Newsbrief: Australian Prime Minister Says Injection Room Violates Treaties, UN Says No It Doesn't 12/12/03

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Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a staunch opponent of drug law liberalization, has attempted to use international drug control treaties as a reason to shut down Sydney's successful trial safe injection room in Sydney. Unfortunately for Howard, his claim that the safe injection room violates those treaties has been undercut by the UN's International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) -- not exactly a hotbed of drug legalizers.

Last week, the Sydney Morning Herald published excerpts from a letter from Howard to New South Wales Premier Bob Carr in which Howard claimed that continued operation of the site could jeopardize Australia's $100 million a year legal opiate industry. "I am concerned that actions to continue trials... could constitute a breach of Australia's international treaty obligations," he wrote. The INCB had reinforced its opposition to the safe injection site, Howard added.

Wrong. What the INCB said about safe injection sites in its most recent report, in February, was that they may be useful in combating the spread of infectious disease and that they did not appear to be efforts to promote drug use. "It would be difficult to assert that, in establishing drug injection rooms, it is the intent of parties to actually incite or induce the illicit use of drugs, or even more so, to associate with, aid, abet or facilitate the possession of drugs," wrote the INCB. "On the contrary, it seems clear that in such cases the intention of governments is to provide healthier conditions for IV drug abusers, thereby reducing their risk of infection with grave transmittable diseases and, at least in some cases, reaching out to them with counseling and other therapeutic options."

"It is clear the Prime Minister has got it wrong," Premier Carr told the Sydney Morning Herald. "He appears to be using the medically supervised injecting centre for political purposes."

Visit http://www.incb.org/e/ind_ar.htm to read the INCB Annual Report online.

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