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Afghan Opium Supply Halved, But Not for Long, UN Warns

opium poppies (incised papaver specimens)
Although the extent of opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan remained unchanged from last year, opium production declined by nearly half, thanks largely to a plant disease that affected poppy fields, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported Thursday. But that means rising prices could provoke an increase in cultivation, UNODC warned in the executive summary of its 2010 Afghanistan Opium Survey. The full report will be released later this year.

"This is good news but there is no room for false optimism; the market may again become lucrative for poppy-crop growers so we have to monitor the situation closely," said Yuri Fedotov, new executive director of UNODC.

Afghanistan produces more than 90% of the world's opium, the raw ingredient used to make heroin. Production of the illicit crop is centered in southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces, home base of the Taliban insurgents. Profits from the opium trade fund the Taliban to the tune of an estimated hundred millions of dollars each year.

UNODC said slightly more than 300,000 acres were planted with poppy this year, about the same as last year after declines the two previous years. But because of the plant disease, opium production was estimated at 3,600 metric tons, down 48% from 2009.

The disease is likely spurring opium price increases, UNODC said. Prices declined from 2005 to 2009 as production boomed and stockpiles soared, but now the price is shooting up. Last year, farmers could expect to get $64 per kilogram of opium; this year, the price has nearly tripled, to $169 per kilo.

The stability in poppy cultivation comes despite years of efforts and billions of dollars invested in suppressing the trade. The US spent $250 million on anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan this year alone, according to the State Department's Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (or "drugs and thugs," as Foggy Bottom wits like to call it).

Fedetov, a veteran Russian diplomat who took over the reins of UNODC earlier this year and whose home country is confronting high levels of heroin addiction, said a broader strategy was needed to end Afghan poppy planting. "As long as demand drives this market, there will always be another farmer to replace one we convince to stop cultivating, and another trafficker to replace one we catch," he said.

Afghanistan

Russian Diplomat Takes Over at UN Drug Agency

As of Monday, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is under new management. Russian diplomat Yury Fedotov , who was nominated for the post earlier this year by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, has now taken over the organization that makes up a key part of the global drug prohibition regime. He replaces outgoing UNODC head Antonio Maria Costa.

Yuri Fedotov (courtesy Voice of Russia, ruvr.ru)
The Vienna-based agency, established in 1997, is charged with fighting the illegal drug trade, as well as other international crime, such as corruption and human trafficking. It also publishes annual reports on the global drug scene, as well as regional reports, including annual surveys of Afghan opium poppy production.

"Public health and human rights must be central" to his agency's work, Fedotov said in a statement Monday. "Whether we talk of the victims of human trafficking, communities oppressed by corrupt leaders, unfair criminal justice systems or drug users marginalized by society, we are committed to making a positive difference," he said.

"Drug dependence is a health disorder, and drug users need humane and effective treatment -- not punishment," he added. "Drug treatment should also promote the prevention of HIV."

Harm reductionists and AIDS activists had earlier urged Ki-moon not to appoint Fedotov, pointing to Russia's abysmal record on human rights, the treatment of drug users, and HIV/AIDS prevention. But on Monday, the International Harm Reduction Association told the Associated Press it was willing to give Fedotov a chance based on his early remarks.

"We certainly hope this sets the benchmark for the path he'll be taking," said the association's executive director Rick Lines. "For any public official, they're going to be judged by what they do with the responsibility they're given."

Vienna
Austria

New UN Drug Czar From Russia Takes Office

Location: 
Yury Fedotov, a veteran diplomat who until recently was the Kremlin's top envoy to Britain, replaced Italy's Antonio Maria Costa as the head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.
Publication/Source: 
The Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iisaDRVYRxm8aUd_92iTTH6HhVXAD9I75MAG0

Bill Clinton Calls for Harm Reduction

Three new videos from the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, filmed at the Vienna AIDS 2010 conference this month. In one of them, former US President Bill Clinton calls for harm reduction, an approach to substance misuse and other social issues of which the most well-known example is needle exchange programs.

In another, Anya Sarang, director of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation, criticizes Russia's drug policy -- timely, in light of the recent appointment of Russian diplomat Yuri Fedotov as UN drug czar.

A third video documents the conference's March for Human Rights, including interviews with participants.

The best known example of harm reduction practices is needle exchange. Under President Clinton, the federal government recognized that needle exchange programs reduce the spread of HIV, but do not increase the prevalence of drug use -- two determinations that by statute allowed the administration to lift the ban on states using federal AIDS funds by states to support needle exchange programs. However, the administration did not actually lift that ban, a decision that advocates attribute to the influence of former US drug czar Barry McCaffrey. In his biography published after leaving office, Clinton expressed support for needle exchange.

Location: 
Vienna
Austria

Feature: Drug War a Devastating Failure, Scientists and Researchers Say in Vienna Declaration

A decade ago, scientists, researchers, and AIDS activists confronted a sitting president in South Africa who denied that AIDS was caused by HIV. They responded by declaring at the 2000 Durbin AIDS conference that the evidence was in and the matter was settled. Now, with the Vienna AIDS conference coming up later this month, they are at it again -- only this time the target is the war on drugs.

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HCLU-organized demonstration outside UN anti-drug agency, former SSDP executive director Kris Krane inside cage (drogriporter.hu/en/demonstration)
Their weapon is the Vienna Declaration, an official conference statement authored by experts from the International AIDS Society, the International Center for Science in Drug Policy, and the British Columbia Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. The document is a harsh indictment of the global drug war that calls for evidence-based policymaking. It demands that laws which criminalize drug users and help fuel the spread of AIDS be reformed.

The authors of the Vienna Declaration want you to sign on, too. You can do so at the web site linked to above.

"The criminalization of illicit drug users is fueling the HIV epidemic and has resulted in overwhelmingly negative health and social consequences. A full policy reorientation is needed," they said in the declaration.

Arguing there is "overwhelming evidence that drug law enforcement has failed to meet its stated objectives," the declaration lays out the consequences of the drug war:

  • HIV epidemics fueled by the criminalization of people who use illicit drugs and by prohibitions on the provision of sterile needles and opioid substitution treatment.
  • HIV outbreaks among incarcerated and institutionalized drug users as a result of punitive laws and policies and a lack of HIV prevention services in these settings.
  • The undermining of public health systems when law enforcement drives drug users away from prevention and care services and into environments where the risk of infectious disease transmission (e.g., HIV, hepatitis C & B, and tuberculosis) and other harms is increased.
  • A crisis in criminal justice systems as a result of record incarceration rates in a number of nations. This has negatively affected the social functioning of entire communities. While racial disparities in incarceration rates for drug offenses are evident in countries all over the world, the impact has been particularly severe in the US, where approximately one in nine African-American males in the age group 20 to 34 is incarcerated on any given day, primarily as a result of drug law enforcement.
  • Stigma towards people who use illicit drugs, which reinforces the political popularity of criminalizing drug users and undermines HIV prevention and other health promotion efforts.
  • Severe human rights violations, including torture, forced labor, inhuman and degrading treatment, and execution of drug offenders in a number of countries.
  • A massive illicit market worth an estimated annual value of US $320 billion. These profits remain entirely outside the control of government. They fuel crime, violence and corruption in countless urban communities and have destabilized entire countries, such as Colombia, Mexico and Afghanistan.
  • Billions of tax dollars wasted on a "War on Drugs" approach to drug control that does not achieve its stated objectives and, instead, directly or indirectly contributes to the above harms.

"Many of us in AIDS research and care confront the devastating impacts of misguided drug policies every day," said Julio Montaner, president of the International AIDS Society and director of the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. "As scientists, we are committed to raising our collective voice to promote evidence-based approaches to illicit drug policy that start by recognizing that addiction is a medical condition, not a crime," added Montaner, who will serve as chairman of the Vienna conference.

"There is no positive spin you can put on the war on drugs," said Dr. Evan Wood, founder of the International Center for Science in Drug Policy. "You have a $320 billion illegal market, the enrichment of organized crime, violence, the spread of infectious disease. This declaration coming from the scientific community is long overdue. The community has not been meeting its ethical obligations in terms of speaking up about the harms of the war on drugs."

Stating that governments and international organizations have "ethical and legal obligations to respond to this crisis," the declaration calls on governments and international organizations, including the UN to:

  • Undertake a transparent review of the effectiveness of current drug policies.
  • Implement and evaluate a science-based public health approach to address the individual and community harms stemming from illicit drug use.
  • Decriminalize drug users, scale up evidence-based drug dependence treatment options and abolish ineffective compulsory drug treatment centers that violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Unequivocally endorse and scale up funding for the implementation of the comprehensive package of HIV interventions spelled out in the WHO, UNODC and UNAIDS Target Setting Guide.
  • Meaningfully involve members of the affected community in developing, monitoring and implementing services and policies that affect their lives.
  • We further call upon the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to urgently implement measures to ensure that the United Nations system -- including the International Narcotics Control Board -- speaks with one voice to support the decriminalization of drug users and the implementation of evidence-based approaches to drug control.

"This is a great initiative," enthused Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "It is the most significant effort to date by the sponsors of the global AIDS conference to highlight the destructive impact of the global drug war. It is nicely coordinated with The Lancet to demonstrate legitimacy in the medical community. And it is relatively far reaching given that the declaration was drafted as a consensus statement."

"This is aimed at politicians, leaders of governments, the UN system, and it's aimed at housewives. We are trying to do basic education around the facts on this. There are still politicians who get elected vowing to crack down on drugs," said Wood. "While the declaration has a global aim and scope, at the end of the day, the person who is going to end the drug war is your average voter, who may or may not have been affected by it," he said.

"This was needed a long time ago," said Wood. "The war on drugs does not achieve its stated objectives of reducing the availability and use of drugs and is incredibly wasteful of resources in locking people up, which does little more than turn people into hardened criminals," he said.

The authors are hoping that an official declaration broadly endorsed will help begin to sway policy makers. "It will be interesting to see what kind of support it receives," said Wood. "Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper has endorsed it, and we have a 2008 Nobel prize winner for medicine on the web site. There are high level endorsements, and more are coming. Whether we touch a nerve with the news media remains to be seen. I am hoping it will have a big impact since this is the official conference declaration of one of the largest public health conferences on the planet."

"We have reached a tipping point in the conversation about drugs, drug policy, drug law enforcement, and the drug war," said Stamper, now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "More and more, science has found its way into the conversation, and this is one step to advance that in some more dramatic fashion. I've heard much from the other side that is emotional and irrational. This is one effort to create even more impetus for infusing this dialogue on drug policy with evidence-driven, research-based findings."

That the AIDS conference is being held in Vienna adds a special fillip to the declaration, Wood said. "Vienna is symbolically important because it is where the infrastructure for maintaining the global war on drugs is located," said Woods, "and also because of the problems in Eastern Europe. In Russia, it's estimated that one out of every 100 adults is infected with the AIDS virus because Russia has not embraced evidence-based approaches. Methadone maintenance therapy is illegal there, needle exchanges are severely limited, the treatment programs are not evidence-based, and there are all sorts of human rights abuses around the drug war."

With the AIDS conference set to open July 18, Wood and the other authors are hoping the momentum will keep building up to and beyond. "It is my hope that now that the Vienna Declaration is online, large numbers of people will come forward and lend their names to this effort," he said.

The Vienna Declaration is one more indication of just how badly drug war orthodoxy has wilted under the harsh gaze of science. It's hard to win an argument when the facts are against you, but as the declaration notes, there are "those with vested interests in maintaining the status quo." The declaration should make their jobs that much more difficult and bring progressive approaches to drug policy that much closer.

UNODC: The Russians Are Coming

[Update, 6:20pm EST: Peter Sarosi at HCLU just told me Ban Ki-moon has indeed picked Fedotov. Hence I have removed the question mark from the end of the title of this article. :( - DB]

Current head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Antonio Maria Costa is set to end his 10-year term at the end of this month, and according to at least one published report, a Russian diplomat has emerged as the frontrunner in the race to replace him. That is causing shivers in some sectors of the drug reform community because the Russians are viewed as quite retrograde in their drug policy positions.

The report names Russia's current ambassador to the United Kingdom, Yuri Fedotov, as the top candidate to oversee UNODC and its $250 million annual budget. Other short-listed candidates include Spanish lawyer Carlos Castresana, who headed a UN anti-crime commission in Guatemala, Colombian Ambassador to the European Union Carlos Holmes Trujillo, and Brazilian attorney Pedro Abramovay. The final decision is up to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

If Fedotov wins the position, Russia would be in a far more influential position to influence international drug policy, and that is raising concerns because of Russia's increasingly shrill demands that the US and NATO return to opium eradication in Afghanistan, its refusal to allow methadone maintenance and its refusal to fund needle exchange programs even as it confronts fast-growing heroin addiction and HIV infection rates.

The concerns have crystallized in a campaign to block his appointment, including a Facebook group called We Don't Want A Russian UN Drug Czar!, which is urging people to send an email message to that effect to Secretary General Ki-moon. Group organizers the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union have also produced a video on the subject:

Huff Post: UN Drug Policy in the Dark Ages

I'm on Huffington Post again tonight, with a post chastising the UN (and western governments generally) for: 1) continuing the ludicrous coca runaround in South America's Andean region for another year; and 2) turning a blind eye year after year to the indirect support that western funds and cooperation gives to the death penalty for nonviolent drug offenses, mostly in Asia and the Middle East. Check it out here -- comments welcome in either location. If you haven't already, check out our Chronicle articles on these two topics here and here.

Sign the Vienna Declaration

The Vienna Declaration is a statement seeking to improve community health and safety by calling for the incorporation of scientific evidence into illicit drug policies. We are inviting scientists, health practitioners and the public to endorse this document in order to bring these issues to the attention of governments and international agencies, and to illustrate that drug policy reform is a matter of urgent international significance. We also welcome organizational endorsements. To sign, see http://www.viennadeclaration.com/.
Location: 
Vienna
Austria

Press Release: The Vienna Declaration: A Global Call to Action for Science-based Drug Policy

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: JUNE 28, 2010 The Vienna Declaration: A Global Call to Action for Science-based Drug Policy In Lead Up to XVIII International AIDS Conference, Scientists and Other Leaders Call for Reform of International Drug Policy and Urge Others to Sign-on June 28, 2010 [Vienna, Austria] – Three leading scientific and health policy organizations today launched a global drive for signatories to the Vienna Declaration (www.viennadeclaration.com), a statement seeking to improve community health and safety by calling for the incorporation of scientific evidence into illicit drug policies. Among those supporting the declaration and urging others to sign is 2008 Nobel Laureate and International AIDS Society (IAS) Governing Council member Prof. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, co-discoverer of HIV. The Vienna Declaration is the official declaration of the XVIII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2010), the biennial meeting of more than 20,000 HIV professionals, taking place in Vienna, Austria from 18 to 23 July 2010 (www.aids2010.org). “Many of us in AIDS research and care confront the devastating impacts of misguided drug policies every day,” said AIDS 2010 Chair Dr. Julio Montaner, President of the IAS and Director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. “These policies fuel the AIDS epidemic and result in violence, increased crime rates and destabilization of entire states – yet there is no evidence they have reduced rates of drug use or drug supply. As scientists, we are committed to raising our collective voice to promote evidence-based approaches to illicit drug policy that start by recognizing that addiction is a medical condition, not a crime.” The Vienna Declaration describes the known harms of conventional “war on drugs” approaches and states: “The criminalisation of illicit drug users is fuelling the HIV epidemic and has resulted in overwhelmingly negative health and social consequences. A full policy reorientation is needed…Reorienting drug policies towards evidence-based approaches that respect, protect and fulfill human rights has the potential to reduce harms deriving from current policies and would allow for the redirection of the vast financial resources towards where they are needed most: implementing and evaluating evidence-based prevention, regulatory, treatment and harm reduction interventions.” Outside of sub-Saharan Africa, injecting drug use accounts for approximately one in three new cases of HIV. In some areas of rapid HIV spread, such as Eastern Europe and Central Asia, injecting drug use is the primary cause of new HIV infections. Legal barriers to scientifically proven prevention services such as needle programmes and opioid substitution therapy (OST) mean hundreds of thousands of people become infected with HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) every year. The criminalization of people who inject drugs has also resulted in record incarceration rates placing a massive burden on the taxpayer. HIV outbreaks have also been reported in prisons in various settings internationally. This emphasis on criminalization produces a cycle of disease transmission, along with broken homes and livelihoods destroyed. Yet these costs, along with the more direct costs of the ‘war on drugs’, produce no measurable benefits. “The current approach to drug policy is ineffective because it neglects proven and evidence-based interventions, while pouring a massive amount of public funds and human resources into expensive and futile enforcement measures,” said Dr. Evan Wood, founder of the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP) and Clinical Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia. “It’s time to accept the war on drugs has failed and create drug policies that can meaningfully protect community health and safety using evidence, not ideology.” The Vienna Declaration calls on governments and international organizations, including the United Nations, to take a number of steps, including: • undertake a transparent review the effectiveness of current drug policies; • implement and evaluate a science-based public health approach to address the harms stemming from illicit drug use; • scale up evidence-based drug dependence treatment options; • abolish ineffective compulsory drug treatment centres that violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and • unequivocally endorse and scale up funding for the drug treatment and harm reduction measures endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations. The declaration also calls for the meaningful involvement of people who use drugs in developing, monitoring and implementing services and policies that affect their lives. “As a scientist, I strongly support drug policies that are based on evidence of what actually works,” said Prof. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, Director of the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit at the Institute Pasteur, IAS Governing Council member and recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Medicine. “I join with my colleagues around the world today to sign the Vienna Declaration in support of science-driven policies and human rights.” The effectiveness of opioid substitution therapy (OST) and needles and syringe programmes is well-documented, though access to such interventions is often limited where HIV is spreading most rapidly. According to various scientific reviews conducted by WHO, the US Institutes of Medicine and others, these programmes reduce HIV rates without increasing rates of drug use. These cost-effective interventions also produce significant savings in future health care costs, and help people who use drugs access health care and drug treatment. No evidence exists demonstrating negative consequences of use of these programmes. “Reflecting the AIDS 2010 theme of Rights Here, Right Now, the Vienna Declaration is rooted in the belief that global drug policy must respect the human rights of people who use drugs if it is to be at all effective,” said AIDS 2010 Local Co-Chair Dr. Brigitte Schmied, President of the Austrian AIDS Society. “No one who is familiar with addiction would deny the negative impacts it has on individuals, families and entire communities, but those harms do not justify human rights violations. People addicted to illicit drugs have the right to evidence-based drug treatment, to interventions to prevent infection, and, if they are living with HIV, to antiretroviral treatment.” The Vienna Declaration was drafted by an international team of scientists and other experts, many of whom will participate in AIDS 2010 next month. It was initiated by the IAS, the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP), and the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Those wishing to sign on may visit www.viennadeclaration.com, where the full text of the declaration, along with a list of authors, is available. The two-page declaration references 28 reports, describing the scientific evidence documenting the effectiveness of public health approaches to drug policy and the negative consequences of approaches that criminalize drug users. About AIDS 2010 The XVIII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2010) is the biennial meeting of researchers, implementers and diverse leaders involved in the global response to HIV. It is convened by the IAS in partnership with international, regional and local partners. Visit www.aids2010.org for more information and to register for the conference, which is taking place from 18 to 23 July 2010 in Vienna, Austria. International AIDS Society The International AIDS Society is the world's leading independent association of HIV professionals, with 14,000 members from 190 countries working at all levels of the global response to AIDS. Our members include researchers from all disciplines, clinicians, public health and community practitioners on the frontlines of the epidemic, as well as policy and programme planners. International Centre for Science in Drug Policy ICSDP aims to be a primary source for rigorous scientific evidence on illicit drug policy in order to benefit policymakers, law enforcement, and affected communities. To this end, the ICSDP conducts original scientific research in the form of systematic reviews, evidence-based drug policy guidelines, and research collaborations with leading scientists and institutions across diverse continents and disciplines. BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) is Canada’s largest HIV/AIDS research, treatment and education facility. The BC-CfE is based at St Paul’s Hospital, Providence Health Care, a teaching hospital of the University of British Columbia. The BC-CfE is dedicated to improving the health of British Columbians with HIV through developing, monitoring and disseminating comprehensive research and treatment programs for HIV and related diseases. MEDIA CONTACTS: Mahafrine Petigara Michael Kessler Edelman Media Consultant, AIDS 2010 Email: mahafrine.petigara@edelman.com Email: mkessler@ya.com Tel: +1 604 623 3007, ext. 297 Tel: +34 655 792 699
Location: 
Vienna
Austria

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."

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