Why Human Rights Matters in Drug Policy

Further Readings
  • In this event,  Rick Lines and Damon Barrett, co-directors of the ICHRDP, presented some of the areas of research on human rights and drug policy.

    Mr. Lines gave an overview of the United Nations Convention of the Narcotic Drugs 1961 and interpretations to its preamble. While premised on the health and welfare of humankind, this instrument incorporates a unique wording that is not used in other UN instruments defining international crimes, because it defines drug addiction as an 'evil.' 

    ‘What are the human rights consequences of describing drugs and drug addiction as evil that needs to be combated through coordinated universal action?’ asked Mr. Lines.

    Some of the human rights violations related to current drug policies around the world, particularly the prevalence of death penalty sentences in at least 32 countries. Despite the clear position of the United Nations against capital punishment and with a view of restricting it only to the most serious crimes the body overseeing the international drug control treaties, the International Narcotics Control Board, has been silent on this issue.

    Mr. Barrett outlined the challenges to the realization of children’s rights posed by the current drug control system, such the fate of children dependent on parents imprisoned or sentenced to death for drug offences. He argued that the ‘appropriate measures’ test in the Convention of the Rights of the Child requires a careful and evidence-based analysis of its effects on children’s rights.

    Some examples that could be explored in future legal research could include drug use among homeless children in Central Asia, the impact of the drug war violence in Mexico including the participation of children and young people in drug gangs, among others. 

  • Rick Lines and Damon Barrett, co-founders and directors of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy.

    See their profiles here.

  • Barrett, Damon, Children of the Drug War: Perspectives on the Impact of Drug Policies on Young People (Damon Barrett (ed), International Debate Education Association 2011).

    Barrett, Damon and Patrick Gallahue, 'Harm Reduction and Human Rights' (2011) 16, Interights Bulletin, 188.

    Bewley-Taylor, David, and Martin Jelsma, ‘Fifty Years of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs : A Reinterpretation’ (2011) 12 Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies, Transnational Institute, 1.

    Cardoso, Fernando H.  'Children and Drug Law Reform' (2012) 23 The International Journal on Drug Policy, 1.

    Global Comission on HIV and the Law, ‘Risks, Rights & Health’ (United Nations Development Programme 2012).

    Hunt, Neil, ‘Public health or human rights: what comes first?’ (2004) 15International Journal of Drug Policy, 231.

    Hunt, Paul,  'Human Rights, Health and Harm Reduction: States' Amnesia and Parallel Universes'(Harm Reduction International: 2008)

    Lines, Rick, 'Deliver us from evil? The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 50 years on' (2011) International Journal of Human Rights and Drug Policy, 1.

    Mena, Fernanda, and Dick Hobbs, ‘Narcophobia: drugs prohibition and the generation of human rights abuses’ (2009) 13 Trends in Organized Crime, 60.

    Room, Robin, and Peter Reuter, ‘How well do international drug conventions protect public health?’ (2012) 379 Lancet, 84.