International Journal on Human Rights and Drug Policy

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: ‘Deliver us from evil’? – 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 ‘drug treatment’; 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 Convention’s opening lines, such sentiments are immediately undermined, if not contradicted, by those that follow, which describe ‘addiction to narcotic drugs’ as a form of ‘evil’.

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 ‘evil’. […]

Indeed, the unique nature of the use of the language of ‘evil’ 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 ‘evil’ in the relevant international conventions that prohibit them. Nuclear war is not described as being ‘evil’ in the treaty that seeks to limit the proliferation of atomic weapons, despite the recognition in the preamble that ‘devastation that would be visited upon all mankind’ 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 ‘tendentious and highly inflammatory absolutist talk’, to use Gearty’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 ‘evil’ 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 ‘evil’ that ‘serves as a justification of the…Convention regime of control and coercion’.

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.

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27 Responses to International Journal on Human Rights and Drug Policy

  1. Duncan20903 says:

    Wow. I think that explains why we picked Hitler’s birthday for celebrating Jack Herer Day (formerly 4/20). We’re as evil as people who commit genocide! Not that Mr. Hitler had a particularly high ranking among genocidal maniacs for his lifetime kill total, but he did get the most press.

  2. Duncan20903 says:

    Hey, isn’t denying patients access to effective medicine causing them to suffer more than needed on that human rights violation list?

    Well whadda you know about that. Governor Chris Gregoire wants all States with laws that protect medicinal cannabis users to petition the Feds to get cannabis moved to schedule II. Who’da thunk it?
    If she’s not just paying this issue lip service she’ll move from very close to the bottom of my shit list and straight into the people I admire folder.

    Wow, Opposing Views let me post the word shit.

    Washington Governor Chris Gregoire says she wants all the states that allow medical marijuana to ask the federal government to reclassify the drug.

    She scheduled a conference call among those states Thursday. Meanwhile, a state Senate committee heard testimony Wednesday on a last ditch effort to pass an overhaul of Washington’s medical marijuana law.

  3. Pingback: International Journal on Human Rights and Drug Policy « Drug WarRant | Non-governmental organizations

  4. Matthew Meyer says:

    I second Duncan’s “wow.”

    On the other hand, the claim sounds a little overblown, it’s likely not the language of “evil” in the treaty so much as the way the US has used drug laws as one litmus test of states that are “good global citizens,” kinda like imposing the 21 drinking age domestically through purse strings.

    So I don’t think the notion of drugs as evil is somehow lodged in the language of the treaty, I think it’s seated deep in Christian dualism.

  5. Dante says:

    The Pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

    Problem is, it’s slower. And the sword people (drug warriors) are killing the pen people (anti-prohibitionists with literary intent) in the meantime.

  6. darkcycle says:

    Duncan, it’s posturing. She wants a place in the Obama admin v2, and she knows that if that doesn’t pan out she’s gonna hafta stand for re-election. There’s no other way to placate both sides and protect her precious hiney. Personally, if she were as good looking as Jennifer Granholm (did I get that right?), I’d be right there to protect her hiney too. But she’s not, so she’ll have to do something more to get my vote. (Just kidding all you strong feminist Women out there, darkcycle is not really that libido driven. He does posses a questionable sense of humor though)

    • Duncan20903 says:

      No doubt this isn’t enough for anything but raising the hope that she is serious. But how in the world would getting all the States with laws that protect medicinal cannabis patients and getting them to pester the Feds that they should reschedule to II get her any brownie points with the current administration? It might be posturing to get an appointment in the Johnson administration, but Barry and his boys aren’t letting go of the canard that cannabis has no valid medicinal utility. Say she only gets 10 States and DC to state that cannabis should be treated like the actual medicine that it is. That might even help to change some people’s minds.

      • darkcycle says:

        It’s not brownie points from Obummer, it’s to placate her constituancy who clearly wanted this law she just vetoed…Duncan, put down your vaporizer…o.k. focus. Now, Back to the start….

  7. Malcolm Kyle says:

    Dirty F*ckin’ Hippies…WERE RIGHT!

  8. ezrydn says:

    “The preamble clearly identifies that it is ‘addiction’ that constitutes both ‘a serious evil’ and ‘a social and economic danger to mankind’.”

    A better definition of PROHIBITION is not to be found!

    And PROHIBITIONISTS are ‘clearly’ addicted to their precious Prohibition.

  9. Drug use is called evil primarily, if not solely, due to the origins of drug prohibition: religious arrogance. It was Episcopalian Bishop Charles Henry Brent that got the ball rolling when he believed smoking opium kept Catholics from converting to the Episcopalian view of Christianity.

    To Brent, it was simply good vs evil: God good, drugs evil.

  10. muggles says:

    Sounds like Harry Anslinger himself inserted the word “evil”…maybe he did…does anybody know the answer?

    • Duncan20903 says:

      Goddammit, will you please tell me why they call it muggles?!? I ask people everywhere “well, why do you think they call it muggles?” and nobody ever has an answer for me. Everybody knows they call it dope because they’re morally bankrupt know nothing prohibitionists, but no one knows why they call it muggles and Louis Armstrong is dead.

      Do they call it muggles because Mr. Armstrong did? It’s an instrumental so no clues there and it was released in 1928 so all of the principals are likely dead or senile. No help at all.

      I spotted a car with a MUGGLES vanity plate and tried to chase him down but lost him in traffic. There’s a picture of the car at 4:03 of the video linked below. Perhaps you know this man?

      Please, put me out of my misery! Why the heck do you think they call it muggles? At least tell me how to find that Harry Pothead guy.

      PS Willie endorsed Gary for POTUS in 2012 today. With a heave and with a ho, Barack Obama has got to go.

    • Duncan20903 says:

      OK, I confess, the guys in the second video are friends of mine from back in the DC Metro NORML daze. As a matter of fact the chapter wouldn’t have started without the dedication of [Gary] Fire Department Jones the front man/singer. The vanity plate was part of promoting their “Muggles Jones” album. No, Mr. Jones does not know why they call it muggles. He was able to explain to me why they call it spinach.

    • the word “evil” was popularly applied to a variety of societal ills before the mid-1850’s — one glaring example being the use of the word in efforts at ending slavery. but it was also used in addressing things like prostitution and gambling.

      in terms of the word being applied to the use of intoxicants, the association predates both anslinger and bishop trent by at least several decades. i’m sure that i could probably find an even earlier example, but this headline should suffice to put it into context:

      “AN ALARMING EVIL Growing Prevalence of the Morphine Habit in Los Angeles” source: Los Angeles Times, Jan 20, 1887

      “christian” missionaries in china deserve the blame for having started the fire over the use of drugs other than alcohol (as Daniel pointed out, the root of the drug war is indeed religious arrogance). those “heathens” were not too keen on embracing christianity, nor on giving up their pipes. when large numbers of chinese began showing up on the west coast, they brought their pipes with them — and the fires have been fanned and dosed with accelerants ever since.

      religion + xenophobia = massive societal stupidity.

      • oops, and let’s not forget that the temperance movement (another religion-fueled activity) termed the (ab)use of alcohol “evil” as well. and they got their start in the 1830’s or 40s (can’t remember exactly off the top of my head)

  11. TrebleBass says:

    Evil is a word that, if used literally, can only be applied to humans, or any other being (whether it be imaginary or an alien in outer space or something) that is intelligent enough to consciously decide to do harm. I don’t think you can call an animal evil, let alone a non-living thing, like a drug, or a condition, like addiction. Using the word evil for drugs and addiction is personification. Laws should not be written in poetic language, let alone a treaty that applies to the entire fucking world.

  12. Malcolm Kyle says:

    For those of you who enjoyed the Colombianization of Mexico, we bring you the Mexicanization of Guatemala.

  13. carla beltran says:

    case of injutice and hidedfiles in federal polices internatioanl of fake docotr with fake papers in 2 courts with out sentences.iam under coercion boicoted inside the country of sex in the family tradition sex, ans society corruption only.
    clones etc….mutilated docotr in jail hidedf by polices and no sentences .read in the site iand give your opinion in brasilia crime organized.
    carla beltran

  14. carla beltran says:

    case of injutice and hidedfiles in federal polices internatioanl of fake docotr with fake papers in 2 courts with out sentences.iam under coercion boicoted inside the country of sex in the family tradition sex, ans society corruption only.
    clones etc….mutilated docotr in jail hidedf by polices and no sentences .read in the site iand give your opinion in brasilia crime organized. CREMESP ignoring the fake degree papers.
    carla beltran

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