(submitted by Dale Gieringer)
Opponents of drug prohibition joined supporters of human rights and democracy from around the world at the 38th Congress of the Transnational Radical Party last week.
Led by Arnold Trebach, president of the newly reconstituted International Anti-Prohibitionist League, a TRP-affiliated global anti-prohibition organization, with European Parliament members Marco Cappato and TRP official Marco Perduca, the Congress included a session entitled, "The antiprohibitionists on science and conscience, on drug, alcohol, sex and everything else."
American participants included Trebach, who explained the IAL's vision for ending world drug prohibition, Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, who spoke of his experiences as a former drug agent, and Dale Gieringer of the Drug Policy Forum of California and California NORML, who spoke about the DEA's war on medical marijuana. Other participants addressed such varied topics as restrictions on stem cell research, access to contraception, and the evils of female genital mutilation.
An impressive array of advocates for human rights and democracy spoke at the general session. Among them were spokesmen for Uyghur Turks oppressed by the Chinese in Xinjiang; the Falun Gong sect, thousands of whom have been imprisoned or tortured in China; African women afflicted by genital mutilation; Montagnards suffering death and oppression at the hands of the Vietnamese; advocates of democracy imprisoned in Egypt and China; Chechen leaders wrongly accused of terrorism by Russian president Vladimir Putin; Afghan women threatened by a resurgence of Taliban misogynists; and so on and on around the world.
The proceedings took place in a magnificent new conference hall, before some 300 delegates from around the world, with translation into five languages (Albanian, English, Russian, French and Italian). The majority of delegates were Italian, led by the founder of the Radical Party, Marco Pannella, the grand old man of the party, a leonine figure with a genius for passionate, stentorian oratory on the virtues of democrazia, liberta, non-violenza and anti-proibizionismo. Panella is also famous for his well-publicized protests against cannabis prohibition, in which he and other Radicals have turned hashish over to the police in civil disobedience of the laws. He currently has a four-month jail sentence awaiting him for his derelictions. Another inspiring presence was that of Emma Bonino, former human rights commissioner for the EU, who brought world attention to the plight of Afghan women by getting herself arrested by the Taliban, and who is now focusing on the fight for democracy in Egypt.
The Congress attracted favorable attention and hospitality from the Albanians. The Prime Minister, former Prime Minister, and Minister of Defense all came to speak. A highlight of the conference was the Mayor of Tirana, who mounted the podium in jeans and a Levis jacket and thanked the audience for coming to "the land of the prostitutes and illegal immigrants." He went on to denounce the evils of prohibition and proclaim himself a member of the Radical Party. The Mayor is a serious figure, having won recognition from the UN for his work to develop Tirana. The hotel at which Congress attendees stayed was a case in point, a modern new skyscraper with flawless facilities, on par with any of the western world's hotels. Outside, the countryside, still littered with debris and the shells of concrete bunkers built by its xenophobic former dictator, is dotted with simple peasant homes lying in a verdant Mediterranean valley with scenic mountains looming in the background. Piece by piece, Tirana appears to be arising from the squalid torpor of its Communist past.
Visit http://www.radicalparty.org for the full proceedings of the Tirana TRP Congress, including video footage.