death sentences were handed down to foreigners in the United Arab Emirates, and five Chinese nationals were sentenced to death for drug trafficking in Vietnam.

And the beat goes on...

Feature: A Thousand Face Execution for Drug Offenses Each Year, Report Finds

More than a thousand people face execution for drug offenses each year around the globe, according to a report released this week by the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA). The report, The Death Penalty for Drug Offenses: Global Overview 2010 marks the first country-by-country overview of drug-related death penalty legislation and practice.

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Death sentence is passed against a woman who was immediately executed with three other people on drugs charges. (UN International Anti-Drugs Day, 6/26/03, sina.com.cn via Amnesty International web site)
"'Hundreds of people are executed for drug offenses each year around the world, a figure that very likely exceeds 1,000 when taking into account those countries that keep their death penalty statistics secret," the IHRA said in the report.

That figure is similar to the numbers compiled by the anti-death penalty group Hands Off Cain, which relies on press and other accounts to compile its data. According to Hands Off Cain board member and Italian Senator Marco Perduca, that group has compiled a list of hundreds of people executed for drug offenses last year, including 140 in Iran alone.

According to the report, the death penalty has been abolished in 139 countries, but 58 countries retain the death penalty and 32 of those retain the death penalty for drug offenses, mostly in Asia and the Middle East: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei-Darussalam, China, Cuba, Egypt, Gaza (Occupied Palestinian Territories), India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lao PDR, Libya, Malaysia, Myanmar, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Viet Nam and Yemen.

Of those 32 countries, at least 12 have carried out executions for drug offenses in the past three years and 13 retain mandatory death sentences for certain categories of drug offenses. Five of the 32, however, while retaining the death penalty for drug offenses, are abolitionist in practice.

The IHRA asked states that have death penalty statutes for drug offenses on the books, but that have an effective moratorium on use of the death penalty in place to go a step further and repeal those laws. "IHRA is calling on an immediate moratorium on all executions for drug offences, a commuting of all existing death sentences for drug offences and an amendment of legislation to remove the death penalty for all drug offenses," said Rick Lines, coauthor of the report. "Countries with the death penalty for drug offenses are not only violating human rights law, they are clinging to a criminal justice model that is ineffective and unnecessary."

The most execution-happy countries when it comes to drug offenders are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia. According to the report, Iran executed at least 172 drug offenders last year and Malaysia executed 50. The report contains no firm figures from China, where the number of overall executions is believed to be in the thousands each year, but notes that "when China's notoriously harsh drug policies are considered along with the scale of its counternarcotics efforts, it is probable that drug crimes represent a sizable portion of those killed each year."

The report notes that many governments are loath to provide statistics on the number of people they execute for drug offenses, so the numbers could be higher. In four countries, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and Sudan, there were no official data on drug-related death sentences, leaving the IHRA to rely on news reports and NGO sources for its data.

The movement to abolish the death penalty for drug offenses is advancing, albeit at a painfully slow pace, said report coauthor Patrick Gallahue. "There is progress among the states most committed to their capital drug laws but it has been slow, frustrating and often inadequate. Viet Nam, for instance, removed an offense related to 'organizing the illegal use of narcotics' from its death penalty offenses. The government did consider taking a number of other drug related offenses off its list of capital crimes but it never made it through the National Assembly. That's unfortunate but it shows that the government is giving thought to the area," he said.

"China also continually claims that it will reduce the application of the death penalty and various reports actually indicate such a reduction is underway. It's very hard to know if this is true given the secrecy that surrounds the death penalty but if we take the government at its word, then it represents modest progress," Gallahue continued.

"Similarly, the past five or six years has seen a real reduction in the use of capital punishment in Singapore. However, any gains made in this area were compromised by an extremely disturbing judicial decision in May that opted to retain the mandatory death penalty for drugs," Gallahue noted. "So even though Singapore may be moderating its use of the death penalty in practice, the decision by the Court Appeals leaves Singapore at an extreme fringe of drug policy."

The IHRA has been working to abolish the death penalty for drugs as part of its HR2 (Harm Reduction and Human Rights) campaign since late 2007, said Lines. "We have seen some significant developments since then," he told the Chronicle. "Certainly the issue is now one of prominence within the harm reduction and drug policy reform sectors, whereas before it had scant if any recognition within the sector. We have also seen major statements against the practice from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and others."

The release of the report this week has helped, he said. "It has been well received, including generating widespread media coverage. We believe we are making an important contribution to changing the thinking and discourse on the death penalty for drugs, the challenge now is to turn that into concrete policy changes. This new report marks the start of a new three year program of work on this issue at IHRA, so there will be much more to come as we advance our advocacy activities over that period."

The US made the list of states that include the death penalty for some drug offenses because of the 1994 Federal Death Penalty Act, which includes a death penalty provision for murders committed in the furtherance of a continuing criminal enterprise involving large quantities of drugs. Although no one has been executed or is currently on death row under that act, it needs to go, said Lines.

"The first thing the US should do generally is abolish the death penalty full stop," he said. "The US can also remove the death penalty for drugs from its federal legislation. It is not a law that has been used, thankfully, and seems only in place as some sort of symbolic statement in order to appear 'tough' on drugs. The US should also be reconsidering its drug enforcement aid to countries that enforce the death penalty for drugs, as increasing law enforcement's capacity to arrest and prosecute drug cases in those countries inevitably lead to more executions."

That's just for starters, Lines said. "In the wider scheme of things, there is obviously much the US can and should be doing to reduce or end some of the wider human rights abuses related to the war on drugs, both within the US itself and internationally. While the Obama administration has made some positive statements of late about refocusing US drug policy towards a more health-based approach rather than a law enforcement-based one, unless those words are backed up by concrete policy and budgetary changes they won't have any real meaning or impact."

For more on the campaign to abolish the death penalty for drug offenses, visit the HR2 web site linked above.

Southeast Asia: Not Executing Drug Offenders Sends Wrong Signal, Singapore Says

An official of one of the world's leading drug executioner states has justified its mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking by saying to do otherwise would send the wrong signal to "drug barons." The state is Singapore, the authoritarian city-state on the tip of the Malay Peninsula, and the official was Law Minister K Shanmugam.

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Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign flyer featuring Yong Vui Kong case
Shanmugam made his remarks to the Straits Times Sunday when asked about the case of Malaysian Yong Vui Kong, 22, who was sentenced to death for smuggling 47 grams of heroin in 2007. His case has attracted international attention from human rights groups and is now before the Singapore Court of Appeal.

It would be wrong if drug smugglers got off too cheaply because of mitigating factors like youth or motherhood, he said. "We are sending a signal to all the drug barons out there: Just make sure you choose a victim who is young, or a mother of a young child, and use them as the people to carry the drugs into Singapore," the minister said.

In March, Yong's attorney argued before the appeals court that the mandatory death penalty for trafficking more than 15 grams of heroin was unconstitutional because it gave judges no discretion to consider mitigating factors. But the government responded that the sentence was in line with the law passed by Singapore's legislature.

According to a report on the death penalty for drug offenses from the International Harm Reduction Association, more than 400 people have been executed in Singapore since 1991, the majority for drug offenses. Drug executions accounted for 76% of all executions there from 1994 to 1999, and Singapore has been executing drug offenders at a rate of about 20 a year for the past decade.

It's worth it, said Shanmugam. The death penalty had been critical for suppressing drug trafficking and use in the city-state, and unlike most countries, it had not lost the war on drugs. "But you won't have human rights people standing up and saying: 'Singapore, you have done a great job, having most of your people free of drugs,'" he said.

ENCOD Statement to the Malaysian government

Brussels, 4 March 2010 To: Yang Amat Berhormat Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Abdul Razak Prime Minister of Malaysia Dear Excellency, Today we write to you as European citizens concerned with the impact of global drug policies, with an urgent request. We believe the death sentence that is applied to drug law offenders in Malaysia is an inappropriate measure, and would like to offer you our collaboration in identifying better solutions to the drug problems in your country. With certain regularity, reports appear in the Malaysian press on people being sentenced to death for the possession of illegal drugs, including cannabis. The exact number of those who are actually brought to death remains unknown. Human rights organisations estimate that currently some 300 convicted prisoners await execution on death row, most of them for drug-related offences. These sentences clearly violate international standards for a fair trial. The presumption of guilt and the mandatory death sentence in drug cases places the charge on the accused to prove his or her innocence and leaves a judge with no discretion over the sentence. Competent legal assistance is unavailable to many of those people, leaving them with little capacity to mount a defence at any stage of the proceedings. UN human rights bodies have concluded that drug offences fail to meet the condition of “most serious crime”, under which the death penalty is allowed as an “exceptional measure”. We are aware of the argument that drugs cause problems in Malaysian society. However, we doubt that these problems will be solved by harsh punishments, let alone executions of drug offenders. Malaysia, like any other country in the world, is not and never will be 100 % drug-free. As long as people in Malaysia want to consume drugs, other people will continue to supply them. Because of the fact that drugs are prohibited, drug trafficking is the core business of criminal organizations that in most cases operate internationally. The people who are occasionally caught by authorities with relatively small amounts do not have major responsibilities in this business. Killing them will not scare the drug gangs away. On the contrary: thanks to these harsh punishments, the leaders in the drug business can continue to justify extraordinary high prices for their goods,. Thus it maintains a vicious circle of violence and danger. On the other hand, it is important to make a serious assessment of the problems that drugs may or may not cause. Cannabis for instance is a plant, a natural product, a non-lethal substance. Its consumption has been widespread around the world for thousands of years among many different cultures and people. All these people do not use cannabis because it endangers their health or wellbeing, but rather because they experience the opposite. According to increasing amounts of scientific evidence, the so-called dangerousness of cannabis has been largely exaggerated and driven by moral in stead of rational considerations. The prohibition of cannabis was installed and promoted worldwide by Western countries, especially the USA, during a period in which they dominated the world. Meanwhile, in most European countries, cannabis possession for personal consumption is not penalised anymore. In a growing number of states in the USA, major law changes are taking place that legally regulate the cultivation and distribution of cannabis to adults for medicinal purposes. It would be extremely sad to see Malaysia continue executing people found in possession of cannabis, while the countries that have installed its prohibition have come to the insight that this is a useful substance whose consumption can be perfectly integrated in society. In Europe, during the past decades, we have been able to compare the results of different, sometimes opposing drug policies in societies that are similar in demographical, material and socio-cultural development. The conclusion is that drug policies, whether they are repressive or flexible, have a very minor impact on the drug phenomenon itself. In countries where authorities are relatively tolerant, the use of drugs may be lower than in neighboring countries where policies are more repressive. Another conclusion is that drugs-related harms can only be reduced by effective social and health policies. Innovative strategies for reaching out to the affected population and reducing the harms related to drug use are needed. The harsh implementation of drug law enforcement is an impediment to the introduction of these strategies. For these reasons, we are convinced that the death penalty is actually counterproductive to efforts to reduce the harm caused by drugs. We call upon your wisdom to apply principles of sound governance and let Malaysia join the majority of nations by declaring a moratorium on executions with a view to total abolition of all death sentences for drug offenses, as called for by the United Nations. We offer you our kind co-operation in transmitting knowledge and experience of public health policies that have proven effective in addressing drug-related problems. Sincerely yours, Marisa Felicissimo, Fredrick Polak, Jorge Roque and Antonio Escobar Members of the Steering Committee of the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies

Middle East: Hamas Adopts Tough New Drug Laws, Includes Death Penalty for Dealers

The Hamas government running the Gaza Strip has adopted a law that allows for the death penalty for drug dealing. The move came Monday with a Hamas decision to cancel Israeli military laws on drugs and replace them with Egyptian drug laws.

"The government has approved a decision to cancel the Zionist (Israeli) military law with regard to drugs and enact Egyptian law 19 of 1962," Gaza Attorney General Mohammed Abed said in a statement. "The latter law is more comprehensive in terms of crime and criminals and the penalties more advanced, including life sentences and execution. The Zionist law included light punishments that encouraged rather than deterred those who take and trade in drugs, and there is no objective, national or moral justification for continuing to apply it," Abed said.

The Egyptian drug law will remain in effect until the Palestinian parliament passes a new drug law. But the parliament has only met rarely since elections in 2006.

The Gaza Strip was administered by Egypt from 1948 to 1967, when Israel seized the territory, along with several others, during the Six-Day War. Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers from the territory in 2005, when it was under the control of the secular Fatah Party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. But Hamas unexpectedly defeated Fatah in Gaza elections in the 2006 elections and consolidated its power in a bloody factional struggle with Fatah the following year.

Because of an ongoing Israeli blockade, most goods, including illicit ones, imported into Gaza are smuggled in, primarily through a network of tunnels on the Egyptian border. But Hamas has cracked down on drug trafficking and drug traffickers, claiming more than 100 arrests, and the seizure of dozens of kilograms of drugs, mostly marijuana.

Middle East: Hamas Adopts Tough New Drug Laws, Includes Death Penalty for Dealers

The Hamas government running the Gaza Strip has adopted a law that allows for the death penalty for drug dealing. The move came Monday with a Hamas decision to cancel Israeli military laws on drugs and replace them with Egyptian drug laws. "The government has approved a decision to cancel the Zionist (Israeli) military law with regard to drugs and enact Egyptian law 19 of 1962," Gaza Attorney General Mohammed Abed said in a statement. "The latter law is more comprehensive in terms of crime and criminals and the penalties more advanced, including life sentences and execution. The Zionist law included light punishments that encouraged rather than deterred those who take and trade in drugs, and there is no objective, national or moral justification for continuing to apply it," Abed said. The Egyptian drug law will remain in effect until the Palestinian parliament passes a new drug law. But the parliament has only met rarely since elections in 2006. The Gaza Strip was administered by Egypt from 1948 to 1967, when Israel seized the territory, along with several others, during the Six-Day War. Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers from the territory in 2005, when it was under the control of the secular Fatah Party of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas. But Hamas unexpectedly defeated Fatah in Gaza elections in the 2006 elections and consolidated its power in a bloody factional struggle with Fatah the following year. Because of an ongoing Israeli blockade, most goods, including illicit ones, imported into Gaza are smuggled in, primarily through a network of tunnels on the Egyptian border. But Hamas has cracked down on drug trafficking and drug traffickers, claiming more than 100 arrests, and the seizure of dozens of kilograms of drugs, mostly marijuana.
Location: 
Palestinian Territory

Asia: Drug Users Form Regional Drug User Organization

In a meeting in Bangkok last weekend, more than two dozen drug users from nine different countries came together to put the finishing touches on the creation of a new drug user advocacy organization, the Asian Network of People who Use Drugs (ANPUD). The Bangkok meeting was the culmination of a two-year process began at a meeting of the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 2007, and resulted in creating a constitution and selecting a steering committee for the new group. ANPUD adopts the principles of MIPUD (Meaningful Involvement of People who Use Drugs), and in doing so, aligns itself with other drug user advocacy groups, including the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD), of which ANPUD is an independent affiliate, the Australian Injection and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL),the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, and the Nothing About Us Without Us movement. ANPUD currently has more than 150 members and sees its mission to advocate for the rights of drug users and communities before national governments and the international community. There is plenty to do. Asia has the largest number of drug users in the world, but is, for the most part, woefully retrograde on drug policy issues. Not only do drug users face harsh criminal sanctions—up to and including the death penalty—but Asian has the lowest coverage of harm reduction services in the world. Access to harm reduction programs, such as needle exchanges and opioid maintenance therapy, is extremely limited. "People who use drugs are stigmatized, criminalized and abused in every country in Asia," said Jimmy Dorabjee, a key figure in the formation of ANPUD. "Our human rights are violated and we have little in the way of health services to stay alive. If governments do not see people who use drugs, hear us and talk to us, they will continue to ignore us." The Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team, Dr. Prasada Rao, spoke of the urgent need to engage with drug user networks and offered his support to ANPUD, saying that "For UNAIDS, HIV prevention among drug users is a key priority at the global level," said Dr. Prasada Rao, director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team. "I am very pleased today to be here to see ANPUD being shaped into an organization that will play a key role in Asia's HIV response. It is critical that we are able to more effectively involve the voices of Asian people who use drugs in the scaling up of HIV prevention services across Asia." "When I go back home, I am now responsible for sharing the experiences with the 250 or so drug users who are actively advocating for better services at the national level," said Nepalese drug user and newly elected steering committee member Ekta Thapa Mahat. "It will be a great way for us to work together and help build the capacity of people who use drugs in Asia." "The results of the meeting exceeded my expectations," said Ele Morrison, program manager for AVIL's Regional Partnership Project. "The participants set ambitious goals for themselves and they have achieved a lot in just two days to set up this new organization. The building blocks for genuine ownership by people who use drugs is definitely there." While the meetings leading to the formation were organized and managed by drug users, the process received financial support from the World Health Organization, the UNAIDS Regional Task Force, and AIVL.
Location: 
Bangkok
Thailand

Southeast Asia: New Indonesian Drug Law Draws Human Rights Criticisms

After four years of debate, Indonesia's parliament passed a new drug law Monday. It was immediately criticized by reformers on numerous counts.

The new law maintains the death penalty for some drug offenses, criminalizes drug addiction, and makes it a crime for parents to fail to report their addicted children to authorities. The law also transfers responsibility for fighting drug trafficking from the government to civil society.

"The drugs law will save our children and young generation. It will be essential in the fight against drug trafficking," said Minister for Law and Human Rights Andi Mattalatta after the bill was passed. "Currently, drug dealing is not only conducted by individuals but by drugs syndicates that operate neatly," he said.

But the Indonesian Coalition for Drug Policy Reform (ICDPR) begged to differ. "This law classifies drug addicts as criminals and therefore subjects them to criminal charges, while doctors have said that drug addiction is a curable disease," Asmin Francisca, the group's coordinator told reporters outside parliament's plenary session hall. "The law should have recognized that a proper solution to drug addiction is to empower drug addicts, not to punish them as criminals."

Asmin warned that the article in the law transferring responsibility for fighting trafficking from the government to civil society could lead to vigilante justice. "The article, however, does not clearly elaborate on what kind of civil participation is needed to fight the war against drug trafficking," she said. "Without clear regulations, the law is open to many forms of exploitation by civil groups, including acts of vigilantism."

Asmin also condemned the retention of the death penalty for some drug offenses.
"Death penalties are not in line with the purpose of modern criminal charges that aim to rehabilitate a person rather than punish them for their actions," she said. "Basically, I believe this law is not in line with the basic principles of human rights."

According to the Indonesian National Narcotics Agency's extremely precise figures, there are 27,000 drug users in the country, including 12,689 aged 30 or older, 6,790 between 25 and 29, 5,720 between 20 and 24, 1,747 between 16 and 19, and 109 users under the age of 16.

Southeast Asia: Indonesian Parliament Enacts New Drug Law; Reformers Criticize it on Human Rights Grounds

After four years of debate, Indonesia’s parliament passed a new drug law Monday. It was immediately criticized by reformers on numerous counts. The new law maintains the death penalty for some drug offenses, criminalizes drug addiction, and makes it a crime for parents to fail to report their addicted children to authorities. The law also transfers responsibility for fighting drug trafficking from the government to civil society. "The drugs law will save our children and young generation. It will be essential in the fight against drug trafficking,” said Minister for Law and Human Rights Andi Mattalatta after the bill was passed. “Currently, drug dealing is not only conducted by individuals but by drugs syndicates that operate neatly," But the Indonesian Coalition for Drug Policy Reform (ICDPR) begged to differ. “This law classifies drug addicts as criminals and therefore subjects them to criminal charges, while doctors have said that drug addiction is a curable disease,” Asmin Francisca, the group’s coordinator told reporters outside parliament’s plenary session hall. “The law should have recognized that a proper solution to drug addiction is to empower drug addicts, not to punish them as criminals.” Asmin warned that the article in the law transferring responsibility for fighting trafficking from the government to civil society could lead to vigilante justice. “The article, however, does not clearly elaborate on what kind of civil participation is needed to fight the war against drug trafficking,” she said. “Without clear regulations, the law is open to many forms of exploitation by civil groups, including acts of vigilantism.” Asmin also condemned the retention of the death penalty for some drug offenses. “Death penalties are not in line with the purpose of modern criminal charges that aim to rehabilitate a person rather than punish them for their actions,” she said. “Basically, I believe this law is not in line with the basic principles of human rights.” According to the Indonesian National Narcotics Agency’s extremely precise figures, there are 27,000 drug users in the country, including 12,689 aged 30 or older, 6,790 between 25 and 29, 5,720 between 20 and 24, 1,747 between 16 and 19, and 109 users under the age of 16.
Location: 
Jakarta
Indonesia

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