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The U.N.’s complicity in international human rights abuses

A very powerful OpEd in the New York Times by Fernando Henrique Cardoso (former President of Brazil) and Ruth Dreifuss (former President of Switzerland): An Ugly Truth in the War on Drugs

This week, representatives from many nations will gather at the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna to determine the appropriate course of the international response to illicit drugs. Delegates will debate multiple resolutions while ignoring a truth that goes to the core of current drug policy: human rights abuses in the war on drugs are widespread and systematic.

Consider these numbers: Hundreds of thousands of people locked in detention centers and subject to violent punishments. Millions imprisoned. Hundreds hanged, shot or beheaded. Tens of thousands killed by government forces and non-state actors. Thousands beaten and abused to extract information, and abused in government or private “treatment” centers. Millions denied life-saving medicines. These are alarming figures, but campaigns to address them have been slow and drug control has received little attention from the mainstream human rights movement. […]

The U.N.’s International Narcotics Control Board has refused to condemn torture or “any atrocity” carried out in the name of drug control, claiming it was not its mandate to do so. This is both shocking and contradictory: oversight of international drug control treaties is the control board’s very mission.

Late last year, despite the evidence before it, the U.N. Committee against Torture failed to condemn the widespread abuse of people who use drugs in the Russian Federation. […]

You can’t have a drug war without human rights abuses, and the harder you prosecute it, the greater those abuses. This is a painful truth often carefully ignored by those who have chosen the drug war as their path.

Good to see this getting more visibility.

I don’t expect much from the upcoming CND sessions – the same posturing from U.S., Sweden, Russia, etc. – but it’s getting harder for them to pretend that they represent the will of the world (or what’s best for it).

Just hours ago, the sessions began with ONDCP’s Yuri Fedotov calling Iran “UN’s number one partner in the war on drugs.”

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20 comments to The U.N.’s complicity in international human rights abuses

  • ezrydn

    The UNDCP reminds me of an old Used Car commercial that used to run on late nite TV in Calif. The dealer said “There’s nothing so small that can’t be overlooked my our mechanics.” He said it quickly and for years, we missed it. He must work for the UN now.

  • Girl from Ipanema

    *Fernando Henrique Cardoso* is the correct name for Brazil’s former president.

  • claygooding

    I wonder what the salaries of the UN narcotics board members are and who pays them,,any bets that the US has that money budgeted through the ONDCP,,so naturally they will dance to anything the corporations running our government wants.

    • War Vet

      You just have to know that they get kick backs from gun manufactures, military gear suppliers and private contract armies like Xe . . . they are not stupid and they know drug money creates more wars and funds more wars globally, so it would behoove them to invest in weapons, especially since they have full access to know when and where the latest conflicts are occurring and they know as long as the dope remains illegal the more the AK-47 shells and mortar/rocket rounds will continue to pour out onto the fields, jungles, deserts and city streets.

  • jean valjean

    fedotov, a real secret policeman from a police state recognises his henchman, iran. the only thing thats different here is that the nyt and cardoza are calling them on it. i hope its readers are paying attention because the US is in real danger of following them down the same totalitarian path

  • Law Enforcement Against Prohibition will have several members at this meeting in Vienna, as we did last year. We are going to try to change a few minds.

  • Servetus

    The troubles at the United Nations are starting to resemble the Vatican’s mess. Far from protecting the little children as they claim, the UNODC’s drug war does everything but protect children from the clutches of primitive cultures that stigmatize and marginalize groups of people, individuals whom the societies later exploit in the worst ways possible.

    Former Drug Czar Bill Bennett enjoys operating on both sides of the fence. Along with destroying the future lives of children by advocating for unlimited drug arrests, Bennett has been exposed as a defender, and thus a facilitator, of an infamous pedophile priest.

    Father Marcial Maciel Degollado (deceased), a Mexican priest, and one of the Church’s most successful fund raisers, began in the 1940s “sexually plundering teenage seminarians in the religious order he founded, the Legion of Christ.” “…A life … out of moral bounds,” is how Pope Benedict XVI described Maciel in 2010”:

    And to Maciel and the Legion’s defense rose a glittering chorus of professional Catholics. First up was William Donohue of the Catholic League, calling the men’s claims “balderdash.” Father Richard John Neuhaus of First Things magazine asserted “for a moral certainty” that the charges were false. John Paul biographer and NBC Vatican analyst George Weigel praised the Legion; so did Bill Bennett, a former Reagan Education secretary, now a CNN commentator. Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law professor who also taught at the Legion college in Rome, scoffed at the charges. She later became U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

    To this day, not one of the celebrities has apologized to the victims.

    Would Bennett have defended some priest accused of a drug crime? Probably not. Like most prohibitionists and pedophiles, Bill Bennett is inherently incapable of distinguishing good from evil. His is a life out of moral bounds.

    • War Vet

      I believe drug money creates more sex abuse victims amongst children and adults . . . those with the money have the power. Because violent criminals have more money solely because of drugs, they have more power i.e. the massive amounts of rape in Afghanistan and the Golden Crescent. In America, if you pay someone to murder another, you are considered a murderer as well, which means if you are pro-drug prohibition, you are automatically a pedophile since pedophilia is enhanced by drug money and its power . . . it’s only logical to assume tens of thousands of children would never have been sexually abused had drugs never been illegal in the first place. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the drug money wielding cartels of Mexico didn’t sexually abuse thousands of children to facilitate their power over them, the parents and the communities . . . many who are willing to hang another human from a bridge or decapitate them is probably willing to rape a child as well.

      • Servetus

        That’s the way it is in war. Any war. The ‘Drug War’ has never been a metaphor, as many of its victims can attest, assuming they’re still alive.

        In days of yore, the situation was unimaginable. Whether we’re talking The Rape of Nanking, in recent times, or some of the other stuff I’ve encountered in my studies of persecution throughout history—I’ll spare you the details—there is the inevitable problem: when you stare into the abyss, it stares back (Nietzsche).

        Drugs designated illicit are one of the many tools of tyranny. And in some ways these kinds of tools are like a Rube Goldberg machine: remove one, weirded-out little process or function, such as making drugs illicit, and it all stops.

        The good news is that things are getting better, even though at times it may seem that the changes exhibit the torturous pace of a snail whose ass is super-glued to a patio deck.

  • War Vet

    It’s sad to realize the U.N. doesn’t recognize the right of humans to live in a war free environment. Not only are people being victimized by the laws, but the law abiders –non-drug users are being victimized by those wielding the power of drug money: i.e. Russian Opera House Massacre; Russian School Massacre. Some of these U.N. drug war fanatics must have stock in weapons and military gear, an immoral, though wise investment for anybody who knows wars will exist even more and more rampant as long as someone has drug money to finance them (like Al Qaeda). These people make a killing off killing . . . just because you’ve never hacked someone’s head with a machete or blown some brains out in person, doesn’t make you any less a murderer if you are in the position of carrying on with the drug war. If we cannot demand legal execution for these henchmen working in the ONDCP and U.N.’s INCB etc, then we’ve just shamed those who’ve executed Nazi War Criminals. Walking around old Babylon and seeing the War on Drugs in Iraq makes me think that drugs are only illegal to procure the necessary means of incorporating war and war merchandise . . . drugs are not illegal because the ‘ones with the power’ disapprove of them or it’s use . . . risking the lives of little children just so someone can be denied legal dope is the mark of Cain.

    According to even Federal Law, it’s illegal for the United States to be a part of the U.N. since the U.N. gets paid to promote and enhance America’s enemies: the Terrorists via the War on Drugs’ ability to finance our enemy during a time of war, thus it’s illegal for the U.N. to reside in the U.S. and it’s illegal for any Americans to be members of the U.N. . . . Would America still be a part of the League of Nations if the LN actively helped expand the powers of Nazi Germany and Japan after war was declared? I don’t think so. It’s the age old question: Does Federal Law trump Federal Law, i.e. the Marijuana Tax Stamp Act would have been nullified by the 1890 Sherman Anti Trust Act law unless a ‘Strawberry, Pumpkin, Hay, Molasses, Corn etc etc Tax Stamp Acts were likewise created. Does Federal Law trump Federal Law?

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  • kaptinemo

    Looks like the spam filters need adjusting, again.

    • allan

      but this is at least literate Spam®. it even gives the appearance of participating and sharing in our discussion. Literate or not, it’s still Spam®! FaBoS

  • allan

    From Michael Krawitz:

    Tuesday at the United Nations Commission on Narcotics Drugs Meetings: IDPC/TNI side event on cannabis and the 1961 Convention

    Over the past years, there have been some soft and hard defections on cannabis control. It is now time to discuss alternatives that are based on facts and evidence. TNI worked on a report on cannabis, which is looking at the hard defections in the USA and other types of cannabis regulation that have been happening around the world. The report also discusses how cannabis was included in the UN drug control conventions.

    A history of how cannabis was included in the international drug
    control system: James Mills

    James Mills wrote a book entitled “Cannabis Nation”, which includes information about the history around cannabis control in
    international drug control treaties. The question is – how was
    consensus established on cannabis ahead of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs? There was no consensus on cannabis control before the 1950s.

    In 1925 and the signing of conventions on opium, cannabis was
    isolated from the debates. A sub-committee on cannabis was then
    established and ran until 1940, but its work was discontinued because of the Second World War, so no recommendation was put forward.

    Discussions on cannabis were started again in 1950 at the 5th
    Session of the CND, where a draft of what would become the 1961
    Convention was circulated. Two solutions were presented, one was to entirely ban cannabis consumption, the other one was to ban cannabis consumption except for medical and scientific purposes. Discussions were differed until 1952, when a WHO expert committee was established to assess medical and scientific uses of cannabis. It decided there were insufficient grounds for medical and scientific uses of the substance. Based on the WHO decision, the CND Secretariat presented another proposal to ban all cannabis use, but this was opposed by India.

    The Secretariat decided that more information was needed on
    cannabis and therefore decided to conduct an international survey
    through questionnaires. However, these questionnaires focused
    primarily on recreational use of cannabis, rather than on its medical and traditional use.

    In 1959, a coalition of countries decided to declare that cannabis had no medical purpose. In 1960, the WHO conducted a study on the use of cannabis for antibiotics and decided that cannabis had a negligible part to play in it. This report was criticised as being
    fundamentally flawed.

    In 1961, the CND Secretariat introduced a proposal which ignored
    the WHO recommendation and banned cannabis consumption except for medical and scientific purposes. As India had opposed the ban on cannabis leaves use for indigenous purposes, the compromise was that there would be a separation between cannabis and cannabis resin.

    We have gotten people’s attention. There’s more at the link

    • allan

      more (from Michael again) from the UN (make sure heads are firmly attached to necks):

      INCB dialogue: Mr Raymond Yans

      The dialogue begins with a defensive statement
      about the INCB’s position within the drug control
      regime. This is followed by a personal defence on
      the individual members of the INCB… Essentially
      that they “are unpaid, retired professionals
      chosen because of their knowledge.” This was
      followed by a description of the role of the INCB
      ­ namely to monitor the implementation of the UN drug conventions.

      Question: Thanasis Apostolou
      This question looked at how the current reforms
      of cannabis in different parts of the world are
      questioning the effectiveness of the drug
      conventions ­ “governments are now looking at new
      solutions beyond the conventions, doesn’t this
      show the conventions are now outdated?”

      Answer: Simply responded by highlighting how the
      INCB didn’t create the conventions, they were
      created and signed by governments. The scheduling
      of cannabis was pointed out to be a
      recommendation of the WHO because it is a
      dangerous substance especially to young people.

      Follow up Question – Fredrik Polak :
      Surely the INCB, in its position of power
      should be telling people/governments what does
      work and what is not working (ie conventions)?

      Answer:
      Response was essentially a personal attack
      along the lines that the Netherlands, which
      legalised coffeeshops became the hub of drug
      distribution across Europe, not just of cannabis
      but of ecstasy, cocaine, heroin etc…(and that
      not one should follow their model). Cannabis is a
      dangerous substance, especially for young people,
      and as such prevention must be
      primary. Legalisation, when implemented in
      certain parts of the world send the wrong message
      to young people and destroys the goal of
      prevention. The question was not answered.

      Question: Sharon (HRC):
      This question asks… The conventions are meant
      to protect the health of young people. However,
      we have seen in places around the world that
      where the conventions have been upheld (and
      public health/harm reduction interventions
      ignored or ie. Russia made illegal) there have
      been terrible levels of suffering of people who
      use drugs, as well as other catastrophic
      consequence such a spiralling HIV epidemic, which
      have almost been eliminated where they have been implemented.

      Answer:
      Our position is clear, it is not our position,
      it’s what the treaties say. The UN drug treaties
      don’t talk about harm reduction. Harm reduction
      hasn’t been accepted by the CND. So we use the
      goal of prevention. The UN conventions don’t
      specify treatment for each country. If such
      treatment isn’t there and it is obviously we may
      suggest they implement such measures.

      Question- Eliot Albers (INPUD)
      Question asked why the INCB remains silent on
      human rights abuses against people who use drugs.
      The outdated conventions were written before the
      HIV epidemic and must surely challenged. Why is
      the INCB report remains silent on human rights
      abuses that continue in the name of drug treatment?

      Answer:
      INCB doesn’t have a mandate to give advice on human rights

      Follow up question: As a body created by the UN
      and under its mandate, it has a legal obligation
      to abide by human rights standards that all UN legislation does.

      Question ignored after intervention by Gilberto
      Gerra about the language of the question. (There
      was no offensive language used)

      Question – Donald McPherson:
      The Vancouver injection site is supported by
      the Canadian delegation and by the supreme court.
      Why is the INCB still negatively commenting on Insite?

      Answer: We are not a UN agency. Our opinion is
      that a government cannot encourage the use of illicit drugs.

      Question: World Forum Against Drugs ­ The CRC is
      the only human rights document that drugs are
      mentioned in. Do you plan on exploring ways to work more on this issue.

      Answer: Yes, though other UN bodies like UNICEF
      don’t pay too much attention to this right as
      other matters (like harm reduction) and concerns us.

      Question ­ Katherine Pettus: The role of the
      board is to ENSURE the availability of essential
      medicine. How does it carry out this role?

      Answer: The INCB carries out this function, in
      its national visits, bringing the attention to
      the of health ministers and other high up
      officials providing them with a guide composed by
      the WHO and other NGO’s and we advise them on
      what obstacles they can expect and help them overcome them.

      Question – LEAP: Strict drug laws have had a
      terrible impact in the US impacting upon millions
      of people and the drug issue continues and will
      continue while these substances are illegal.
      Surely we need to bring them under government control to control the situation.

      Answer: Drugs are legal for medicinal purposes
      already, just not for recreational use. It is
      government who have to change the conventions we can’t do anything

      Question: Are their opportunities to review the
      conventions before 2016 and can INCB have a role?

      Answer ­ INCB has nothing to say here, it’s
      solely a government issue. As UN is a consensus
      based system where all countries must all agree
      together and very different ideas aren’t able to come to a consensus.

  • allan

    and more shtuff:

    Navy Might Lose Its Technological Testing Ground — The Drug War

    Budget cuts have forced the Navy to cancel its deployments to Latin America supporting the drug war. And what happens in Latin America doesn’t stay in Latin America. The region is one of the Navy’s premier technological testing grounds, meaning what the U.S. doesn’t do south of the border today could limit what it can do around the globe tomorrow.

    Downtown Houston Pachyderms hear about failed drug war

    At last Thursday’s weekly meeting of the Downtown Houston Pachyderm Club, William Martin, Senior Fellow for Drug Policy at James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, delivered a sobering speech outlining why the “drug war” has been a costly failure. And he admitted something that you don’t usually hear at Republican meetings: the underlying cause of blacks being ten times more likely to end up in a state prison on drug charges is racism.

    I can already hear the gatekeepers of the Grand Old Party howling about that. But the good news is that we are now talking about it and unless we are willing to talk about it, we can’t correct it.

    Dr. Martin noted that for the last century, drug policy has been based upon prohibition and for the last forty years we have used a “war” model, with the typical effects that war has:

    * displaced populations
    * disrupted economies
    * excessive violence
    * terrorism
    * the use of military force
    * the curtailment of civil liberties
    * the demonizing of enemies

    That was pretty eye opening to tell the truth. I’d never thought about the “war on drugs” in those terms.

    UN Report Slams Cruel Drug Treatment as “Torture”

    well, yeah…

    And look, it’s our first international purchase order:

    Danish city wants to import marijuana from Washington, Colorado

  • Servetus

    Yuri Federov is in denial, and responds with a typical bald-faced, prohibitionist lie:

    … the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is doing everything possible to ensure that drug control does not lead to human rights abuses. In doing so, we are pursuing our primary purpose, which is drug control, in tandem with the three pillars of the United Nations: peace, security and development, and human rights.

    The UNODC’s brand of drug control is pure tyranny. Drug freedom is the only option remaining that doesn’t include human rights abuses.