The inaugural issue of the new International Journal on Human Rights and Drug Policy is now available in full online.
The first issue starts off with an incredible editorial: â€˜Deliver us from evilâ€™? â€“ The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 50 years on
In recent years there has been growing attention to the human rights implications of the international narcotics control regime among non-governmental organisations and UN human rights monitors. Human rights violations documented in the name of drug control in countries across the world include: the execution of hundreds of people annually for drug offences; the arbitrary detention of hundreds of thousands of people who use (or are accused of using) illicit drugs; the infliction of torture, or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, in the name of â€˜drug treatmentâ€™; the extrajudicial killings of people suspected of being drug users or drug traffickers; and the denial of potentially life saving health services for people who use drugs.
While all of this work is significant, with some notable exception this emerging body of commentary has tended to focus on the documentation specific human rights violations linked to drug enforcement laws, policies and practices, rather than interrogating the drug conventions themselves, and the practices that emerge from their domestic implementation, from the perspective of international human rights law. Yet bringing such a human rights law perspective to the international drug control regime is a crucial exercise, both to promote consideration of international drug control law in the context of overall State obligations under the body of public international law as a whole, but also to further promote human rights-compliant implementation of the international drug conventions at the national level.
Powerful stuff for an opening editorial. Lets you know where they’re going with this journal.
The editorial continues with a fascinating discussion of the wording within the Single Convention’s preamble, that starts out with noble goals of ensuring ‘adequate provisions’ of medicines, but then…
However, whatever the intended appeal to a greater humanitarian mission expressed in the Single Conventionâ€™s opening lines, such sentiments are immediately undermined, if not contradicted, by those that follow, which describe â€˜addiction to narcotic drugsâ€™ as a form of â€˜evilâ€™.
Recognizing that addiction to narcotic drugs constitutes a serious evil for the individual and is fraught with social and economic danger to mankind,
Conscious of their duty to prevent and combat this evil,
Considering that effective measures against abuse of narcotic drugs require coordinated and universal action,
In the context of international treaty law, this wording is notable in that the Single Convention is the only United Nations treaty characterising the activity it seeks to regulate, control or prohibit as being â€˜evilâ€™. […]
Indeed, the unique nature of the use of the language of â€˜evilâ€™ in the Single Convention is particularly glaring when considered alongside that used in other treaties addressing issues that the international community considers abhorrent.
For example, neither slavery, apartheid nor torture are described as being â€˜evilâ€™ in the relevant international conventions that prohibit them. Nuclear war is not described as being â€˜evilâ€™ in the treaty that seeks to limit the proliferation of atomic weapons, despite the recognition in the preamble that â€˜devastation that would be visited upon all mankindâ€™ by such a conflict. The closest one finds to the language contained in the preamble to the Single Convention to describe drugs is that found in international instruments in the context of genocide.
The editorial goes on to describe how that word has since then proliferated to describe individuals (as opposed to states), and how that contributes to the international excesses in the war on drugs.
The presence of such â€˜tendentious and highly inflammatory absolutist talkâ€™, to use Geartyâ€™s phrase, within discourse of both UN bodies and domestic courts is not only worrying, it contributes to an environment in which human rights violations in the name of drug control flourish around the world. Indeed, it can be argued that this rhetoric of â€˜evilâ€™ goes so far as to provide ideological justification for, and defense of, such abuses. As noted by Robin Room, it is this language of drugs as â€˜evilâ€™ that â€˜serves as a justification of theâ€¦Convention regime of control and coercionâ€™.
Very good stuff. Points out so clearly the urgent need to get rid of the Single Convention.
I haven’t read the entire issue, but based on the opening editorial, I’m very impressed.