drugpolicy https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/21328/all cached version 04/07/2018 11:14:37 en The other silence breakers: women in the war on drugs https://www.opendemocracy.net/kasia-malinowska-bethany-medley/other-silence-breakers-women-in-war-on-drugs <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today we see an increase in the number of women around the world actively taking on leadership roles and advocacy positions to use their voice to speak up for other women.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/RS8508_20171208_kozyrev_ukraine_women_shelter_3000.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/RS8508_20171208_kozyrev_ukraine_women_shelter_3000.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Donetsk Ukraine September 2013. Women and their children at a Light of Hope shelter in Poltava Ukraine.© Yuri Kozyrev/NOOR/Redux.</span></span></span>The proliferation of current feminist movements, such as the Women’s March and the viral trend of #MeToo, call attention to the mistreatment of women and other forms of gender inequalities. </p> <p>But there is one particular group of women who you won’t see widely supported at any protest or trending on social media: women in the war on drugs. </p> <p>Routinely silenced by stigma due to their drug use or involvement in drug-related economies, these women face some of the gravest health and human rights violations across the globe. These are the women with few allies, who often have limited or no access to supportive services and have no mainstream platforms to express their experienced injustices.</p> <p>Decades of the war on drugs have imposed countless social, health, and economic costs on women. Many drug policies and programs often overlook or outright ignore necessary women-specific needs such as, providing reproductive health or addressing gender-based violence. These unaddressed needs are further compounded by stigma and criminalization. As a result, drug-related harms among women are often significantly exacerbated. </p> <p>Non-violent drug convictions incarcerate women at <a href="http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)00619-X/abstract">higher rates</a> than any other crime worldwide. In many European countries, the <a href="https://www.unodc.org/documents/ungass2016/Contributions/Civil/INPUD/DUPI-A_War_on_Women_who_Use_Drugs-Web.pdf">average HIV prevalence</a> is 50% higher amongst women who use drugs than it is among men who do the same. In addition, drug-involved women face <a href="https://www.unodc.org/documents/ungass2016/Contributions/Civil/INPUD/DUPI-A_War_on_Women_who_Use_Drugs-Web.pdf">increased risks</a> of physical and sexual violence, even in criminal justice settings. Similarly, the lack of consideration for women’s needs creates <a href="https://www.unodc.org/documents/ungass2016/Contributions/Civil/INPUD/DUPI-A_War_on_Women_who_Use_Drugs-Web.pdf">significant barriers in access</a> to treatment or healthcare.</p> <p>On the rare occasion that women are mentioned, it is related to drug use during pregnancy. As a <a href="http://advocatesforpregnantwomen.org/featured/state_of_the_union_who_will_defend_and_advocate_for_the_pregnant_woman_1.php?platform=hootsuite">recent prime example</a>, President Trump praised a police officer and his wife for adopting an infant exposed to drugs in the womb at the 2018 State of the Union address. The needs of the biological mother such as housing, treatment, and prenatal care were never even mentioned. For women in similar circumstances, punitive responses such as incarceration and the loss of parental rights are often the only forms of intervention. &nbsp;Supportive services such as healthcare, harm reduction, or treatment are often nonexistent. &nbsp;</p> <p>While extensive measures must be made to lessen the numerous harms imposed on women, leading advocates are making headway by simply starting to include women impacted in the conversation by offering an outlet for them to express their unique perspectives and needs. </p> <p>The early years of the drug policy reform movement was primarily led by men, yet today we are seeing an increase in the number of women around the world actively taking on leadership roles and advocacy positions to use their voice to speak up for other women.</p> <p>A series of <a href="https://womenanddrugs.wola.org/">provocative photo essay</a>s by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), for example, portrays the stories of eight women from Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, and Costa Rica who represent the alarming rate of women imprisoned in Latin America for minor, non-violent drug offenses. </p> <p>“Many of these women are single mothers, live in poverty, and enter the drug trade out of desperation or coercion. Their incarceration also impacts their children, who are often times left without proper care. When these women leave prison, their criminal record makes it difficult for them to get a job, pushing these women further into a cycle of poverty and desperation,” explained Coletta Youngers, senior fellow at WOLA.</p> <p>Youngers underscores that, “public officials must understand the devastating effect that these misguided drug policies have on women and their families. Incorporating the voices of affected communities in the reform of drug policies is essential.”</p> <p>In the US, one of the few organizations that recognize the unique risks for pregnant women who use drugs is the <a href="http://www.nationalperinatal.org/">National Perinatal Association</a> (NPA). NPA acknowledges that treating perinatal drug use as a crime is counterproductive to maternal and prenatal health. They are also deeply committed to supporting the voices of pregnant people by elevating parents and self-advocates in the public sphere. NPA actively recruits parents with lived experiences to participate in conferences and <a href="http://www.nationalperinatal.org/Parent_Scholarship">offers financial scholarships</a> for their dedicated time. </p> <p>“The most important part of NPA’s interdisciplinary efforts are the voices of the parents and families with lived experiences – they are the true experts in understanding the gaps in services and treatment barriers for pregnant people who use drugs,” says Joelle Puccio, Registered Nurse and chair member of the Perinatal Substance Use Program. </p> <p>In Indonesia, the inclusion of women who inject drugs were considered a significant advance in a recent community-based participatory research study. Conducted by the University of Oxford and the Indonesia Drug User Network, <a href="http://korbannapza.org/files/pdf/WomenSpeakOut_English_Web.pdf">the study</a> included more than 700 women who inject drugs. The study’s goal was to better understand the needs and accessibility to services for women who inject drugs. Research findings were used to mobilize and empower drug-using women to play a greater role in advocating for gender-responsive HIV programming and policies.</p> <p>Lead researcher, Claudia Stoicescu noted, “Approximately 90% of the research team was made up of women who actively or formerly use drugs, including in management positions. Their meaningful involvement was an essential aspect of this project as well as the larger female drug user community.”</p> <p>The momentum to support women impacted by the drug war cannot be siloed within the drug policy reform movement. All leading feminists activists groups can offer support by using their existing platforms to challenge injustices and further elevate the advocacy efforts of women impacted by the global war on drugs. </p> <p><em>Follow Kasia Malinowska on <a href="https://www.instagram.com/kasiairys/">Instagram</a> where she will highlight the voices of other leading women drug policy reformers throughout the month of March. </em><em></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><em>Follow Kasia Malinowska on <a href="https://www.instagram.com/kasiairys/">Instagram</a> where she will highlight the voices of other leading women drug policy reformers throughout the month of March. </em><em></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new <a href="https://womenanddrugs.wola.org/">provocative photo essay</a> by the Washington Office of Latin America (WOLA) portrays the stories of six women from Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, and Costa Rica.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> drugpolicy Bethany Medley Kasia Malinowska Thu, 08 Mar 2018 08:02:56 +0000 Kasia Malinowska and Bethany Medley 116508 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How the country that invented many of the world's drugs turned against them – until now https://www.opendemocracy.net/johann-hari/how-country-where-worlds-drugs-were-invented-began-to-turn-against- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Cocaine in 1859; heroin in 1888 – and a ban introduced in 1929. Now, however, times are changing – and more compassionate policies are taking root.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/8091390916_11242d007d_k_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/8091390916_11242d007d_k_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kreuzberg's Görlitzer Park, Berlin. Merlijn Hoek/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In the mid-1980s, Timothy Leary – the American evangelist for drug use – came to visit Germany, and one day, he turned to the journalist who had volunteered to drive him around – Mathias Bröckers – and explained why he was thrilled to be here, of all places. “Germany is the fatherland of Rausch!” he exclaimed, using the German term for intoxication. “Heroin, cocaine, crystal meth – everything was invented here!”. Even LSD – his own most beloved drug – was created just a few miles across the border, in German-speaking Switzerland.</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-right">Germany gave birth to the world’s most feared&nbsp;drugs,&nbsp; &nbsp;<span style="background-color: transparent;">and then sought to drown its own baby.&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr">Matthias Bröckers had never thought of his country quite like that before – as the font of the world’s most feared and sought-after intoxicants. He had been smoking cannabis since he was sixteen, and he later became one of the founders of the newspaper, Die Tageszeitung (taz), which has the most honest coverage of drug policy in Germany. But he only later began to fully explore the strange story of his country’s relationship with the world’s most feared drugs: Germany gave birth to them, and then sought to drown its own baby.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">And then – after a long period of attempted infanticide – Matthias became a leader in suggesting to his country that there is another way.</p><p dir="ltr">**&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" class="blockquote-new">This is never a popular thing for a British person to say, but I have always revered the current German political system.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" class="blockquote-new">My parents lived in Berlin for many years, and my brother was born and grew up there. I’m a British social democrat – so I have spent years trying to get British people to look more closely at the extraordinary institutions of post-war Germany, from the highly federal and decentralised system of political power, to the high levels of democracy in German workplaces, to the expansive welfare state. British people don’t like to be told they should become more German – but I believe my country would be happier and freer if we did.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" class="blockquote-new">So when I came back to travel across Germany to write an extra chapter for the German edition of my book ‘<a href="http://www.chasingthescream.com">Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs</a>’, I found myself rather conflicted – for reasons that will become clear.</p><h2>Rausch</h2><p dir="ltr">In Berlin, a few blocks from the tourist babble of Checkpoint Charlie, Mathias sat in front of me, outside a café, and chain-smoked at an almost heroic pace. He is a slim sixty year-old man, and he reels off facts about Germany’s drug war at amphetamine-speed. In the early 1990s – several years after he met Leary – Mathias returned one day from a vacation. When he got to his desk, where he was in charge of the culture section of taz at the time, he found lots of letters, and in the middle of it, a large photocopied book. It was called ‘The Emperor Wears No Clothes’, and it was written by an American called Jack Herer. It told the long story of how drugs came to be banned – including how the founder of the modern drug war, a US government bureaucrat called Harry Anslinger, first created the hysteria that led to the <a href="http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/01/drug-war-the-hunting-of-billie-holiday-114298.html#.VME5xSwYFBF">banning of cannabis</a>.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“At first,” Mathias tells me, “I thought – these are Californian hippies, talking bullshit. But then I started to research this and I found – hey, this is all true!” He decided Germans ought to know about this, and sent his proposal for his own translation of the book to every publisher he could. The big publishers said: “Oh, marijuana? No, no.” The small publishers said: “We have no money.”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Finally, one of them agreed they would publish, provided he carried out research to see if any of this applied to Germany. He was reluctant – he had a lot of work commitments – but he finally said he would, if they would agree to indulge him on one thing. He wanted the whole book printed on hemp paper – from the same plant as cannabis, the very plant that Anslinger worked so hard to ban.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">As Mathias began to carry out extensive research – searching through court records and any other sources he could find, he discovered a story that fascinated him. It turned out Leary was right. Germany had been a major pioneer of the hardest drugs – the first to isolate and refine them from their natural components. Heroin was invented in Germany by the Bayer corporation in <a href="http://www.historytoday.com/ian-scott/heroin-hundred-year-habit ">1888</a>, while a German chemist called Albert Niemann invented cocaine in <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ardp.18601530202/abstract;jsessionid=263BCDAB9448C346D692E68884122CC6.f04t03">1859</a>. They made German corporations rich, becoming some of the most commercially successful products in the world. “Cocaine and heroin were two huge exports for German industry,” he explains. So when there were early moves to ban them, Germany tried hard to resist – holding out against US pressure for fifteen years longer than Britain, for example. But finally, in 1929, they introduced a ban on cocaine, heroin and – although the drug barely existed outside a few tiny artistic circles in Berlin – cannabis.</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-left">Heroin was invented in Germany by the Bayer corporation in 1888, while a German chemist called Albert Niemann invented cocaine in 1859.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">These drugs stopped being exported to the rest of the world, but at home, little changed. There was no German drug war. The Nazis and their psychopathic vision started to rise – and their troops routinely used methamphetamine. It was released onto the German market in 1938 as Pervitin, and Heinrich Böll – later to win the Nobel Prize for Literature – was just one of tens of thousands of soldiers who wrote home from the front, begging his family to buy and send more meth, which was legally available throughout <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/crystal-meth-origins-link-back-to-nazi-germany-and-world-war-ii-a-901755.html">Germany</a>.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The drug war only really came to modern Germany in the smoking rubble and wreckage left behind by the Nazis. Harry Anslinger “became the chief of the United Nations drug office in 1948,” Mathias explains to me, “and then he implemented this American policy on the international scene. This is all Anslinger.”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The first arrest for cannabis possession in German history took place in Berlin. It was of an American soldier, carrying an immense bag of weed with him, through the ruined streets. And as happened everywhere in the opening act of the global drug war, there was a crackdown on doctors who dared to prescribe heroin to their patients as part of their addictions.</p><p dir="ltr">But Germany’s real domestic crackdown came more slowly, and more stutteringly, than in the US – and never reached the same savage heights. In the 1960s, in response to the student movements, there was a tightening of the law. Then, in 1982, at the same time as Ronald Reagan was becoming harsher on users in the US, stricter penalties were introduced in Germany. The constant slow ratcheting to harsher punishments continued year after year, no matter which party was in power.</p><p dir="ltr">Mathias tells me: “When Gerhard Shröder and Joschka Fischer were in power, we thought, ‘oh finally, the Greens are now in power [in coalition with Shröder] and we’ll get some developments here.’ But nothing happened. Instead, they made another law that outlawed hemp seeds – the great danger of hemp seeds.” And then it got worse still. “Under red-green rule in Germany, we had a huge rise in police, prison and court cases on cannabis only – 150,000 cases on cannabis in one year,” Mathias explains. “Schröder was the harshest prohibition we ever had in Germany.”</p><p dir="ltr">Since then, there has been a small dip in prosecutions, and a surge in hope among drug reformers – for reasons I was about which I was about to learn.</p><p dir="ltr">**&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" class="blockquote-new">I have now reported on how the drug war is playing out in seventeen different countries – twelve for the first run of ‘Chasing The Scream,’ and five more for subsequent foreign editions. In Germany, there are crucial similarities with the drug war I saw at its worst in the US and Northern Mexico – and crucial differences.</p><p dir="ltr" class="blockquote-new">The most crucial difference is that – entirely to Germany’s credit – there is no mass incarceration of users or addicts. The brutal prisons I saw in the US – where I went out with groups of addicted women forced to march on chain-gangs while members of the public mock them – are unthinkable in Germany today. The vast majority of drug possession cases end with a fine of a few hundred euros. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" class="blockquote-new">However, the recipients of these punishments still face serious consequences. The Bernau judge, Andreas Müller, has talked about his shame at being forced to give a criminal conviction to a music teacher who was found in possession of three grams of cannabis. She was then fired from her job. He told the newspaper Wirtschafts Woche: “<a href="http://www.wiwo.de/politik/deutschland/plaedoyer-fuer-die-cannabis-freigabe-haschisch-fuer-alle/11617034.html ">The state destroyed a whole life</a>.”</p><h2>A destructive farce</h2><p dir="ltr">I learned about the two most crucial similarities to the American drug war as I sat in the shadow of the vast cathedral in Münster, a city in Westphalia. The sun was setting, and the bells of the church were chiming slowly. Perky blonde-haired people were whirring past me on bikes, a tour guide was talking reverently about the Medieval building.&nbsp;But then Hubert Wimber arrived, and sat next to me. He is a very tall man with a long, rather sad face, but he cheerfully explained he was in his first week of retirement, after eighteen years as Police Commissioner for this city.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In Germany, police chiefs are never recruited from within the police force itself. They are civilians – often sociologists, or academic experts in crime prevention. This creates a different kind of conversation.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-right">In Germany, police chiefs are never recruited from within the police force itself. They are civilians – often sociologists, or academic experts in crime prevention.<span style="color: #333333; font-size: 13px; font-weight: normal;">&nbsp;</span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In all that time, Hubert told me, one thing had been more apparent to him than anything else. “When you look over organised crime and you see what they do, it’s drug distribution [that is] the most important thing. There are other things – weapons, prostitution – but the area where they gain the most profit is drugs, and most cases of organised crime is drug crime… It’s a great deal for criminal organisations. They make their profit because the market is illegal.” And it’s a lot, he adds: “The profit rate is enormous. The costs of growing and distribution are ten to fifteen percent of the market price… It is a very good business for organised crime.”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Nobody knows entirely which criminal gangs control Germany’s massive market for illegal drugs. Some people told me it was largely the Russian mafia; other people told me the Russian mafia play a very small role; but in reality, everyone is ignorant. All we know is they are there, operating in the dark, establishing and defending their patches with violence.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Wimber had a growing sense – throughout his time as police commissioner in Münster – that this was a destructive farce. “The police work for nothing,” he says. They would arrest people, to absolutely no end: there was never a reduction in the drug supply. Increasingly, he and his colleagues found themselves asking: “What do we really do? We don’t increase control. We don’t reach our goals. We aren’t successful against organised crime.” The more he learned about how legalisation could work in Germany, the more he became convinced it was the only real solution. “If it were legal – let’s go to Uruguay since 2014, let’s see what happened in Colorado… we can protect the children – in the illegal market we have no chance. No dealer asks – ‘how old are you? Give me your passport.’ Never. Never. And we can have product control.”</p><p dir="ltr">There are experiments within Germany today that show how well the alternatives work, Wimber tells me – but they don’t have proper funding. In eight cities now, German authorities have begun prescribing heroin to addicts, as they do in Switzerland, with the same remarkable results. As Wimber explains: “They normalise their everyday behaviour. They are able to go into jobs, and they don’t have to think – how can I find my next fix?” But only very small numbers of people are given space on this programme – around twenty-five people in each place. There is no money to pay for more. A remarkable 84% of Germany’s drugs budget gets spent on repression – a figure very close to that of the US – with only peanuts for harm reduction and compassionate care.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Where does the money go instead? Wimber saw it squandered every day in his department, chasing drug users, who made up 75% of all arrests for drug offenses. This is happening all over Germany. Look at one notorious park in Berlin – Görlitzer Park, a lush patch of greenery in Kreuzberg, where locals and tourists flock to buy their drugs from street-dealers. The police spent half a million euros in January and February of 2015 alone arresting 1600 people, and charging 650 of them. The result? The park is still full of dealers, and people are still flocking there to <a href="http://www.wiwo.de/politik/deutschland/plaedoyer-fuer-die-cannabis-freigabe-haschisch-fuer-alle/11617034.html ">buy</a>. “We don’t have any success with destroying the structures, because the profit rate is so high, and when we arrest some people, in comes the next one,” Wimber explains. “There’s no change in the market.”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Wimber grew ever-more frustrated to see money being squandered on an approach that doesn’t work – instead of being invested in a rational policy that does. Finally, he decided to become the first serving police commissioner to speak out and demand legalisation in Germany. His government minister tried to talk him out of it, and conservative politicians savaged him, but he insisted. He believed it was his duty.</p><p dir="ltr">As the bells on Münster Cathedral began to chime again, he started to explain to the public how things could be different. If Germany regulated and taxed the existing drug trade, as happens in Colorado, economists have calculated a new tax revenue of between 500 million and <a href="http://www.wiwo.de/politik/deutschland/plaedoyer-fuer-die-cannabis-freigabe-haschisch-fuer-alle/11617034.html">3.5 billion euros</a>. As one journalist has pointed out: “in comparison: the introduction of the car toll, experts calculate, would raise from 100 to 300 million euros.”</p><h2>Safer spaces</h2><p dir="ltr">I was curious to see how addicts are treated in Germany today. The first impetus to write ‘Chasing The Scream’, for me, came from the fact that there were people I love who had addiction problems, and it is the parts of the book that explain that addiction is not what we think it is that have gained widest traction. This animation I scripted gives a quick summary:</p><iframe frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ao8L-0nSYzg?ecver=1" height="259" width="460"></iframe>The picture in Germany – when it comes to addiction – is strange. In the early 1980s, hardcore addicts started to gather in the centre of the banking district in Frankfurt, to use drugs openly, in public, outside the vast glistening towers of the Deutsche Bank. There was widespread horror and revulsion – and the conservative mayor, Petra Roth, vowed to drive the drug addicts out. A huge amount of police resources were spent to clear the addicts away – only for them to move just a few blocks either direction, or to come straight back.&nbsp;<p dir="ltr">This is how Germany – for entirely pragmatic reasons – became the first place in the world to pioneer harm reduction for addicts, under a <a href="http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/heroin/germany1.htm">right-wing mayor</a>. Nowhere had tried legal consumption rooms before – &nbsp;places where addicts could come to use their drugs, monitored by doctors and nurses – but they soon spread across many parts of Germany, as they reduced the death toll really significantly.</p><p dir="ltr">So the country that created these drugs was also the first to create safer spaces to use them. It’s a cause Germany can be proud of: it saved many citizens from overdose and HIV by starting so early, and it then inspired people all over the world to do the same. On my journey I’ve seen how the move for safe consumption rooms have inspired people all over the world, from Toronto to Sao Paulo, to adopt more compassionate policies.</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-left">It was obvious to him that addiction is a sign of terrible internal suffering that the addicted individual is trying to&nbsp;anaesthatise.</p><p dir="ltr">But these safe spaces – while a real improvement – stop far short of the places that have really significantly reduced addiction, like Portugal, where all drugs were decriminalised, and all the money that used to be spent on screwing people’s lives up was transferred to helping them recover.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Frank Tempel is a big, meaty member of the Bundestag for Die Linke, and for many years, he was a police officer in Thüringen, in rural East Germany. As a social worker, he had known many alcohol and gambling addicts – and it was obvious to him that addiction is a sign of terrible internal suffering that the addicted individual is trying to anaesthatise. Yet when he began to work as a cop, he soon noticed that his colleagues viewed addicts very differently. “Other police officers tended to see it as a character fault, a moral weakness – they view it that way, and therefore treat it that way in their work,” he told me when we met. If you talked to them theoretically, they would admit this isn’t the case – “but you see it in the way they behave when the people are actually in front of them. They tend to view them condescendingly – they behave with them as though they are inferior.”</p><p>He saw this play out time and again when his colleagues came across addicts. “The way they look at it is – somebody who’s taking drugs, particularly hard drugs, is a criminal. They are doing something against the law and they should stop doing it and they have to be punished for it. They don’t ask themselves – can this person actually stop doing it? Are they able to? Are the other conditions conducive to that happening?”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-right">They don’t ask themselves – can this person actually stop doing it? Are they able to? Are the other conditions conducive to that happening?”</p><p dir="ltr">Frank told me he is haunted by the memory of one man who was addicted to crystal meth. “People knew – if you stopped him in his car, you’d be able to find something on him, and report him, and he would just accumulate these police reports, without anyone ever thinking: maybe we need to put this guy into some sort of programme to help him,” he says. “It was just like – he’s a criminal, he’s going to get charged again and again.” This attitude continues until today. The harm reduction can be quite good in some places – it prevents the very worst effects of addiction – but programs to actually turn addicts’ lives around are patchy. “They tend to be quite small,” Frank tells me, “and not have enough staff to handle things.” That means huge numbers of addicts whose lives could be turned around are left with no help from the state except police harassment.</p><h2>Growing consciousness</h2><p dir="ltr">When the journalist Mathias Bröcker began to try to persuade Germans of the case for ending the drug war, he felt like an echoing voice in the wilderness.</p><p dir="ltr">But he gradually began to think he had found a way to create a crack in the wall of German drug prohibition. In 1996, he went to California with Jack Herer – whose book had led him on this journey – to leaflet and turn out voters in a referendum. It was designed to legalise marijuana for medical purposes – for people with multiple sclerosis and other illnesses, where there is strong scientific proof that cannabis can help. The campaign won. It was the first electoral victory for cannabis since Harry Anslinger launched his crusade in the 1930s. And it began slowly to undermine the drug war. As people saw legal marijuana dispensaries open across California for people who were certified to have medical problems, they began to see they were not scary places – and they wanted to be able to go there themselves. It was a key part of the momentum that led to the later decisive votes for cannabis legalisation that have swept the US.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">He believed that making the case for medical marijuana within Germany would be similarly effective. It wasn’t just a tool for advancing the wider cause – he has a passionate belief that cannabis is an effective medicine, and he’s clearly finding an audience for this argument in Germany: his translated book is now on its forty-second edition. He began to campaign, and the German courts finally agreed to allow cannabis derivatives to be issued as medicine. But there was a catch. They wouldn’t allow people to grow their own. They had to buy it from pharmaceutical companies – at 150 euros for a tiny bottle, to get the same amount of THC (the key ingredient) as you’d buy in Görlitzer Park for ten euros.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">For Mathias, it was a reminder of what drove German drug policy right at the start of the twentieth century, when the country was pioneering the century’s highs for humanity. It would be allowed, but only if the pharmaceutical companies could make their fortune from it. They had to be in charge.</p><p dir="ltr">Gradually, more and more people have been challenging this – the patients have come forward to say they cannot afford the grossly over-priced pharmaceutical version, and want to be legally allowed to grow their own. The courts have now granted permission to around <a href="http://www.augsburger-allgemeine.de/politik/Warum-Cannabis-legal-sein-sollte-id30734592.html">twenty people</a>. “Now it’s going to change because there is a wide consciousness growing on the medical values of marijuana. Like in the US, this will be the first step,” Mathias tells me. “We have sick people, they have cancer and heart diseases, and to prohibit a plant which hasn’t killed anyone in 10,000 years – this is not okay. So this will change soon – I think in the next five years.”</p><p dir="ltr">This seems to be part of a wider tipping in public opinion. There isn’t much opinion polling on this question in Germany, but we do have two detailed surveys. In 2010, some 40% of German citizens wanted to continue with current approach, while 35% wanted to decriminalise personal use along Portuguese lines, and 19% wanted full legalisation – making the combined majority for reform <a href="https://hanfverband.de/nachrichten/news/laut-emnid-umfrage-ist-die-mehrheit-der-deutschen-fuer-ein-liberaleres-cannabisrecht">54%</a>. In the next poll we have, taken in 2014, support for full legalisation had risen by <a href="https://hanfverband.de/nachrichten/pressemitteilungen/mehrheit-der-deutschen-sieht-drogenkrieg-kritisch-hanfverband-kuendigt-medienkampagne-an">10%</a>. This slow shift in public opinion probably explains why the Shröder years were the peak of prohibition in Germany, and prosecutions have somewhat declined under chancellor Angela Merkel – but there is still a long way to go.</p><p dir="ltr">Slowly, more and more senior people in German public life are reaching the same conclusion as Wimber, and joining his fight. A group of 122 German professors of criminology – half of all the experts in this field in Germany – wrote an open letter demanding legalisation in order to bankrupt <a href="http://www.welt.de/debatte/kommentare/article130478603/Was-alles-fuer-die-Legalisierung-von-Cannabis-spricht.html">organised crime</a>. A group of many of Germany’s leading economists issued a similar plea in 2015. “Prohibition in Germany has completely failed,” the Dusseldorf economics professor Justus Haucap told <a href="http://www.wiwo.de/politik/deutschland/legalisierung-spitzenoekonomen-fordern-die-freigabe-von-cannabis-/11652088.html">WirtschaftsWoche</a>.</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-left">It’s very hard to find anyone who will make a positive case for the way things are.It’s very hard to find anyone who will make a positive case for the way things are.</p><p dir="ltr">There is a growing debate within the SPD (the equivalent to the Labour Party) about alternatives to drug prohibition (look <a href="http://www.berliner-zeitung.de/berlin/cannabis-legalisierung-spd-will-coffee-shops-fuer-mehrere-berliner-bezirke,10809148,30149202.html ">here</a>, <a href="http://www.burkhard-blienert.de/index.php?nr=67305&amp;menu=1 ">here</a> and <a href="http://www.welt.de/print/welt_kompakt/frankfurt/article132795881/Kiffen-als-Genuss.html">here</a>), and even some senior politicians from the CDU (the equivalent to the Tories) have broken the taboo, and said a conversation about legalisation should begin now. This shouldn’t be overstated – there is a long way to go – but the process has begun, and there is lots of activist energy growing around the goal of getting us there: when a TV game-show called Millionärswahl allowed charities to pitch to viewers to see which of them would be given a million euros, and the public voted for a winner, they chose the Deutscher Hanfverband – the main group campaigning for <a href="http://www.welt.de/vermischtes/article124232284/Cannabis-Aktivist-Georg-Wurth-gewinnt-die-Million.html ">cannabis legalisation</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Mathias has noticed another important shift in this debate. He goes on TV and radio to argue for legalisation the whole time, and the producers often ask him, with a furrowed brow, if he could recommend somebody to take the opposing position. Nobody, they explained, would come on to defend the existing system.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">As he said this, I realised I had found this all over the world too. It’s very hard to find anyone who will make a positive case for the way things are. In one recent debate, Mathias was pitched against a senior CDU politician who said that Germany cannot legalise cannabis because it is a Christian country, and Jesus turned water into wine, not into marijuana. “This,” Mathias says dryly, “is the quality of the discussion.”</p><h2>Planting seeds</h2><p dir="ltr">Mathias believes now a crucial part of the job in Germany now, just like in Britain, is explaining to people that there is nothing abstract about the alternatives to prohibition – and you don’t have to look far to see them. “We don’t [just] have to look to America,” he tells me. “Portugal is has a very successful drug policy – and this is a country in Europe. This is not America, this is not Uruguay. But in Germany – when I am going to speak anywhere – I ask, do you know a country where the decriminalisation of drugs has been done [more than] ten years ago? People in Germany don’t know anything about the success of Portuguese drug policy. They don’t know it. It’s not communicated here.”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-right">Prohibition doesn’t work, we have to make coffee shops.</p><p dir="ltr">But he is increasingly confident of victory. “Everything that is invented in America comes to Germany about five to ten years delayed, so I am quite relaxed now,” Mathias says, and laughs. He adds later: “In Germany – the tendency is going, quite slowly, in the right direction. People say – yes marijuana is a medicine, we have to give it to the patients now. Then they say – yes, prohibition doesn’t work, we have to make coffee shops.” And on and on it will go, stage by stage, in gradually extending more regulation to the drug trade, and reclaiming it from organised crime.</p><p dir="ltr">Mathias stubs out his dozenth cigarette of our long conversation, and looks at me quite intently. “I am now sixty years old,” he says. “I don’t know when I will die, but I am an old man – and I think finally we won.”</p><p dir="ltr">At least, he adds, he is now, at last, sure of one thing. On his grave, every year, his children will be able to come and plant some cannabis seeds – and they will be able to sprout legally, into a plant, in the middle of the homeland of Rausch.</p><p><strong><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/9781408857830.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/9781408857830.jpg" alt="" title="" width="80" height="123" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>‘<a href="http://www.chasingthescream.com">Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs</a>’ is available now in paperback. The German edition is published by Fischer Verlage and is entitled<a href="http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/literatur/drogen-die-geschichte-eines-langen-krieges-von-johann-hari-kritik-a-1065427.html"> "Drogen. Die Geschichte eines langen Krieges</a>’.</em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/johann-hari/training-in-violence-connecting-line-between-france-war-on-drugs-and-jihadism">‘A training in violence’: the connecting line between France’s ‘war on drugs’ and jihadism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/benjamin-ramm/our-children-are-dying-meet-activists-saying-no-more-to-war-on-drugs">&quot;Our children are dying&quot;: meet the activists saying &#039;no more&#039; to the &#039;war on drugs&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/opendemocracy-dawn-paley/is-capitalism-fuelling-war-on-drugs">Is capitalism fuelling the war on drugs?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/niamh-eastwood-edward-fox/decriminalising-drugs-is-not-just-talk-meet-countries-actually-experimenti">Decriminalising drugs is not just talk – meet the countries actually experimenting with it</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Drug & Criminal Justice Policy Forum drugpolicy Johann Hari Tue, 18 Jul 2017 14:51:56 +0000 Johann Hari 112352 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The logic of Singapore’s death penalty for drugs is untenable https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/kirsten-han/logic-of-singapore-s-death-penalty-for-drugs-is-untenable <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>My experience working with the families of death row inmates has shown me just how problematic this legislation really is.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" alt="wfd" width="460px" /></a></p> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/560130/PA-7478380.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Tanah Merah Prison, 2009, Singapore. Wong Maye-E/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/560130/PA-7478380.jpg" alt="lead " title="Tanah Merah Prison, 2009, Singapore. Wong Maye-E/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tanah Merah Prison, 2009, Singapore. Wong Maye-E/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>When one advocates for the abolishment of the death penalty, any perceived retreat from capital punishment can seem like a victory. Any change that allows for lives to be saved from the execution chamber is a positive one. But there are times when the shifts made are not only inadequate, but throw up more questions and problems to be resolved.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In November 2012, the Parliament of Singapore<a href="http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest+News/Singapore/Story/A1Story20121115-383686.html"> made amendments</a> to the mandatory death penalty regime. Before then, the death penalty for drug trafficking was completely mandatory; an individual found guilty of trafficking under the Misuse of Drugs Act could only be put to death, with the judge unable to consider any mitigating circumstances.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The amendments allow for a tiny bit of leeway: if the offender is merely a courier, and has offered “substantive cooperation” to the authorities, the judge has a choice between the death penalty and life imprisonment with caning.</p><p dir="ltr">The almost-immediate impact of these amendments was that Yong Vui Kong, a young Malaysian man convicted of trafficking a little over 40 grams of heroin, was saved. The campaign for his life had been sustained and high-profile in both Singapore and Malaysia; for those of us who had put in time and energy, knowing that Vui Kong would not hang was a huge relief, and validation of all our efforts.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">But our celebrations could only go so far. Apart from the application of judicial corporal punishment (on top of life imprisonment) that replaced Vui Kong’s death sentence, our continued work on the death penalty has revealed many more causes for concern triggered by these amendments.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking at a high-level side event at the United Nations’ General Assembly on 21 September, Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan<a href="https://www.mfa.gov.sg/content/mfa/media_centre/press_room/pr/2016/201609/press_20160922.html"> defended</a> the city-state’s use of the death penalty.</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“[The death penalty] is applied only and strictly in the context of an unwavering commitment to the rule of law. In fact, you could argue that a prerequisite is an unwavering commitment to the rule of law, resting on a strong and independent judiciary,” he said. “There must be fair and transparent laws and due process… Capital punishment is carried out only after due judicial process and in accordance with the law.”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">It’s true that the death penalty in Singapore is administered in accordance with the law. But my experience following capital cases and working with the families of death row inmates has shown me that working in accordance with the law does not fully address issues with the death penalty regime, because it is the legislation itself that is problematic.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">The reality is different.</p><p dir="ltr">When the amendments were first made, there were many who saw it as an end to the mandatory death penalty. The reality is different: we still have the mandatory death penalty, only there’s now a little wriggle room for judges to exercise a very limited discretion – choosing between death and life with caning – in a very narrow set of circumstances. The judiciary might be strong and independent, but it still doesn’t get to exercise full discretion when it comes to the death penalty for drug trafficking.</p><p dir="ltr">Where the discretion really lies is with the prosecution, because it’s the prosecution that chooses whether or not to issue a Certificate of Cooperation. A refusal to issue this certificate, to indicate that the individual had “substantively” cooperated with the authorities, means that the judge will still have no discretion in sentencing, even if it was established that the individual was merely a courier or a mule.</p><p dir="ltr">Although the minister himself emphasised the need for “fair and transparent laws and due process”, the process behind the issuing of a Certificate of Cooperation remains opaque and lacks accountability. There is little clarity and understanding of how the prosecution makes the decision on whether or not to issue such a certificate; in the case of Cheong Chun Yin, the prosecution had initially denied him the certificate, then<a href="https://medium.com/@kixes/a-fathers-relief-44ec148afaff#.uxevkhol0"> abruptly changed its mind</a>. What changed? We don’t know.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">It’s also possible for two co-accused persons to receive differentiated treatment even if both provided what information they had to the authorities, as in the case of Muhammad Ridzuan bin Mohd Ali and Abdul Haleem bin Abdul Karim. Abdul Haleem was granted a certificate and was therefore able to escape the gallows, but<a href="https://www.byline.com/column/23/article/752"> Ridzuan is still on death row today</a>. What caused the prosecution to decide to grant one a certificate and not the other? We don’t know.</p><p dir="ltr">The prosecution’s decision whether or not to grant a certificate is not subject to judicial review unless one can prove malice or bad faith. It’s a very high bar that perpetuates the lack of clarity in relation to this serious issue of life and death.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">The very logic of such a system is untenable.</p><p dir="ltr">But one can go even beyond that and argue, as I do, that the very logic of such a system is untenable. As it stands, Singapore’s death penalty for drugs means that any low-level courier or drug mule convicted of trafficking above a certain amount is bound for the gallows, unless he/she is of use to the prosecution. It’s a philosophy that sees an individual’s right to life not as a fundamental right, but as a privilege that can be taken away unless the authorities are appeased – hardly a reflection of minister Balakrishnan’s claim that “all human life is sacred”, or that the death penalty is used only “in the proper context and in strictly limited circumstances”.</p><p dir="ltr">In this latest addition to the long list of retentionist speeches given by various members of Singapore’s government, the foreign affairs minister outlined lofty ideals, such as the sanctity of life, and crucial requirements, such as fairness and transparency in the administration of justice. These are certainly important values for societies around the world to uphold, but the systemic application of the death penalty in Singapore consistently falls short.</p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/kirsten-han/how-discovering-truth-about-singapore-s-war-on-drugs-led-me-to-campaign-to-abolish-death">I discovered the truth about Singapore&#039;s &#039;war on drugs&#039;. Now I campaign against the death penalty</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> drugpolicy Kirsten Han Wed, 26 Oct 2016 15:35:02 +0000 Kirsten Han 106282 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Bloodshed, shame and lies – this is why you should give a damn about prohibitionist drug policy https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/opendemocracy/why-you-should-give-damn-about-prohibitionist-drug-policy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This is the reality of the ‘war on drugs’: children dying alone because of shame and stigma, escalating incarceration of women, and violent enforcement centred on the global south.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" /></a></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-14316948.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Colombia drug eradication. Fernando Vergara/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-14316948.jpg" alt="lead Colombia drug eradication. Fernando Vergara/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Colombia drug eradication. Fernando Vergara/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="289" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Colombia drug eradication. Fernando Vergara/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>More than 150,000 people have been murdered in Mexico since the government launched a ‘war on drugs’ in 2006, and 28,000 others remain disappeared or missing. In the United States, children are dying alone from drug-use because they are too ashamed to seek help. In Thailand, women at the bottom of the drug chain are being incarcerated at alarming levels. If you talk to academics, activists and people caught on the frontline of the ‘war on drugs’, one thing quickly becomes clear: after five decades of criminalisation and militarisation, it has failed, and its tragedies are countless. Here are just seven reasons why the cost of this failure affects us all.</span></p> <h2>1. I<span style="line-height: 1.5;">f you live in the global north, then you are already implicated in the hypocrisy of the drug control system</span></h2> <p><iframe frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/CPPDfbFyDNg" height="259" width="460"></iframe><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The enforcement of global drug policy is overwhelmingly focused on the global south, and drugs such as cocaine and heroin. This is despite synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine dominating the market. In fact, it is the global north which is the primary space for manufacture and export of illicit substances. “Why are Colombia, Bolivia and Afghanistan acceptable theatres for violent, weaponised counter-narcotics operations, and not Poland or Canada,”&nbsp;</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/julia-buxton/myths-moralism-and-hypocrisy-drive-international-drug-control-system">asks professor Julia Buxton</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. <em><strong><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcST614kP8E" target="_blank">Español</a></strong></em></span></p> <h2>2.&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">By some estimates, more people have died in the Mexican and Colombian ‘war on drugs’ than in Syria</span></h2> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-21525582.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Protest for the &#039;Ayotzinapa 43&#039;. Eduardo Verdugo/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-21525582.jpg" alt="Protest for the 'Ayotzinapa 43'. Eduardo Verdugo/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Protest for the &#039;Ayotzinapa 43&#039;. Eduardo Verdugo/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protest for the 'Ayotzinapa 43'. Eduardo Verdugo/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">As journalist Johann Hari, who immersed himself in the politics of the drug wars for his book&nbsp;</span><em>Chasing the Scream</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;">,&nbsp;</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/johann-hari/degree-of-racism-is-insane-johann-hari-on-war-on-drugs">tells us</a><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/johann-hari/degree-of-racism-is-insane-johann-hari-on-war-on-drugs">:</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;“it’s worth remembering that more people have died in drug war violence in Mexico and Colombia, than have died in the war in Syria”. And of course we should talk about Syria – but do we give narcotics bloodshed as much attention? “That violence, we could end”, Hari says.</span></span></p> <h2><span style="line-height: 1.5;">3. Latin America’s rightward drift may slow the tide of reform</span></h2> <p><iframe frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2jkhfmW0fHY" height="259" width="460"></iframe><span style="line-height: 1.5;">So much of the movement against the drug control system has come from Latin American countries, which have borne the brunt of the violence. And if there is to be change, it must also be driven on a hemispheric level. But the end of the ‘pink tide’ (the wave of leftist governments across the region), a resurgent right in Latin America, along with reluctance on the part of the world's historically powerful countries to face up to a problem they do not see as their own, poses a challenge for any progressive future for drug control.</span></p> <h2><span style="line-height: 1.5;">4. Meanwhile, women are suffering from our most punitive drug policies</span></h2> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Drugs_OD1_Women (1) (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Drugs_OD1_Women (1) (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="440" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Across Latin America, the escalating incarceration levels for women are being driven by a punitive drug control system. Most of these women have been convicted for low-level, nonviolent offences. This is a global problem. In Thailand, 80% of the female prison population have been jailed for drug-related crime. “It is important to stress that these women do not pose a threat to society”,&nbsp;</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/coletta-youngers-nischa-pieris/women-are-bearing-brunt-of-our-most-punitive-drug-policies">write Coletta Youngers and Nischa Pieris</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, “they are arrested for low-level tasks, but are locked up in pre-trial detention or with excessive prison terms.”&nbsp;</span></span></p> <h2><span style="line-height: 1.5;">5. And "our children are dying"</span></h2> <p><iframe frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/9exDuJ3AkQM" height="259" width="460"></iframe><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Back in April, we spoke to the Caravan activists – a remarkable group of people who have lost loved ones because of the violence and failures of prohibitionist drug controls. Tamara Olt’s son died, using alone, because of the stigma and shame associated with drug-use. “My story is way too common,” she told us. “Our children are dying. The billions of dollars and a failed war on drugs – there has to be another answer.”</span></p> <h2>6.&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">This hasn’t just been a failure, it’s been an expensive one too</span></h2> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-12541648 copy_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Needle exchange programme, Portland, Maine 2012. Press Association/Robert F. Bukaty. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-12541648 copy_0.jpg" alt="Needle exchange programme, Portland, Maine 2012. Press Association/Robert F. Bukaty. All rights reserved." title="Needle exchange programme, Portland, Maine 2012. Press Association/Robert F. Bukaty. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Needle exchange programme, Portland, Maine 2012. Press Association/Robert F. Bukaty. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">It’s not only the $100 billion spent by governments to prop up the drug control regime, but also the value of the illegal drug market which has been created out of the system, estimated at $330 billion. What if we invested in&nbsp;</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/joanne-csete/our-drug-policy-system-is-expensive-failure-what-are-alternatives">good quality treatment for addiction</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;instead? &nbsp;</span></span></p> <h2><span style="line-height: 1.5;">7. Our drug laws are premised on fear and notions of security, when they should be based on evidence and safety</span></h2> <p><iframe frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/QleBGXF-nV0" height="259" width="460"></iframe><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“Proper drugs education, which is based on science, and which is not based on perpetuating fear, is the only way forward”, says Julia Buxton. It’s time to introduce safety, from a public health perspective, into drug policy. “Drug policy is fundamentally not about security, because this notion of security won’t protect my child, and won’t protect other people’s children.”</span></p> <p>The violence and inequity caused by bad drug policies aren’t easy to unravel, but they are part of a story that is important to understand. Because, as with so many other tragedies across the world, the roots of it are always closer to home than you may realise. <em><strong><a target="_blank" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKxI4jIMwGE">Español</a></strong></em></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/opendemocracy/9-things-we-ve-learned-from-50-year-war-on-drugs">9 things we’ve learned from a 50-year war on drugs</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/julia-buxton/myths-moralism-and-hypocrisy-drive-international-drug-control-system">Myths, moralism, and hypocrisy drive the international drug control system</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/opendemocracy-dawn-paley/is-capitalism-fuelling-war-on-drugs">Is capitalism fuelling the war on drugs?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> drugpolicy openDemocracy Tue, 18 Oct 2016 17:52:07 +0000 openDemocracy 104547 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Whose morality? Johann Hari on the future of the ‘war on drugs’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/johann-hari-benjamin-ramm/moral-disjunction-johann-hari-on-future-of-war-on-drugs <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“If your morality doesn’t look at the actual practical effects of what you’re doing, it’s not a moral debate, it’s just posturing.”<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" /></a></p> <iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ICBUUammYJY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><strong>Benjamin Ramm:</strong> One of the most interesting developments over the last couple of years has been in the United States, the arch-home of prohibition, where we’ve seen legalisation in states such as Colorado. What do you make of that development?</p> <p><strong>Johann Hari:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> Well there’s so many important things about it. One is that the US is, as we were saying, the country that imposed this war on the rest of the world. So for it to be collapsing from within, due to democratic votes from ordinary Americans, could not be more powerful and encouraging to reform movements across the world. It’s the reason why Latin America is speaking up. If the US had remained frozen in prohibition and threats…the US is still threatening people, but it’s much harder for them to do it when they are themselves breaching all the kinds of rules of the drug war.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I think the most important thing about what’s happened in Colorado, Washington and Oregon, is – it’s the same thing that happened everywhere I went, where there has been reform on this. It’s hugely controversial at first, people are really nervous, and then when people see the alternative in practice, support massively goes up. So, you know, you had 55% of people in Colorado voting for legalisation. Now they’ve seen it in practice for two years, 70% of people support it: they’ve raised a huge amount of money in taxes, there’s been a significant decline in cartel smuggling, teenage rates of drug use have remained the same, but it’s still lower than the American average. And even John Hickenlooper, who was the governor who opposed the legalisation, has started saying ‘it seems to work well, this is a good idea.’</span></p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-right" style="line-height: 1.5;">I think the most important thing is the living example of reform.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">So I think the most important thing is the living example of reform, and of course in November, we’re going to have more states voting on whether to legalise – California is obviously the big prize. It looks pretty certain that California is going to vote to legalise, people are expecting a high turn-out because of the insanity that’s occurring. So you’re going to have, you know, by November (obviously it’ll take a little while for the legalisation to actually happen), but you’re going to have very significant parts of the United States with legal cannabis. Not just decriminalised, but legalised, and that’s a really big shift. And you know, by the way, a big majority of Americans are supporting full legalisation nationally.</span></p> <p><strong>Benjamin Ramm:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> You speak about popularity, and I mean the big story over the last week has been in the Philippines, where almost 400 people have been killed and over a thousand arrested and injured. We know that the president who was elected in a landslide has over 90% approval ratings, he served for 30 years as a mayor, implementing very harsh prohibitionist policies. In terms of popular appeal, that type of populist prohibitionism still has an appeal in south-east Asia, in China. How do you challenge that, from civil society?</span></p> <p><strong>Johann Hari:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> This is a big question, and what president Duterte is doing in the Philippines is horrifying. Just so people know, he ran as a kind of Trump-style, mad populist. I mean, actually, it degrades the term ‘populism’ to call him populist, but you know, insane authoritarianism. And he pledged that he would just have summary executions of drug users and drug dealers. And that’s in fact what has begun. There’s been 700 people just shot in the streets – a bit like what happened in Thailand around 2000 when Thaksin Shinawatra did the same thing there. The Asian drug war is a really difficult and painful debate.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I went to Vietnam and it was really disturbing. Basically, about seven years ago now, Vietnamese drug users and drug addicts started to just disappear off the streets, and no one knew what was happening. At first, people thought it might be Thailand-style – just irrationally murdering them. And then about six months later, they started to reappear, and what they described is, they’d basically been put in these – there’s no other word to use here – gulags. The Open Society Foundation have done really good work on this in case people want to look it up. Just forced labour camps, where they were humiliated, shamed, made to do forced labour, in the belief that that would cure them of their addiction.</span></p> <p class="mag-quote-left">&nbsp;They really thought they deserved to be put in these forced labour camps.</p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In fact, as the OSF research showed, 99% of them immediately relapsed, or relapsed very rapidly. And I went and interviewed some of the survivors at these camps and it was really a disconcerting experience because when you interview people, as I did in American prisons, they’re angry, they know – not always, but often – that an injustice has been done to them. They know that they’re in a kind of madness. In Vietnam, it took a while for me to really understand what the people were saying. They really thought they deserved it. They really thought they deserved to be put in these forced labour camps, that they were disgusting people, that they were evil. And that was very challenging. That’s my concern.</span></p> <p><strong>Benjamin Ramm:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> That’s very interesting, I mean there’s double standards in terms of diplomacy as you say, but there’s also a double standard in terms of implementation. I mean obviously, the United States you have written about. We’ve talked about how that doesn’t get enough coverage in terms of the UK, in terms of the disparity between white and black arrests for possession of drugs, but also in France. Now you’ve just written a very interesting piece for </span><em>openDemocracy</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> about </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/johann-hari/training-in-violence-connecting-line-between-france-war-on-drugs-and-jihadism">the relation between jihadism and punitive drug laws</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. Can you tell us a little about that?</span></p> <p><strong>Johann Hari:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> There’s this weird thing about the French debate. So, France is like the US and Britain in that basically, middle-class white people think drugs have already been effectively been decriminalised. And black people are…you speak to French people of African or Arab descent and they are just constantly harassed. France has the most extreme drug laws in western Europe. You can go to prison for five years for having a single joint, it’s extraordinary. And people do get picked up the whole time, constant harassment.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">So partly you have this effect where, and if you look at the biographies of the Kouachi brothers, the guy who did that horrific attack in Nice, almost all the French young men who have been carrying out these atrocious attacks, this is their formative experience of the police. It’s being constantly harassed in a racist way, an explicitly racist way. Police frequently use racist epithets towards these kids. So you have this incredibly racist drug war that makes their neighbourhoods feel like they’re under military occupation and these grotesque and disproportionate punishments. So you partly have that. That’s a factor, right? And I don’t want to overstate it, it is one of many, many factors. But it is a significant factor. So that’s one thing that’s going on.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The second is, how are these people getting guns, right? How do the people who carried out the Bataclan massacre and the others…France has an incredibly intense ‘war for drugs’. So France has a huge drug market, and not coincidently it has the biggest drug war, and also has the worst drug problems. Again, that’s only seen all over the world that these policies not only don’t work, they actually make the problems worse. So France has this</span><strong> </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">very intense drug war and the highest drug use in western Europe. And when you ban drugs, they don’t disappear, obviously. They’re transferred from doctors and pharmacists to armed criminal gangs. And those armed criminal gangs fight for the market.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">France has an incredibly intense ‘war for drugs’. I mean it’s come to light, and briefly got news coverage in France, when Manuel Valls – the prime minister – was in Marseille and a gunfight between rival drug gangs just broke out across the street. And at the moment they thought it was a terrorist attack, and then were like ‘no, no, just a typical afternoon in Marseille’, you know. So you have these huge networks of criminals, which these guys are all connected to through drug dealing, that then also supplies violence. Also means these young men grow up in a climate where violence is not only normalised, but actually necessary to operate in this market.</span></p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-right" style="line-height: 1.5;">Violence is not only normalised, but actually necessary to operate in this market.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">And so they grow up with a training in violence, a training in how to use violence, a training of violence being normalised, a training of being made to think that you are a stranger within the society, that you are under siege, that you are an enemy, an alien, people the police hate, people the police will crack down on really hard, when white people don’t get treated that way. So it just creates a toxic brew that feeds into this wider jihadism. It’s not the main cause, I don’t want to be simplistic about it, but I do think it’s a really significant factor.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I think the British debate is rather depressing; a couple of weeks ago I went on the </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07lhgqs">Radio 4 Moral Maze debate</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> and oh god…</span></p> <p><strong>Benjamin Ramm:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> You got a grilling, I think it’s fair to say?</span></p> <p><strong>Johann Hari:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> Oh no, it wasn’t that I mind being challenged, but it was just the whole way the thing was framed as in like, you know, the debate here is, ‘is drug use evil?’ You know, really, are we still talking in this backward, childish way?</span></p> <p><strong>Benjamin Ramm:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> Isn’t this one of the problems, in that, I think what you argue quite persuasively </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://chasingthescream.com/">in the book</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> and one you hear drug reformers saying, is that there is a strong, really powerful moral argument for reform, not least for the consequences of current policies in Latin American supply countries. Isn’t the problem here that reformers have not engaged in the language of ethics enough, and they’ve left the language of morality to prohibitionists like Melanie Phillips who you were up against on the Moral Maze?</span></p> <p><strong>Johann Hari:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> I think there’s something in that, that sometimes it can be a bit like the Brexit debate – where you had one side saying, ‘brown people are coming to rape and kill you’ and you have the other side going, ‘we don’t give 350 million pounds a week to the European Union, we give 200 million pounds a week to them.’ And you’ve just got to see the disjunction between those two rhetorical modes. It is catastrophic for our side, right? And in the same way, if you’ve got someone like Melanie Phillips going ‘you believe in evil’, and actually to try reply with a kind of technocratic thing saying ‘well actually, we would save X million pounds a year’…actually no. The system that Melanie Phillips supports – and to be fair there aren’t that many prohibitionists in Britain at all like her – is literally killing enormous numbers of people.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">We had the highest number of deaths in Britain due to addiction-related causes in the last year, that we have ever had. More than 3000 people, more people than died in the World Trade Centre. Enormous numbers of those people would have lived if we’d done what Switzerland and Portugal have done. So I think the debate is complex because firstly – and to be fair, Melanie Phillips doesn’t represent the mainstream of the British drug debate at all, although except that she’s sincere and genuinely thinks people will be better off, and this is part of the frustrating thing about the ‘moral debate’.</span></p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-left" style="line-height: 1.5;">You’ve just got to see the disjunction between those two rhetorical modes.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">If your morality doesn’t look at the actual practical effects of what you’re doing, it’s not a moral debate, it’s just posturing. You know, if you can do a kind of ‘addicts are disgusting, drug use is evil’…I don’t think either of those things is true, but even if you believe them, if the practical effect of that is far more people die, and far more people get addicted to drugs as well, as we know from the overwhelming evidence…this is as uncontroversial as saying that fossil fuel emissions cause global warming (which also Melanie Phillips doesn’t believe, but anyway)…</span></p> <p><strong>Benjamin Ramm:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> So, if we acknowledge this is a global system of institutionalised cruelty that particularly disproportionately hits not just poorer people in developed societies, but largely those in developing countries always take the brunt of it, is it not time for a sort of global abolitionist movement that makes primarily a moral case that we are taking part and voting for time and again, an amoral global system?</span></p> <p><strong>Johann Hari:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> Absolutely, and I think that movement is forming, and one of the most moving experiences I’ve had talking about that was in Colombia. One of the things I said when I first spoke in Colombia was that ‘the world owes you all a massive apology for what we’ve done to you. You know, what we’ve done is unforgivable.’ And it was really interesting because I remember one young woman said, ‘no one has ever said that to us before, we’ve always been told that we were the evil ones.’ So I think what you’ve got is this movement forming – you know, you literally saw it with your own eyes at the </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/mike-trace/impasse-turning-point-for-war-on-drugs-un-general-assembly-special-session">UNGASS</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> – I think we have got a movement forming, that is exactly saying that this is not a debate between on the one side, the moral argument, and on the other side the pragmatic, ‘oh well, we’ve got to accept evil.’</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I’ll tell you what’s profoundly immoral. What’s profoundly immoral is to kill 200,000 people in the ‘war for drugs’ in the last seven years alone. What’s profoundly immoral is to take the most vulnerable people in our society and condemn them to die horribly when they could live and have better lives and have their lives turned around. And what’s immoral also is to take drug users, most of whom (the vast majority of whom) are not addicts, and punish them for something that’s purely giving them pleasure and not harming anyone else, when it’s in a legal context. So I think the trifecta of immorality is involved in that, which I’ve seen, as you know, in so many countries now – that’s a moral scandal, right?</span></p> <p><strong>Benjamin Ramm:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> So finally, people watching and listening to this, what would you say to them in terms of getting them engaged to petition, to advocate for drug reform?</span></p> <p><strong>Johann Hari:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> It’s strange, I’ve been to I think 15 or 16 countries, and the difference between the ones where they’d adopted reform – and they had much lower levels of addiction, much lower levels of fatal overdose, much lower levels of violence in the places that had legalised – the difference between them and the places where it was catastrophe was really simple. The places where it was better were places where small numbers of people organised, banded together, and didn’t give up. Why did Colorado legalise cannabis? I told this story in </span><em>Chasing the Scream</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;">: small groups of friends, in Colorado, 12 years ago now, just thought ‘you know what, we can get this on the ballot, and we can persuade enough people here to do that.’ And people thought they were crazy, they were told they were kooks, there was only 10% in support of legalisation, they were regarded as loons, and they didn’t give up, and they kept doing it, and they gave us our Berlin wall moment.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">And I tell the story of – perhaps the most extraordinary person I’ve ever met – Bud Osborn, he was a homeless drug addict in Vancouver who started a movement for drug reform in Vancouver that has transformed Canadian law and is about to lead to the fact that Canada will be the second country after Uruguay to fully legalise cannabis again. And the thing that was the most striking to me –in the time I’ve been promoting the book, a year and a half since it came out, very often TV people say to me, ‘so who can we get to be on the other side?’ It’s really hard for them to find anyone who will defend the ‘war on drugs’ in public. That’s how hollow it is. They have to go to like, the craziest Republican congressman or you know, a handful of right-wing commentators like Peter Hitchens, who actually I quite like.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">So this is a hollow policy, it is there to be taken down, but every day we don’t do that, every day we don’t form a movement, more people die, more people are butchered in Ciudad Juárez, and in Calais, more people are stabbed in London in these fights between drug gangs, more people die of overdose, who should be living and should be alive with us, and should be having good lives. So the sooner we organise this, the sooner – and it’s actually, the encouraging thing about Britain is that there’s already a majority for legalising cannabis in Britain, right? It’s just that, because there’s no public pressure, because there’s no movement – we have the best groups doing drug policy analysis in the world in Britain, </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.tdpf.org.uk/">Transform</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> are amazing. What we don’t yet have is public pressure and organised movements to make that happen on the model of the gay rights movement, or so many other movements.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">So we can win this. There’s some things that you and I strongly believe in, but I’m not sure that, even if we did the most noble and best fight, we would win it. Global warming is one of them, that’s slightly problematic since we do need a planet, but you know, I hope we can win, but I’m not sure. With this, if we fight, we will win. And the sooner we do it, the more lives we’ll save. &nbsp;</span></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This video is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/johann-hari/training-in-violence-connecting-line-between-france-war-on-drugs-and-jihadism">‘A training in violence’: the connecting line between France’s ‘war on drugs’ and jihadism</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> drugpolicy Benjamin Ramm Johann Hari Fri, 19 Aug 2016 16:25:08 +0000 Johann Hari and Benjamin Ramm 104869 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘A training in violence’: the connecting line between France’s ‘war on drugs’ and jihadism https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/johann-hari/training-in-violence-connecting-line-between-france-war-on-drugs-and-jihadism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In France, there are many ways in which the pool of violence caused by drug prohibition bleeds into home-grown jihadism. But there is an alternative.</p> <p><em>Listen to a recorded audio version of this article.</em><br /> <iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/298993596%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-we3ja&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=true&amp;show_comments=false&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false"></iframe></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-24749779.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Soldiers on the streets of Paris. Thibault Camus/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-24749779.jpg" alt="Soldiers on the streets of Paris. Thibault Camus/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Soldiers on the streets of Paris. Thibault Camus/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Soldiers on the streets of Paris, November 2015. Thibault Camus/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p>For two years now, the world has been watching as France is subjected to the most vicious jihadi attacks of any European country. From the murder of the staff of Charlie Hebdo, to the massacre of partying twenty-somethings at the Bataclan, to the driving of a truck into the crowds celebrating Bastille Day, the most obvious question is – why France? Why are such a disproportionate number of their own citizens behaving this way?</p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Last year, I travelled around France, to research an additional chapter for the French edition of my book </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.chasingthescream.com"><em>Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs</em></a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. There are many complex reasons why France is facing more home-grown jihadism than any other western country – but on my journey, it was explained to me by many people that there is one key reason that is barely being debated. France has the most extreme and intense ‘war on drugs’ in western Europe – and there is growing evidence that there is a connecting line from that fact, to this wider crisis.</span></p> <h2><strong>“We have the power to kill you”</strong></h2> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">One afternoon, in the late 1980s, a 12-year-old boy was playing in the street with his friends. They all lived in the notorious district of Paris known as 93; but it was peaceful that day. If you had seen these boys playing together, you might have noticed that Fabrice Olivet looked a little different. They were all white, while Fabrice’s father came from Benin, a former French colony, so he was black. To these kids, it made no difference – they all played together, as French children, in the French capital, on a summer day.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Suddenly, the police approached the boys. A bike had been stolen, they said. They looked past the white kids, ignoring them, and immediately went to Fabrice. He, they believed, must have done it.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Most of the non-white French citizens I spoke with had a story like this in their adolescence – a moment when they realised the officials of the French state were going to treat them differently to their white friends. And for most of them, it centred around the drug laws.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">As Fabrice got older, he started – like most French teenagers – to smoke cannabis. French teens have some of the highest levels of cannabis use in Europe, and I noticed that my white, middle-class friends in France seemed to think drugs were already effectively decriminalised. The police don’t bother them about it; it’s no big deal. By contrast, the French people of Arab or African descent I got to know told a different story.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">When Fabrice was sixteen, the police stopped him on the street – as they do routinely to non-white kids, and very rarely to white kids – and they found a small bag of cannabis in his shoe. They took him to the local police station, and there, they started to mock and insult him. They said he had drugs because he was black, and he should go back to his own country.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Then – as Fabrice recalls – they took out a gun, and put it to his head, and said: “We are going to kill you! We have the power to kill you.”</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">All over the world, the ‘war on drugs’ has been waged largely against minority groups who the society already wanted – consciously or unconsciously – to keep out, or keep down. In the US, the National Survey on Household Drug Abuse found that African-Americans are no more likely to sell or use drugs than any other ethnic group – yet they make up the overwhelming majority of people punished for it. At any given time, 40% of African-American men between the ages of 15 and 35 are in prison, on probation, or have a warrant out for their arrest – and the majority are for drug-related offences.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-right" style="line-height: 1.5;">The war on drugs is targeted on people of colour.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Fabrice and I sat outside a café in Saint-Denis, in Paris, drinking coffee and looking out over high-rise apartment blocks. Fabrice is a tall man, with long limbs, and an air of distant sadness.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In France, he told me, “the war on drugs is targeted on people of colour,” just as much as in the US. “When you ask ordinary people about drugs, they always talk about Arabs, and the suburbs, and say – ‘Arabs are selling drugs. This is the problem.’ And in fact, Michelle Alexander [who wrote a book about the racism of the drug war in the US called </span><em>The New Jim Crow</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;">] showed very clearly that this problem is always used as a weapon for racism. It is exactly the same in France.”</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“All these problems we have – including this problem of Charlie [Hebdo] – are connected to this problem,” he explained to me. “The relationship between police and the people of colour of this country is very bad. The question of drug policy is a secret story of this big mess.”</span></p> <h2><strong>Tracing a pattern</strong></h2> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">There are many ways, I learned, in which the drug war bleeds into jihadism.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The first is that the ‘war on drugs’ has given the police a pretext to constantly harass non-white French citizens, on the street, and in their homes – to go after them almost constantly. France’s drug laws are the most severe in western Europe. This is one of the only democratic countries where drug </span><em>use ­</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;">– as opposed to possession – is a crime, and people can be sent to prison for it. You can be sent to prison for a year for a single joint, and five years for a single plant.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The result is that many of the </span><em>banlieues –</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> the ugly concrete suburbs of poverty that donut French cities – often look like they are under military occupation. I walked around the battered city of Sevran with Jean-Luc Garcia, a big, bulky former member of the French gendarmerie, who belonged for many years to a unit whose job is to keep public order. When violence broke out, he was one of the first people sent, to restore order. It’s the kind of work that people on the French right really admire, and he looks and sounds, at first glance, like a typical voter for the UMP – or maybe even the Front National.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">As we paced the streets, Jean-Luc began to tell me about how he realised something about France’s drug war. Since he was 17, he has smoked cannabis every now and then. He is a typical French citizen. It helps him to relax, he says, and doesn’t seem to cause him any problems. His job was physically demanding – he was often attacked – and he never under-performed.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Yet as a police officer, he was being sent into places that he felt were being attacked and destroyed, just to suppress drug use just like his own. One day, he had to supervise a young prisoner who had been arrested, and get him to court. The young man had been found with 200 grams of cannabis. Jean-Luc stood in the court-room and watched as the judge refused every request for mercy. He was sent to prison. “We have a law that is very harsh,” he tells me, “but it’s not efficient.” And Jean-Luc wondered: was the boy being treated especially brutally because he was brown-skinned? Why did they only ever seem to go to non-white neighbourhoods to do drug busts?</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The more he watched France’s ‘war on drugs’, the more he began to worry about this question, although his concern became deeper and more complex. “It’s not only about racism,” he tells me. “It’s mostly about a kind of class war – a war against people who are in poor conditions. Mostly if you are white, brown or black skinned – if you are living in those places where social conditions are not good, then you are confronted more by law enforcement.”</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Fabrice had explained to me what it does to your head, to be subjected to this from when you hit puberty. It makes many young Arab and Muslim kids feel the French state is persecuting them. “When you see such a mess, people are going to Islam to be protected,” he says. “Because they feel it is the only way to be recognised as what they are – people of colour, living in France, people from originally a different culture. They want just to be recognised for what they are.”</span></p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-left" style="line-height: 1.5;">This was a core part of their formative experience as French citizens.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Fabrice has seen it happen to many people. The constant police harassment makes the messages of fundamentalist groups – you’ll never be French; they’ll never accept you; a democratic society is a con; white people get to use and sell drugs with impunity, while you get condemned for it – seem more plausible.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">For almost all the people who have carried out murderous attacks in the past two years, this was a core part of their formative experience as French citizens. Sharif and Said Kouachi – who committed the murders at Charlie Hebdo – had been drug users and dealers. Amedy Coulibaly, who murdered Jewish people in a supermarket on the day of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, had been picked up by the police for drug offences. The Bataclan killers, the Nice murderer – the pattern runs across almost all of them.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The unusual intensity of the French drug war – and its racist focus – has led to more disaffection and rage from its targets. Nobody is suggesting this is the only or even the main factor; but it is a significant one. It’s a key reason why Fabrice set up Auto-Support Des Usagers De Drogues (ASUD), the Association of Drug Users, to fight for a more honest debate.</span></p> <h2><strong>A ‘war for drugs’</strong></h2> <p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YR9Wc4y8dOg" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">But this is only the first way in which this relationship between the drug war and jihadi attacks plays out.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">As we walked through Sevran, the former gendarmerie officer Jean-Luc Garcia explained to me: “There is no other way to describe the consequences of these anti-drugs laws, than by comparing it to US alcohol prohibition. We have the same consequences, with the same process,” he says.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">When you ban drugs, they don’t vanish. Instead, they are transferred from legal, licensed businesses, to armed criminal gangs. Legal businesses have recourse to the law to protect their property – so they don’t commit acts of violence. An illegal trader obviously can’t go to the police to protect their property – so they have to establish their trade, and maintain their trade, through violence. They have to fight. As the American writer Charles Bowden put it, the ‘war on drugs’ creates a ‘war for drugs’.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">That’s why in many parts of France, Jean-Luc explained, “when you have the prohibitionist system, then after you have criminal gangs that are ruling the streets and part of the society.” He continued: “There is a logic here. If you see people who are willing to use Kalashnikovs to save their business – that’s part of the deal. It’s not for pleasure that they are using Kalashnikovs,” he tells me, shaking his head. The more you crack down on drugs, the more their power grows, he adds: “Prohibition as a system is a way to promote and help criminals.”</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">This relates to fundamentalist violence in several ways. It means that these young men who later become jihadis grow up in an environment where carrying out acts of systematic violence is normalised. It’s part of growing up. You get your early training in violence – and the internal deadening you need in order to carry it out – by fighting rival dealers.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">And it means they grow up in an environment where it’s not hard to get hold of guns, through the same criminal distribution networks that bring them drugs, and not hard to learn how to use them. The German defector from Isis, Harry Sarfo, </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/04/world/middleeast/isis-german-recruit-interview.html?_r=0">recently explained</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> that a key concern for Isis is getting guns to their supporters in Europe. The ‘war for drugs’ makes that far easier. These are cities and </span><em>banlieues</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> awash with guns, for that very reason.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">To understand how normalised this violence has become, I went to see Stéphane Gatignon, the mayor of Sevran. In the year leading up to our conversation, he had to tell eight mothers that their sons have been killed in the ‘war for drugs’. He knows the number will only grow. “It’s unbearable. To have to tell a mother that her son has been shot dead. It’s awful,” he said, and looked away.</span></p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-right" style="line-height: 1.5;">When you ban drugs, they don’t vanish.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Sevran is a city to the north-east of Paris, with nearly 50,000 residents, and it’s notorious as a hub for the prohibited drug trade. Stéphane has been the mayor since 2001 – and it has given him an education in what the ‘war on drugs’ really means. He knows that most people in France believe the drug war is something that happens somewhere else – a problem for the Americans and Mexicans, maybe. “That’s quite typical French thinking – that we have our own [very different] problems, but it’s nonsensical,” he tells me. “France has been a little bit blind. We should try to open our eyes and look at the real origins of the problems.”</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In fact, far from being absent, he believes this is an urgent crisis for France. He says: “This question of the current drug laws is something that’s of deep concern when you look at the situation in France – with a society that is quite close to exploding.”</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">A local mayor can’t be removed from the reality on the ground, in the way that national politicians can. He talked about the drug-map of Sevran – and what it means for ordinary residents – with forensic detail. “When you have a mother in such places that are pressured by dealers, who want to buy her silence, or want to use her flat as a place to stash their stuff, that’s an increase in violence that pushes the people to madness. When you have to show your ID card when you want to enter your own home, because the entrance is owned by the dealers, then there is a level of violence that’s massive – and it can drive people crazy.”</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The former head of the French drug squad, Olivier Foll, has noted that there are 843 “no-go zones run by drug gangs,” creating “a state inside the state.”</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">There is so much chaos in the city, and drug prohibition makes it so impossible to establish control, that Stéphane Gatignon even appealed for the UN to send blue helmet peace-keepers to Sevran.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“We know that the fatal shootings are a result of our drug prohibition policy,” Stéphane said to me. “That’s a fact.”</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">When you have significant parts of your country flooded by guns, and where young people are being trained to commit violence and regard it as normal, and where the police are regarded as a despised occupying force that nobody will co-operate with, that will empower people who want to carry out violence in other causes. That’s a key reason why the pool of violence caused by drug prohibition overlaps so tightly with the pool of violence caused by jihadism.</span></p> <h2><strong>A field of flowers</strong></h2> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">There is an alternative. It is playing out in France now.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">All across France, there are fields, where opium poppies grow. These poppies are used to make heroin. There is no violence associated with these poppies, or the heroin they produce. Nobody fights or dies for them.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The people who use the heroin do not become sick. They do not develop abscesses, or have to have their limbs amputated.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">This is because these poppies – and the resulting heroin – are part of a legal trade. France is one of a handful of countries that has been granted permission by the United Nations to grow opiates legally, for the global pain relief market. (The others are Turkey, India, Australia, Spain, and Hungary). They go to make the heroin that is used in hospitals across the developed world.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The problems associated with the ‘heroin trade’ follow these flowers, or the factories where they are refined, or the users who feel it run through their veins.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">That is because these problems are not, in fact, problems caused by the drug itself. They are caused by the prohibition of the drug.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">When a drug is legal, nobody goes to war for it. Just as there are no violent alcohol dealers in Chicago today, there are now no violent heroin dealers in Switzerland – just across the border with France – where they have legalised heroin for addicts. (They have also had literally no fatal overdoses on legal heroin in Switzerland since the policy change was introduced over a decade ago.)</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">One day soon, when you are driving through the French countryside, you may see these poppy fields. Try to picture them as a vision of what France can be – if it chooses a different path.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Yet only a handful of public figures are ready to see this. The US has a horrific drug war – but it also has a vibrant debate about it, and real progress, with four states now fully legalising cannabis, and more likely to follow. In France, the debate is shrouded in silence at best, and crude moralism at worst. There is – in particular – a remarkable blindness to the racism of this war. Today, there are 210,000 people arrested for drug offences in France every year, and 60% are just for using drugs a single time. In any other European country, we would know what proportion of those arrests are of non-white people. These figures would be gathered as a matter of course by the government. I suspect we would find it is the vast majority.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">But Olivier Maguet, who works for l’Association Française Pour La Réduction des Risques Liés à l’Usage Des Drogues (AFR), explained to me: “It’s forbidden in this country to have a database including the race of people.” It is literally illegal for the government to gather these statistics. You don’t know how much more likely non-white citizens are to be victimised by the drug war, because it is against the law to count.</span></p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-left" style="line-height: 1.5;">There is a remarkable blindness to the racism of this war.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Whenever I asked others why this was the case, I would be given long and abstract lectures about how France has a concept of citizenship, derived from their revolution, that believes all citizens should be treated equally before the law. I admire that tradition, strongly. It is the right approach. But the way to uphold the idea of equal citizenship, and equality before the law, is to check whether you live up to it in practice – not to cover your eyes and ears and declare your abstract purity. To use the fact that no statistics are gathered as evidence that France’s drug war is not racist would be like banning HIV tests, and then announcing that there is no AIDS in France. Yet that is the position of the government.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In fact, it goes further: the debate about the drug war is officially suppressed. In France, it is a crime to talk about illegal drug use in “a positive light.” The Body Shop was even </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.drugtext.org/European-Drug-Laws/chapter-4-france-drug-use-and-supply-illegal-possession-undefined-situation-unsatisfactory.html">prosecuted</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> a few years ago for selling cream to treat dry skin, made in part from hemp, because it had a cannabis leaf on its label.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In the nation of Voltaire, in the country that rallied so inspiringly to defend free speech in light of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, this has a significant chilling effect on the debate, and it may be one reason why France has the smallest legalisation movement of any European country I know. It certainly makes people afraid to promote safer ways of using drugs, like testing ecstasy tablets for any contaminants they might contain. Activists who would like to do that work told me they are too frightened to do it.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Dr Anne Coppell – one of the bravest voices for change in France – explained to me: “That’s our main contradiction. We have a discourse of the rights of man, democracy – but…” She laughed sadly, and waves her hand though the air. “In Germany, they are more pragmatic. Their cities had a problem in the 80s, so they tried to solve it. They asked Amsterdam – how did you solve it? And they followed. The same for Switzerland. In France, it’s not a pragmatic approach – it’s an ideological debate… We are not pragmatic. That is a very big problem we have.”</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The French approach, I said to her, sounds remarkably like the US approach. “In Europe, I think France is very near the States… But [French] politicians follow the American policy – except they don’t understand that the Americans are changing. So they follow a policy that has no chief any more.”</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">And – not coincidentally – the country with the harshest drug war in western Europe also has one of the highest levels of drug use in the European Union – and the worst rate of teenagers using drugs. More than half a million French people use a prohibited drug every day; 1.2 million use regularly; and a further 3.8 million use occasionally. These figures are considerably worse than in countries where full decriminalisation has happened. For example: 39% of French 15- and 16-year-olds have smoked cannabis, compared to 19% in Portugal, where all drugs were decriminalised in 2001. This means a 15-year-old in Portugal, where it has been legal to use cannabis for her whole life, is </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://healthland.time.com/2010/11/23/portugals-drug-experience-new-study-confirms-decriminalization-was-a-success/">half</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> as likely to use cannabis as her equivalent in France, where there has been a drug war raging for her whole life.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">All this, then, is for nothing.</span></p> <h2><strong>“We know the solution”</strong></h2> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">How could things be different from France, if they took their success in legalising and regulating the market for opium poppies, and broadened it to include other drugs?</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">For </span><em>Chasing The Scream</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, I went to the countries that have adopted the most severe possible drug policies, and the countries that have adopted the most compassionate possible drug policies. In the countries that had chosen compassion and regulation – from Portugal, where all drugs have been decriminalised, to Switzerland, where heroin was legalised for addicts – I noticed a pattern in the evidence.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Everywhere that has moved away from strict prohibition has seen a fall in hostility between the police, and marginalised groups. And where they have chosen a system of legal regulation, they have seen a significant decline in violence, and in criminal networks.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">These are, of course, long-term trends. Nobody thinks they’re a simple (or sole) answer to a very complex question. But if France moved towards regulating its drug trade, it would – over time – see several changes. The police would not have a license to harass and militarise communities where non-white people live. Those communities would become less hostile and traumatised. There would be significantly less violence in those communities: professor Jeffrey Miron has shown how the murder rate in the US plummeted dramatically when alcohol prohibition ended. With violence less normalised, this violence would spill over into other causes less. And the networks that distribute deadly weapons – which at the moment are simply a sub-set of the drug trade – would be much easier to break up.</span></p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center" style="line-height: 1.5;">If somebody came from space, from another planet, he would think – how is this possible?</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“We know the solution” to France’s drug crisis, Fabrice Olivet, whose harassment by the police began when he was 12-years-old, told me. “If somebody came from space, from another planet, he would think – how is this possible? Because it’s very easy to solve it… But you have a lot of difficulty to explain very simple things to ordinary people, because prohibition is a big propaganda [success] – the most efficient propaganda I had ever seen.” The challenge today, he says, is “to get ordinary people out of their beliefs that drugs exist by themselves – that drugs are some kind of ghost that arrive in a place and take people over, and you have to fight this ghost with the military, and weapons.”</span></p> <h2><strong>Another world</strong></h2> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Not long after cannabis was legalised in Colorado, Jean-Luc Garcia, the gendarmerie officer who turned against France’s drug war, flew there, to see what it looked like. He went into a legal store on the streets of Denver. He noticed a few things at once. There was no criminality involved with the trade any more. There were no crack-downs. There was no chaos. There were no Kalashnikovs. All the violence had been taken out of the trade. People were paying taxes on the cannabis they bought, and “this money will be used in a normal way,” he says, not to fund more crime.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">He noticed that on the wall of the legal cannabis store, there was a map of the world, where visitors could stick a pin to show where they were from, and where they would like to see this model of safer, regulated drug use spread.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Jean-Luc took out a pin, and he pressed it into the little dot that represented Paris. If he’s right, Paris would become a place where – in time – these vicious jihadi attacks became less likely.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Johann Hari’s New York Times-bestselling book </em><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.chasingthescream.com"><em>Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs</em></a><em> is available in paperback now. This article draws on the French edition of the book, </em><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.slatkineetcompagnie.com/catalogue/brimade-des-stups/"><em>La Brimade Des Stups</em></a><em>, published by Slatkine.</em></p> <p><em>Listen to a recorded audio version of this article courtesy of curio.io.</em></p> <iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/298993596%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-we3ja&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=true&amp;show_comments=false&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false"></iframe> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/kirsten-han/how-discovering-truth-about-singapore-s-war-on-drugs-led-me-to-campaign-to-abolish-death">I discovered the truth about Singapore&#039;s &#039;war on drugs&#039;. Now I campaign against the death penalty</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Listen drugpolicy Johann Hari Fri, 19 Aug 2016 12:46:36 +0000 Johann Hari 104856 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Turkey successfully legalised and regulated its opium production. Could Mexico? https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/george-murkin/turkey-successfully-legalised-and-regulated-its-opium-production-could-mexico <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>That’s the question asked by the governor of the biggest opium-producing state in Mexico – a state which, unsurprisingly, is also one of the most violent.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" /></a></p> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-22177169.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Opium grower, Guerrero state, Mexico, 2015. Dario Lopez-Mills/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-22177169.jpg" alt="Opium grower, Guerrero state, Mexico, 2015. Dario Lopez-Mills/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Opium grower, Guerrero state, Mexico, 2015. Dario Lopez-Mills/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Opium grower, Guerrero state, Mexico, 2015. Dario Lopez-Mills/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The opium poppy flourishes all over the world, from the war-torn districts of Helmand to the sleepy fields of Hampshire. But these vastly different cultivation sites are linked to vastly different trades. In the UK, opium poppies are grown to produce vital pain-relieving drugs for the legal medical market, while in Afghanistan, the same plants are grown to produce heroin, a risky, illegal drug, the market for which enriches and empowers organised crime groups, enabling them to corrupt, kidnap and kill with impunity. </p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">But is it possible to move from this scenario to one more resembling the first? That’s the question asked recently by the governor of the biggest opium-producing state in Mexico – a state which, unsurprisingly, also happens to be one of the most violent. The opium poppies grown in Guerrero state supply approximately half the heroin consumed in the United States. And given that the US is in the midst of an opioid epidemic that has led to </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6450a3.htm?s_cid=mm6450a3_w">more than 28,000 overdose deaths</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, there’s plenty of demand to ensure supply continues. &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p><p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;"></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Guerrero is so intertwined with the illicit heroin trade that, according to one estimate, </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.excelsior.com.mx/nacional/2016/04/20/1087674">at least 1,287 communities</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> in the state are economically dependent on opium poppy cultivation. Contrary to the stereotypes about the kinds of people involved in illicit drug markets, these communities are driven by need, not greed – legal means of survival are few and far between. As the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Mexico </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/30/world/americas/mexican-opium-production-rises-to-meet-heroin-demand-in-us.html">has said</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">: “It is not the drug production that generates underdevelopment; it is the lack of development that generates the opium cultivation.”</span></p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Leaving aside the issue of whether it’s actually possible (it’s not), simply eradicating the opium poppies in Guerrero is likely to have dire economic consequences for its citizens. Hence the proposal mooted by the state’s governor – to allow these communities to produce opium for the legal medical market – may be a more sustainable solution to the local problem. If the farmers supplied a licensed and regulated trade, instead of a violent, criminal one, then it could go some way towards disempowering the cartels that are currently making huge profits from their harvests – that is, provided action is also taken to address the illicit demand for opioids used non-medically.</span></p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">This type of transition is not without precedent. As described in a </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.tdpf.org.uk/blog/turkey%E2%80%99s-opium-trade-successfully-transitioning-illicit-production-legally-regulated-market">new short briefing paper</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> by Transform Drug Policy Foundation, Turkey has successfully navigated such a shift. In 1967, when the country ratified the UN convention which is the foundation of the prohibitionist global drug control system, Turkey was permitted to claim the status of a “traditional opium producing country”, which meant it could continue to cultivate opium poppies (an activity that would otherwise be banned under the convention), as long as production was strictly licensed and for medical purposes only.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">However, it was a rocky road on the way to effective regulation. In the early stages of the new system’s implementation, the authorities struggled to stem the diversion of legally produced opium to the illegal heroin market. By the end of the decade, Turkey was supplying 80% of the heroin used in the US. To get a handle on the problem, a ban on all opium production was introduced in 1972. The ban lasted just two years, by which time the ministry of agriculture had taken the necessary steps to properly license and monitor the growing operations.</span></p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">This resulted in somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 small-scale farmers becoming licensed to cultivate opium poppies, and in 2005 it was estimated that around 600,000 people earned a living from the trade, generating an export income of </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://dspace.cigilibrary.org/jspui/bitstream/123456789/23440/1/The%20Political%20History%20of%20Turkeys%20Opium%20Licensing%20System%20for%20the%20Production%20of%20Medicines%20Lessons%20for%20Afghanistan.pdf?1">over $60 million</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. The licensing system offered Turkish communities an alternative buyer for their opium, helping to reduce illicit production and diversion of legal supplies to such an extent that they are no longer a major concern for the country.</span></p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">But while this was a pragmatic solution to Turkey’s localised illicit opium problem, it caused a problem for countries like Mexico and Afghanistan, where criminal groups simply picked up the slack and capitalised on an opening in the market. This is an example of the ‘balloon effect’, which describes how enforcement, rather than eliminating the drug problem, often merely displaces it to new locations – like air moving around in a squeezed balloon. So although moving opium production from the wrong to the right side of the law may have localised benefits for a state like Guerrero, globally, the harm caused by illicit heroin production is likely to persist unless demand for the drug is met some other way, or is significantly reduced through prevention measures – something that has not proved possible in the past.</span></p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Differences between Mexico’s current situation and Turkey’s several decades ago may also mean that what worked in the past may not work now. In the 1970s, there was a worldwide shortage of opium for the medical market (in part because of the temporary ban Turkey introduced), which meant there was a great deal of demand to be met. </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/mexico-poppy-farmers-1.3495871">In contrast, it has been argued</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> that today there is insufficient global demand to warrant an increase in supply from places like Mexico (although prohibitionist policies and rhetoric have played a part in this, making many poor countries unduly wary of opioid-based medications and thereby leaving the vast majority of the world’s population without adequate access to vital pain-relieving drugs). There are also doubts over whether some Mexican states have the infrastructure and institutions needed to legally regulate opium production. In Guerrero, the rule of law </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.insightcrime.org/news-briefs/report-documents-guerrero-role-mexico-poppy-heroin-epicenter">is reportedly “weak”</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, and in its remote rural regions in particular, state support is almost non-existent. As a result, there is a risk that illicit opium production may simply continue alongside any new licit production systems that are established.</span></p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Nevertheless, this is an important and timely debate to be having. At the UN in April, the president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, called for effective legal regulation of drug markets to replace the failed policies of the so-called ‘war on drugs’. Recent developments in Canada, too, raise broader questions about how to deal with illicit opium production and the heroin market it supplies. There, the government has committed to allowing the prescription of pharmaceutical-grade heroin to long-term dependent users, a controversial-sounding form of treatment that is supported by a substantial body of research from similar successful initiatives in other countries. Such legal, regulated provision of the drug to individuals who would otherwise patronise the illicit market, may, in the long term, be the only way to bring about the reductions in the scale of the heroin trade needed to meaningfully improve security and stability in some of the most fragile nations on Earth. Because as the history of drug policy shows, where demand exists, supply will always find a way – that’s why who controls it could make all the difference.</span></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/luciana-pol/after-insubstantial-un-drugs-summit-last-month-what-s-left-for-latin-america">After an insubstantial UN drugs summit last month, what’s left for Latin America?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> drugpolicy George Murkin Wed, 29 Jun 2016 14:13:46 +0000 George Murkin 103156 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A marijuana arrest that went terribly wrong: the story of Miguel Ángel Durrels https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/center-for-legal-and-social-studies-cels/marijuana-arrest-that-went-terribly-wrong-story-of-miguel-n <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In September 2013, Miguel Ángel Durrels was arrested in Buenos Aires&nbsp;province&nbsp;for marijuana possession. 12 hours later he was found dead in&nbsp;the local&nbsp;police station. His sister has serious doubts that he committed suicide. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/centro-de-estudios-legales-y-sociales/una-detenci-n-por-marihuana-que-termin-de-la">Español</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Heading (31) (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Heading (31) (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="230" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>On 8 September 2013, Miguel Ángel Durrels was on break from his job at a polo horse farm near Pilar, a suburb of Buenos Aires, when he was arrested for possessing 78 grams of marijuana. About 12 hours later, the 29-year-old was found dead in a police station’s holding cell area, that a judge had expressly ruled could not be used to detain anyone. Miguel's body was found hanging from an electrical cable and leaning almost upright against the cell’s iron bars. </p> <p>The police told his family he had committed suicide. </p> <p>The autopsy concluded that he died from mechanical asphyxia due to compression (hanging) but also had non-lethal injuries to his face and chest. His family condemned the fact that they were not allowed to see his body before the autopsy was performed. This, along with the fact that a judicial order had been blatantly violated, led the family to demand justice, and seek the truth about what had happened to Miguel.</p> <p>When the investigation began, his relatives recall that the police accounts were contradictory and imprecise, regarding the time of his arrest and when he was sent to the hospital for a routine checkup prior to detention. It was also unclear at first how many people were being held with Miguel in the holding cell area, and during what time periods. His family continues to demand that the responsibility for someone dying in police custody be established. Four police officers were initially investigated for disobedience of a judicial order and involuntary manslaughter (due to negligence), but a new prosecutor in the case requested that a trial go forward on the disobedience charge alone. </p> <p>This detention for marijuana possession that ended in Miguel's death shows the consequences of implementing the ‘war on drugs’ paradigm, and it was one of the thousands of arrests of consumers that are carried out in Argentina each month. In 2009, the country's Supreme Court ruled that criminalising drug possession for personal use was unconstitutional, but the drugs law was never reformed to reflect this decision. Arrests like that of Miguel Durrels are still commonplace.</p> <p>Often these situations are aggravated by structural problems related to violent, abusive or negligent police practices, or by inadequate detention conditions and episodes of institutional violence.</p> <p>One of Miguel's sisters, Silvia Durrels, has serious doubts that he committed suicide.</p> <p>“He was always smiling or making jokes,” said Silvia, who was close in age to Miguel and chose him to be the godfather of her first-born daughter. “And he didn’t look bad in those last days. Because if I had seen him looking bad, I would say ‘yes, he was doing badly, it could be, something had him down.’ But no.”</p> <p>Miguel and his six siblings are from a small town in the agricultural province of Entre Ríos. As a child, Miguel was dubbed “Barchy,” a play on the name of Bart Simpson, because he was known for playing jokes on people and getting into mischief with his slingshot. As an adult, he worked as a groom on horse farms for months at a time, and would return to his hometown when the season was over. Silvia says he had never had trouble with the police before.</p> <p>“When they told me ‘ your brother died,’ I thought, it was at work, a horse knocked into him or something. I never would have imagined this happening − and in the police station, where they are supposedly there to take care of you.”</p> <p>When the deputy police commissioner went to Silvia’s house and told her that Miguel had committed suicide while in custody, Silvia recalls: “I said to him, ‘how can I believe you that my brother killed himself and that you didn’t beat the hell out of him and it got out of hand?’ He looked at me and smiled and didn’t say a thing … I won’t ever forget that face.”</p> <p>Miguel’s family members came across a number of things that they felt didn’t add up. First, none of them were allowed see Miguel’s body right after his death. Also, the person who had been required to serve as a witness to Miguel’s arrest never actually saw the packet of marijuana on Miguel. It had already been placed along with his personal belongings − mobile phones, some money − on the hood of a patrol car.</p> <p>“They say he killed himself, that he committed suicide. But they lied to us about a bunch of things. They would give us one version and then later another version,” Silvia said. “For example one (police officer) told my father that the doctor came to attempt resuscitation, they took him down (from where he was hanging) and then hung him back up again. Who in their right mind would believe that?”</p> <p>“They told us a bunch of nonsense and you ask yourself, ‘why do that if he killed himself?’”</p> <p>Silvia has thought a lot about what might have happened to Miguel that night in the Pilar police station.</p> <p>“The police say they asked him his name and where he was from and all that, and my brother didn’t want to answer. Maybe they started hitting him because of that and it got out of hand.”</p> <p>She has also considered the possibility that her brother may have been threatened or bullied while he was being detained to the point of killing himself − if the police officers told him he’d be shut up in prison and wouldn’t ever get out, for example.</p> <p>“I have thought that they could have frightened him about going to prison or something. But seeing the body, reading the autopsy … the blows and everything. How can I explain that?”</p> <p>Silvia says there is no doubt that the police officers could be convicted of disobedience since they should never have detained him in that police station in the first place. They also didn’t allow him to make a phone call to anyone while there and they flouted other procedures, she said. “There are a bunch of things to accuse them of disobedience. But what about the death?”</p> <p>Looking back, Silvia recalls that she and her siblings knew Miguel smoked marijuana. </p> <p>“My brother smoked marijuana but we never saw him with large quantities, and since I’m old enough to remember I never saw him smoking. We knew that he used because he told us … he was not ashamed of it.”</p> <p>Silvia believes that Miguel may well have bought marijuana for his own use the day he was arrested, but she rules out the possibility that he was involved in dealing, as the police alleged, in part because he lived on the same horse farm where he worked and it was a controlled environment.</p> <p>In any case, Silvia says the drug laws − and the way they’re enforced − must be reformed.</p> <p>“There has to be a change. A person who uses (drugs) because he wants to and chooses to shouldn’t be followed by the police, threatened, beaten. A person who chooses to consume, that 's their right, their choice. My brother used and he didn't do any harm to anyone."</p> <p><em>*CELS represents the relatives of Miguel Ángel Durrels in this legal case.</em></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/where-do-we-go-from-here-drug-policy-debate-continues">Where do we go from here? The drug policy debate continues</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> drugpolicy Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) Fri, 20 May 2016 08:16:50 +0000 Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) 102247 at https://www.opendemocracy.net After an insubstantial UN drugs summit last month, what’s left for Latin America? https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/luciana-pol/after-insubstantial-un-drugs-summit-last-month-what-s-left-for-latin-america <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The global crackdown on drugs has spurred violence akin to war in some Latin American countries.&nbsp;But the world’s historically powerful countries are still reluctant to confront a problem they don’t recognise as their own. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/luciana-pol/qu-qued-para-los-pa-ses-latinoamericanos-luego-de-la-insubstancial-cum" target="_self">Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-14317341.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Counter-narcotics officer, Colombia. Fernando Vergara/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-14317341.jpg" alt="Counter-narcotics officer, Colombia. Fernando Vergara/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Counter-narcotics officer, Colombia. Fernando Vergara/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="293" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Counter-narcotics officer, Colombia. Fernando Vergara/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs was held this year at the request of three Latin American countries − Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala − who demanded an urgent response from the United Nations system to the region’s crisis of violence. Today, Mexico and Central America face levels of violence and death akin to war, largely due to the dynamics generated by the trafficking of illicit substances towards the large markets in the north. With the support of other countries in the region, they perceive the international drug control system as part of the problem, and asked the international community to assess the system's functioning and think of more effective alternative schemes. </p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Hardly any of this actually took place at the UN special session.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The countries that spearheaded the debate had to fight tenaciously during the preparation process to achieve any mention in the official documents of the social harm and violence suffered by some regions – despite the fact that all parties agree these dynamics are associated with a market that has been global since its inception, and that the prohibition regime is intimately related to the forms the market has taken. The world's historically powerful countries are still reluctant to discuss a problem that they do not recognise as their own, even though the large consumption centres for these illicit goods are located in Europe and North America.</span></p> <p class="mag-quote-right">The world's historically powerful countries are still reluctant to discuss a problem that they do not recognise as their own.</p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The international system showed a limited capacity for self-assessment. The framework of the international drug control conventions was defended dogmatically, in lieu of promoting a debate and objective analysis of their impacts and their operating principles, such as the prohibition of substances. There was scarcely any recognition of the drug problem as a highly innovative market able to adapt to changing circumstances. This view would require much more dynamic responses from governments and the international system, like those related to economic issues and state intervention strategies from a social perspective.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">To some extent, the fact that the negotiations to define the UNGASS outcome document took place in Vienna − the same place that the international control policies were designed − seriously compromised the ability to evaluate the system. Since no one can be both the judge and the judged, drug agencies need to recognise the essential role of an external evaluation of the policies implemented to date.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">This was the objective of the decision to hold the special session in New York, along with the inclusion of the 140 states not represented in Vienna. Also, during the preparatory process for the special session, several UN agencies were asked to issue their technical opinion on topics such as the relationship between drugs and development policies, the impact of drug policies on human rights, their impact on specific populations like women and the implications for health including HIV, among others.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The technical analyses and recommendations of these agencies found that some of the policies promoted by the drug conventions, such as the criminalisation of consumption, have resulted in a barrier to access health services and a violation of individual rights. It has also led to the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of consumers around the world, increasing the global incarceration rate. &nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">For the most part, the UNGASS outcome document ignored the technical opinions of the different UN specialised agencies. The negotiations conducted by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna excluded technical views prepared by the </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.unodc.org/documents/ungass2016//Contributions/UN/OHCHR/A_HRC_30_65_E.pdf">human rights system</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> and by other agencies such as the </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.unodc.org/documents/ungass2016//Contributions/UN/UNDP/UNDP_paper_for_CND_March_2015.pdf">United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> or </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.unodc.org/documents/ungass2016//Contributions/UN/Gender_and_Drugs_-_UN_Women_Policy_Brief.pdf">UNWomen</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The UNGASS process has prompted reflection on the lack of cohesion among the branches of the United Nations system on drugs and crime, health, human rights and development. In fact, one of the paradoxical results of the special session was that this problem was clearly exposed. The international regulatory framework on drugs is at the core of the issue and steps must be taken towards its revision.</span></p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-left" style="line-height: 1.5;">The UNGASS process has prompted reflection on the lack of cohesion among the branches of the United Nations system.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Other reflections that emerge from this process relate to international politics, the concentrated weight of specific actors and regions, and how difficult it still is for countries in the south to have their views prevail in a global debate.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">At a country level, numerous statements were issued during the special session in support of moving towards a more balanced response on drugs. Countries in every region expressed their desire to reduce the punitive components of state responses and strengthen the components of health, within a framework of respect for the rights of individuals. Transforming this perspective into real policies would require a very substantive change in budget allocations, the overall approach, and the outcomes.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In the case of Latin American countries, the strong association between drugs and crime as well as current drug laws have aroused strong punitive reactions, which should be reviewed. Changes should aim to reverse the trend of arresting and incarcerating people for consumption offences, or for nonviolent low-level drug crimes. The same follows for the impact that the fight against drug trafficking has had on security policies. In extreme cases, such as Mexico, this has led to the militarisation of domestic security tasks and the use of the armed forces. The widespread and extremely grave human rights violations resulting from this policy demand a radical change in the orientation of national policies, and the state's recognition of these crimes. In countries with extensive areas planted with coca, poppy or cannabis, policies of forced eradication and fumigation are examples of the daily violations of the rights of growers and peasants that must be stopped. &nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">On the matter of drugs, although it would seem that the taboo has been broken, this next period will be one of intense internal work for countries in the quest for coherence. And social organizations and societies must continue to underpin these changes.&nbsp;</span></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/where-do-we-go-from-here-drug-policy-debate-continues">Where do we go from here? The drug policy debate continues</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> drugpolicy Luciana Pol Fri, 20 May 2016 08:01:50 +0000 Luciana Pol 102235 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Across Asia, we need to give the women incarcerated by the ‘war on drugs’ a voice https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/nischa-pieris/across-asia-we-need-to-give-women-incarcerated-by-war-on-drugs-voice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Only then will the public begin to see the human face of repressive policies and the lives destroyed in the pursuit of an impossible ‘drug-free world’.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-22820178.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Protesters appeal to Indonesia to spare Mary Jane Veloso, Philippines 2015. B. Marquez/AP/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-22820178.jpg" alt="Protesters appeal to Indonesia to spare Mary Jane Veloso, Philippines 2015. B. Marquez/AP/PA Images. All rights reserved." title="Protesters appeal to Indonesia to spare Mary Jane Veloso, Philippines 2015. B. Marquez/AP/PA Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protesters appeal to Indonesia to spare Mary Jane Veloso, Philippines 2015. B. Marquez/AP/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In 2007, Supatta Ruenrurng travelled to Laos from her native Thailand. There she purchased one and a half methamphetamine tablets weighing 0.17g and brought them back to Thailand for personal use. She was arrested at the border and charged with importing and possessing a category one drug under the 1979 Narcotics Act. </p> <p>The court initially dismissed the importation charge on the basis that the minor quantity of drugs involved was for personal use and would not cause any harms to society. Supatta was sentenced to six months in prison (suspended for two years) and was issued a fine for possession. This sentence took into account the fact that she had confessed to possession for personal use, that it was her first offence and she was the mother of a child for whom she was the primary caregiver. However the prosecution contested this decision, and on appeal the court found her guilty of drug importation, handing her a sentence of 25 years behind bars, reduced from life imprisonment due to Supatta’s confession, with immediate effect. The Supreme Court affirmed this decision.</p> <p>A gender and human rights perspective is overlooked when it comes to drug laws and public policies in south-east Asia. Supatta’s case demonstrates the injustice of disproportionate sentencing practices and how women and their dependents are particularly affected by such harsh measures. With no consideration of mitigating factors by the higher courts, she was sentenced for importation instead of consumption despite the small amount of methamphetamine in her possession. </p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In Thailand, where reducing prison overcrowding has become a government priority, the royal family issues an amnesty approximately once a year in which some prisoners are released, but Supatta has not been among those to benefit from this measure. Pardons and amnesties can impact several groups among the prison population, especially in cases like Supatta’s where lengthy sentences are unjustly handed out for low level drug crimes. Yet such short-term measures, if not accompanied or followed by sweeping and far-reaching reforms in drug laws, will not achieve a sustained reduction in the </span><a href="http://www.wola.org/sites/default/files/WOLA%20WOMEN%20FINAL%20ver%2025%2002%201016.pdf" style="line-height: 1.5;">number of people in prison</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">.</span></p> <p>Sentences of 25 years for women and men involved in low level drug related offences are regrettably common in a region that continues to uphold the impossible goal of achieving a ‘drug-free society’. </p> <p>Despite the proven failure of such an objective and the actions taken in vain to achieve it, this ‘drug-free’ narrative continues to taunt the people of south-east Asia. It is a narrative that criminalises drug users, low-level drug offenders, and rural crop cultivators despite a steady rise in health-related harms, incarceration rates, an exacerbation of poverty and marginalisation, and countless human rights violations as a direct result of these policies. While funds are channelled to the expansion of eradication operations, and to the ‘stamping out’ of drugs by heavy handed law enforcement strategies, the objective of removing illicit drugs from the region has not been (and will never be) achieved. Nonetheless most ASEAN countries made statements during the 2016 UNGASS, reaffirming their objective of a drug-free region, and defending disproportionate measures such as the death penalty for dealing with drug related crimes. </p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Despite the efforts of ASEAN governments to suppress the use and supply of drugs through stepped-up law enforcement capacity and other repressive measures, south-east Asia has seen increases in illicit drug supply, trafficking, and use. Instead of conducting an objective and meaningful review of their approach, they have responded by conducting large-scale arrests for drug offences, particularly in relation to </span><a href="http://www.unodc.org/documents/southeastasiaandpacific/Publications/2015/drugs/ATS_2015_Report_web.pdf" style="line-height: 1.5;">methamphetamine in recent years</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">.&nbsp;Although there is a lack of recent and reliable data about prisons in the region, preliminary studies have shown that this approach has led to overcrowding and a significant proportion of the prison population in the region being deprived of their liberty for low-level drug offences.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In its&nbsp;</span><em>Global Prison Trends 2015</em><span style="line-height: 1.5; text-decoration: underline;">&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">report, Penal Reform International found that while women comprise an average of 6.5% of the world’s prisoners (over 660,000 women as of 2013), they constitute the fastest growing prison demographic with particularly high rates of imprisonment for drug related offences. The proportion of women incarcerated for drug offences is significantly higher than that of men, with the highest levels of women’s incarceration to </span><a href="http://www.penalreform.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Drugs-and-imprisonment-Global-Prison-Trends-2015_final.pdf" style="line-height: 1.5;">be found in south-east and east Asia</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In Thailand, 287,335 people were in prison as of 2013, of which 50% were charged, convicted or detained for drug offences and about 14% were women – a much higher percentage </span><a href="http://idpc.net/publications/2013/11/idpc-briefing-paper-drug-control-and-harm-reduction-in-thailand" style="line-height: 1.5;">than the global average</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. The International Centre for Prison Studies reports that Thailand’s prison overcrowding is </span><a href="http://www.prisonstudies.org/map/asia" style="line-height: 1.5;">around 134%</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. As of 2015, over 47,000 women were behind bars in the country. The data on the specific conditions and caregiving status is scarce and unreliable. However in 2014 it was reported that there were more than 260 pregnant women in Thai prisons and over 250 babies living behind bars </span><a href="http://www.bangkokpost.com/archive/for-female-offenders-jail-often-no-solution/586901" style="line-height: 1.5;">with their mothers</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, though it is believed that this figure is much higher. The Thailand Institute of Justice revealed in a report on “</span><a href="http://www.tijthailand.org/useruploads/files/women_prisoners_and_the_implementation_of_the_bangkok_rules_in_thailand_tij.pdf" style="line-height: 1.5;">Women Prisoners and the Implementation of the Bangkok Rules</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">” that over 80% of women in prison in Thailand have been convicted of drug offences, compared to 61% among male prisoners, according to </span><a href="http://www.tijthailand.org/useruploads/files/women_prisoners_and_the_implementation_of_the_bangkok_rules_in_thailand_tij.pdf" style="line-height: 1.5;">official figures as of 2012</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">While national drug laws accommodate the notion that people who use drugs are ‘patients not criminals’, in reality people who use drugs are frequently deprived of their liberty for simple consumption, and there is little understanding or consideration of evidence-based treatment and harm reduction, let alone gender-specific programmes where the needs of women who use drugs are adequately incorporated. According to the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), people who use drugs are highly stigmatised, harassed by law enforcement officials, unlawfully tested and detained on suspicion of drug use, and excluded from </span><a href="https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/64663568/library/IDPC-briefing-paper-Thailand-drug-policy-English.pdf" style="line-height: 1.5;">accessing health, social and legal services</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">During the recent United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs (UNGASS), there was mounting pressure from the international community for countries that retain capital punishment for drug offences to issue a moratorium on the death penalty. Despite this, and the evidence that women are framed by traffickers to transport drugs across international borders without knowledge of the quantities they are transporting or the risks and </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/29/philippines-bid-save-mary-jane-veloso-execution-indonesia" style="line-height: 1.5;">consequences involved in doing so</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, women are still kept on death row for drug smuggling offences. This is a common and increasing phenomenon in countries such as Thailand, China, Malaysia, Indonesia and </span><a href="http://gulftoday.ae/portal/5f8b4f94-c9a4-45c7-b0fe-b15cf1153da3.aspx" style="line-height: 1.5;">various Middle Eastern countries</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> – most of which used the UNGASS to defend the use of the death penalty as a deterrent against drug trafficking and organised crime.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The Philippines stood out during the meeting as the only Asian country to directly condemn the use of the death penalty for drug offences. The death penalty is no longer used in the country for these crimes, and national authorities have been concerned about the increasing numbers of people engaged in drug smuggling, mostly women, who have been arrested, on death row or executed in foreign countries over the past decade. One example of this is </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/30/indonesian-executions-why-was-mary-jane-veloso-spared" style="line-height: 1.5;">Mary Jane Veloso</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, a young Filipino woman and mother of two who was given temporary reprieve minutes before she was scheduled to be executed by firing squad in Indonesia last year. She was spared because of evidence brought forward by the Philippines government that she had a been a victim of human trafficking, exploited and tricked into carrying drugs to Indonesia. This caused widespread sympathy and a public outcry from the Indonesian public, who took to Twitter to demand her release.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In the lead up to the 2016 UNGASS, a </span><a href="http://anyoneschild.org/" style="line-height: 1.5;">number of campaigns</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> have been launched from families of incarcerated people and those affected by the drugs war. </span><a href="http://www.wola.org/commentary/women_drug_policies_and_incarceration_in_the_americas" style="line-height: 1.5;">Influential publications on drug policy reform from a gender perspective</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> and international collaboration between civil society and concerned government officials have all contributed to the development of new approaches such as alternatives to incarceration, the decriminalisation of drug use, and the adoption of laws and policies that offer more proportionate approaches. However, the </span><a href="http://www.unodc.org/documents/ungass2016//Documentation/ECN72016L12_rev1_e_V1601770.pdf" style="line-height: 1.5;">UNGASS outcome document</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> did not reflect the voices of affected communities and largely excluded the opinions of an ever united global public in its support for ending the ‘war on drugs’, which is essentially a war on people. Strong civil society engagement in the UNGASS process helped to lessen the prohibitionist language as much as possible, but the outcome document as a whole shows that there is still much work to be done to move the UN and countries that purvey a more repressive message towards reform.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The gender component of the </span><a href="http://www.unodc.org/documents/ungass2016//Documentation/ECN72016L12_rev1_e_V1601770.pdf" style="line-height: 1.5;">outcome document</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, though weak in its language, did emphasise the importance of “mainstreaming a gender perspective into and ensuring the involvement of women in all stages of the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of drug policies and programmes.” Work that is being carried out to raise this issue in </span><a href="http://www.wola.org/commentary/women_drug_policies_and_incarceration_in_the_americas" style="line-height: 1.5;">Latin America and the Caribbean</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> is a good example of how women’s voices can be incorporated into the drug policy debate, and it would be encouraging to see similar joint projects in Asia through collaborations between governments, multi-lateral agencies, civil society, incarcerated and formerly-incarcerated women and other affected communities.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">While it is apparent that women in Asia are often used as human couriers, and considered expendable by trafficking networks that exploit their conditions of vulnerability, an understanding of the impact of the drugs war on their lives and livelihoods has remained largely absent from the research and activities of regional and international organisations. Their stories have similarly been unheard and their faces invisible to the public as mainstream media prefers to report on drug seizures and security related issues.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The reality is that these women – contrary to the narrative of governments in the region – rarely pose a threat to society. They are often poor women who are responsible for young dependents, and with low levels of education. Their lives are characterised by social exclusion, and the low levels at which they operate within trafficking networks – often as small scale distributors or consumers – do not comply with the narrative of fear through which governments justify their ‘iron fist’ approach. Reporting on the lives and struggles of these women would reveal this heavy-handed strategy as disproportionate and misguided.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">During the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) earlier this year, a resolution was passed on </span><a href="https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/LTD/V16/008/99/PDF/V1600899.pdf?OpenElement" style="line-height: 1.5;">“Mainstreaming a Gender Perspective in Drug Policies and Programmes”</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. It is hoped that governments in south-east Asia work with civil society to design and implement gender specific policies, using this resolution and related materials as a guide, bearing in mind the risks that the current drug control system pose to women’s well-being, and that of their families and communities.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">A good place to start would be </span><a href="http://www.wola.org/commentary/women_behind_bars_the_human_cost_of_current_drug_policy_in_the_americas" style="line-height: 1.5;">giving incarcerated women a voice</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> and inviting them to share their stories from prisons in Asia so that the public can begin to see the human face of repressive policies and the lives destroyed in the pursuit of an impossible ‘drug-free world’.</span></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/where-do-we-go-from-here-drug-policy-debate-continues">Where do we go from here? The drug policy debate continues</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> drugpolicy Nischa Pieris Thu, 19 May 2016 07:01:25 +0000 Nischa Pieris 102212 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is the ‘war on drugs’ destroying women’s lives? https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/coletta-youngers-nischa-pieris-margarette-may-macaulay/is-war-on-drugs-destroying-women-s-lives <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Across the world, women are being incarcerated at an alarming rate for drug offences. The vast majority are single mothers, and facing situations of extreme poverty.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" /></a></p> <p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/sv8zOS8SlWU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p><strong>Coletta Youngers:</strong> One of things we have found in our research is that women in Latin America are incarcerated at an alarming rate for drug policy offences. This started when we were looking at overall statistics, looking at the impact of drug laws on incarceration in Latin America, which show the relationship between those laws and the prison crisis which the region is confronting.</p> <p><strong>Nischa Pieris: </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">And this was a growing population. It became very worrying to us that in some countries up to 80% of the prison population for women are incarcerated for drug crimes. We realised that while they were a numerical minority in the global prison population, they were very, very under-represented in their needs, and why they were being incarcerated was for drug crimes.</span></p> <p><strong>Coletta Youngers:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> Then we started looking at, what are those offences? And we found that the vast majority are there for low level offences. They are there because they were selling drugs, small amounts of drugs, or working as what we call human couriers, transporting drugs from one place to another, within a country or over international borders.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">And then we asked ourselves, well who are these women? And we found the vast majority are single mums. These are women who are facing situations of extreme poverty, very little opportunity for meaningful employment. They are struggling for ways to put food on their table&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">and fulfill their childcare responsibilities. And sadly, engaging in these drug-trafficking activities&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">is a good way to combine the need to earn some income and to also fulfill your childcare responsibilities.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I met with one woman in Costa Rica who was formerly incarcerated, who said to me, “I’ve been out of jail now, I have a criminal record, I’ve been out of jail for several months, nobody will even talk to me about employment. But the traffickers who work in my neighbourhood, the drug gangs, they come up to me every day, and say, “if you need help, we’re here for you.” You have to figure out ways that women don’t fall back into these trafficking networks out of sheer necessity,&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">and can really move ahead with their lives.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Drugs_OD1_Women (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Drugs_OD1_Women (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="441" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></span><strong>Nischa Pieris:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> Certainly the issue of women and drug policies is a grave situation not just in the Americas but further afield. In central Asia, and in Europe we have an issue where most of the countries, about 25% of European and central Asian countries’ female prison populations, the first crime they are incarcerated for is drugs. We looked at Asia where drug laws can be very punitive, and there’s absolutely no drug policy that incorporates a gender perspective. Which means that women are in prison for low-level, nonviolent crimes.</span></p> <p><strong>Margarette May Macaulay:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> One of our main interests is the impact that policies have had on certain sectors of the population in Jamaica. In almost all the cities and especially the capital,&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">we have had areas which are ruled, literally ruled, by drug lords, they are called in Jamaica ‘dons’.</span></p> <p>They are like dictators within their areas. They also act like feudal lords and take possession of young girls, which completely erodes any rights these young women have to a proper life, to a life free from sexual violation. They are violated, some of them pre-puberty, or during puberty or just after. They end up with children which they are ill-equipped to nurture or want, because they are unwanted. They have no voice in the matter. And their parents have no voice in the matter, whether a ‘don’ takes over a girl-child.</p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">And then in tandem with those violations, there’s the physical harm because they are punished for any small infraction, what the ‘don’ considers an infraction. And also they are brought into the trade, as active participants, as mules. At almost every stage of the way, it affects their health, because most of them have to ingest these substances, packed in condoms to travel to the market countries. And some of them die as a result, because these things burst in their system. And the majority of them are caught in the criminal justice systems, and they end up being imprisoned in foreign countries. Their family life is fractured and destroyed, their children are abandoned.</span></p> <p><strong>Nischa Pieris: </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I think there are countries which are realizing there is absolutely no value in incarcerating women for low-level crimes and that if they were bolstered in their opportunities,&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">they could make a contribution to society, empowered to take care of their children and keep them in school.</span></p> <p><strong>Coletta Youngers: </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">There are more and more examples</span><strong> </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">of ways in which people are taking an alternative approach.</span><strong> </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">One is a project in the</span><strong> </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">state of New York in the United States</span><strong> </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">called JusticeHome</span><strong> </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">where women who are convicted of felonies, and agree to</span><strong> </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">go into this programme,&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">can actually serve their time at home, engaged in employment, education, and other opportunities. And they’ll be with their children, earning income all at the same time, serving a non-custodial sentence.</span></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This video is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/benjamin-ramm/our-children-are-dying-meet-activists-saying-no-more-to-war-on-drugs">&quot;Our children are dying&quot;: meet the activists saying &#039;no more&#039; to the &#039;war on drugs&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/where-do-we-go-from-here-drug-policy-debate-continues">Where do we go from here? The drug policy debate continues</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> drugpolicy Margarette May Macaulay Nischa Pieris Coletta A Youngers Thu, 19 May 2016 06:34:34 +0000 Coletta A Youngers, Nischa Pieris and Margarette May Macaulay 102209 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Missed opportunity or a foundation for the future of drug reform? Measuring success at UNGASS 2016 https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/dave-bewley-taylor/missed-opportunity-or-foundation-for-future-of-drug-reform-measuring-success-at-u <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Our challenge is to maintain momentum: that the UN General Assembly Special Session is used as a springboard for action rather than obstacle to implementing evidence and rights-based drug policies. &nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-24649496.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Needle exchange programme, Camden, New Jersey. AP/Mel Evans/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-24649496.jpg" alt="Needle exchange programme, Camden, New Jersey. AP/Mel Evans/PA Images. All rights reserved." title="Needle exchange programme, Camden, New Jersey. AP/Mel Evans/PA Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="318" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Needle exchange programme, Camden, New Jersey. AP/Mel Evans/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>As the dust settles after the <a href="https://www.unodc.org/ungass2016/en/about.html">United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs</a> (UNGASS) in April, one is left with mixed feelings about the event.&nbsp; This is particularly the case in relation to the increasingly important issue of drug policy metrics: how member states and the UN system measure the ‘successes’ of interventions aiming to solve what has become known in UN parlance simply as the ‘world drug problem.’&nbsp; </p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">It is true that recent years have seen the emergence of a progressively more honest and sophisticated discourse surrounding the measurement of illicit drug markets.&nbsp; A growing appreciation of the problems associated with measuring an increasingly complex and fluid illicit market, however, has not been accompanied by a widespread and systemic appreciation that measurements of ‘success’ might be focusing on the wrong things. &nbsp;</span></p> <h2><strong>Moving away from scale and flows</strong></h2> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Such misdirected assessments take place within a conceptual framework ingrained in what can be usefully called the global drug prohibition regime: an almost universally accepted treaty-based system currently built on a suite of three UN treaties. Dating back to the first decades of the twentieth century, and in its current form as the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the existing regime has dual overarching aims. These are to ensure an adequate supply of pharmaceuticals for the licit market – particularly essential medicines – and at the same time to prevent the non-scientific and non-medical production, supply and use of narcotic and psychotropic substances.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">With this in mind, the system has been developed on the basis of two interconnected tenets. First, a deeply held belief that the best way to reduce the ‘world drug problem’ is to minimize the scale of – and ultimately eliminate – the illicit market and second, that this can be achieved through a reliance on prohibition-oriented and supply-side dominated measures.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Since the 1960s, such measures have relied predominantly on the activities of law enforcement agencies, and in some parts of the world, the military. On the supply-side, the traditional and, until recently, relatively widely accepted logic of this zero-tolerance approach has been that success in disrupting and ultimately halting the illicit production, manufacture and distribution of drugs listed in the conventions will reduce their availability to actual and potential consumers.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Furthermore, although the regime makes some provision for drug prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, demand reduction has been long driven by a belief that the widespread arrest of drug users and the punitive punishment of individuals caught with drugs will reduce the scale of the market by coercing current users to change their behaviour and by deterring potential users from engaging in proscribed activity in the first place. &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">With such ideas underpinning the operation of the regime, much attention has unsurprisingly been given to metrics with a narrow focus on arrests and prosecutions (drug dealers, traffickers and in some cases drug users), seizures (unprocessed and processed drugs including opium, coca, cannabis, cocaine, heroin, amphetamine type stimulants and precursor chemicals required for manufacture), in traditional producer states like Colombia and Afghanistan, hectares of drug crops eradicated (cannabis, opium poppy and coca) and increasingly in various parts of the world, drug processing laboratories destroyed.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Such process – rather than outcome – measurements continue to be privileged in multinational policy debates.&nbsp; There is, however, a growing realization in many quarters that these traditional, and relatively simplistic, indicators relating to the scale of and flows within and between illicit markets are increasingly inadequate and, in driving resources towards the wrong activities, potentially damaging.&nbsp; This is particularly so as we begin to understand more about the dynamic and resilient nature of markets and how they are affected by policies and interventions.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Evidence from over 50 years of enforcement-dominated drug policy has revealed few sustained and geographically widespread successes. Far from being reduced in scale and then eliminated, drug markets have survived the attention of law enforcement agencies and, in places like Latin America, the military, through adaptation. These adapted markets often cause more </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/michaela/pages/57/attachments/original/1432063035/ICSDP-1_-_FINAL_(1).pdf?1432063035">social harm</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, and in wider geographical areas, than the original markets that were subject to enforcement action. Moreover, an increasing preoccupation with elimination of the illicit market and an obsession with preventing diversion of licit drugs for recreational purposes has done much to </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/reports/the-negative-impact-of-drug-control-on-public-health-the-global-crisis-of-avoidable-pain/">limit access to essential medicines</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> in some regions, particularly Africa. &nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">A mounting appreciation of this situation has led to changes in perspective, objectives and a resultant shift in the policy landscape in some parts of the world. &nbsp;Armed with a better understanding of drugs, drug markets and the limitations of enforcement-oriented interventions, more and more nations, or jurisdictions within them, are moving away from a determination to simply eliminate the market (and viewing every seizure and arrest as a linear and positive step towards that goal), and shifting towards a market management approach that seeks to reduce a range of drug market related harms. Ironically, such a process has much to do with a growing appreciation of what were referred to by the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2008 as the </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.unodc.org/documents/commissions/CND/CND_Sessions/CND_51/1_CRPs/E-CN7-2008-CRP17_E.pdf">"unintended consequences"</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;of the operation of the current regime. &nbsp;</span></p><p>Within this context, and inevitably driven by specific ‘local’ imperatives including the financial costs associated with law enforcement-dominated policies, increasing numbers of governments and authorities are engaging with approaches that include the decriminalisation or depenalisation of the possession of drugs, often cannabis but sometimes – as in Portugal – all controlled substances, for personal use, and health-oriented harm reduction interventions that explicitly tolerate, and seek to manage the consequences of, illicit drug use.&nbsp; </p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">These include evidence-based interventions like needle exchange programmes, opioid substitution therapy, and in some instances, drug consumption rooms and controlled heroin prescription. &nbsp;And of course, within the United States of America and, at the national level, Uruguay, there have recently been shifts to establish legal regulated markets for recreational cannabis use.&nbsp; With concerns for market violence, public heath and human rights underpinning many policy shifts away from punitive prohibition comes a series of significant disconnects. &nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">How, for example, can authorities measure the success of an intervention aiming to reduce retail market violence when the established and narrow indicators only consider figures for arrests and seizures? A similar situation exists in relation to a range of health, development and security issues across a wide array of drug markets.&nbsp; Furthermore, as some states realign their policy objectives and associated indicators, they become more disconnected with the dominant metrics used by the UN drug control apparatus, particularly the UNODC. Indeed, this Vienna based body is finding itself progressively more at odds with other parts of the UN system that are increasingly engaging with the drug issue and calling for revised metrics.&nbsp; The </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/hiv-aids/addressing-the-development-dimensions-of-drug-policy.html">United Nations Development Programme</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> is a case in point. &nbsp;</span></p><h2><strong>Metrics at the UNGASS </strong></h2> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Amidst growing discussions around metrics, some aspects of which have been touched upon here, the UNGASS looked set to be an ideal opportunity to move discussions forward and begin to systematise within the UN the process of developing a new basket of drug policy objectives and sophisticated indicators.&nbsp; To be sure, overall, it seems timely to review the current measurement tools in light of what is appropriate for not only a contemporary understanding of the dynamics of drug markets and their associated harms, but also in relation to the development of innovative metrics taking place within some member states.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">It is certainly disappointing that, while a number of country statements at the UNGASS openly challenged some aspects of the existing UN drug control framework, there was little discussion of the associated need for revised metrics. Nuanced dialogue was left to take place on the periphery of the meeting, particularly at a </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/64663568/events/Metrics_UNGASS_Side_Event_Flyer_FINAL.pdf">side event</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> co-organised by New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland and Brazil and a number of civil society organisations.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Perhaps this is unsurprising. Initial promise during the drafting of the UNGASS </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/LTD/V16/017/77/PDF/V1601777.pdf?OpenElement">Outcome Document</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, a process that took place at the </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.unodc.org/unodc/commissions/CND/">Commission on Narcotic Drugs</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> (CND) in Vienna prior to the Special Session, was short lived.&nbsp; For example, a combination of the consensus negotiation process, support for the status quo from states like the Russian Federation and China, and arguably a lack of understanding of the importance of metrics from other states resulted in the loss of a proposed – and relatively innocuous – paragraph in a working draft of the Document. This included a call to “identify quantifiable indicators…in line with the integrated and balanced approach”. The paragraph was shifted to the ‘car park’ designated for contested language during negotiations and failed to gain sufficient agreement for inclusion in the final text. &nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">That said, as in a number of other areas, including those directly and indirectly relating to metrics, some positives within both the Document itself and the processes leading to it must be acknowledged. Involvement within the formulation process of a range of UN entities beyond the drug control apparatus in Vienna can only be constructive in terms of any future consideration of non-traditional drug policy indicators. Similarly, a move away from the established three-pillar structure laid out in </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.unodc.org/documents/ungass2016/V0984963-English.pdf">previous UN documents</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> (“demand reduction”, “supply reduction” and “countering money-laundering and promoting judicial cooperation to enhance international cooperation”) also offers opportunities for more sophisticated and disaggregated measurement processes, particularly in relation to access to essential medicines. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In terms of specific metrics, it is good that the Document also includes mention of the target to end the HIV epidemic by 2030 “among people who use drugs”. Furthermore, that the Outcome Document – and many country statements in New York – explicitly welcomes the </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs">Sustainable Development Goals</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> (SDGs) as&nbsp; “complementary and mutually reinforcing” to drug control, and recommends “the use of relevant human development indicators” provides a valuable toe-hold for the future development of metrics that not only move beyond law enforcement process indicators, but also enhance system-wide coherence on the issue.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Linking new and carefully designed indicators to broader UN objectives, &nbsp;principles and contemporary UN endeavours, such as the Sustainable Development Agenda agreed in late 2015, would do much to bring international drug control policy more in line with the UN Charter and other instruments, including those concerning indigenous rights.&nbsp; Any serious discussion of the measurement of drug policy impacts within the broadly defined development domain must read across to relevant SDGs indicators. &nbsp;</span></p><h2><strong>Towards 2019</strong></h2> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">With all this in mind, and viewing the development of new metrics as a process rather than an event, it is perhaps prudent then to admit that while the UNGASS was undoubtedly a missed opportunity, the Outcome Document and the ‘mood music’ accompanying its adoption in New York offer the foundations for future dialogue, and hopefully action.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Between now and the next high-level UN review of drug policy in 2019, efforts should be made to incorporate discussions within CND sessions that include a range of relevant UN agencies. Additionally, much could be gained from encouraging discussion of drug policy metrics and outcomes in other UN forums, including the </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.who.int/mediacentre/events/governance/wha/en/">World Health Assembly</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, as well as&nbsp; bringing the </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://unstats.un.org/unsd/statcom">UN Statistical Commission</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> into a review process. Such moves should certainly connect with the expertise present within the UNODC and build upon the welcome refinement of its approach to measuring the illicit market.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The broadening of the current narrow indicators favoured at the multilateral level to incorporate health, development and security outcomes would help facilitate the further implementation of more effective drug control policies and interventions at local, national, regional and international levels and break the current metrics trap. Moreover, inclusion within the review process of proficiency and data sets within UN agencies in addition to the UNODC, including </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.unaids.org/">UNAIDS</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, WHO, UNDP and the </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Pages/Home.aspx">Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> would contribute to the reduction of systemic dissonance around drugs and the continuing – although declining – isolation of Vienna.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The challenge over the next three years is to ensure that momentum is maintained and that the UNGASS is used as a springboard for action rather than an obstacle to the implementation of evidence and rights-based drug policies. &nbsp;</span></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/where-do-we-go-from-here-drug-policy-debate-continues">Where do we go from here? The drug policy debate continues</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> drugpolicy Dave Bewley-Taylor Thu, 19 May 2016 06:21:58 +0000 Dave Bewley-Taylor 102214 at https://www.opendemocracy.net I discovered the truth about Singapore's 'war on drugs'. Now I campaign against the death penalty https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/kirsten-han/how-discovering-truth-about-singapore-s-war-on-drugs-led-me-to-campaign-to-abolish-death <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Singaporean criminal justice system expected Yong Vui Kong to die for a mistake he’d made when he was just 19 years old. There are many other stories like his.</p> <p>Listen to an audio version of this article.<br /><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/298993619%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-JmuHG&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=true&amp;show_comments=false&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false"></iframe></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" alt="wfd" width="460px" /></a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-4327327.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Anti-drugs poster, Changi prison, Singapore. WONG MAYE-E/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-4327327.jpg" alt="Anti-drugs poster, Changi prison, Singapore. WONG MAYE-E/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Anti-drugs poster, Changi prison, Singapore. WONG MAYE-E/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Anti-drugs poster, Changi prison, Singapore. WONG MAYE-E/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p> </p><p>Yong Vui Kong was my first encounter with the death penalty in Singapore. I was 21 years old, and so was he. But we couldn’t be further apart when I sat in the public gallery of the courtroom and he in the dock, behind a glass pane. At that age I was considered by many older people as young, idealistic, naive, prone to mistakes and immaturity. Yet the Singaporean criminal justice system was expecting Yong Vui Kong to die for a mistake he’d made when he was just 19 years old.</p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Born to a poor family in the east Malaysian state of Sabah, Vui Kong was arrested in 2007 with 47.27 grams of heroin. Under Singaporean law, 15 grams and above is enough to attract the mandatory death penalty. Seeing his youth, the trial judge had asked the prosecution to consider reducing the charge, so he wouldn’t have to face the gallows.</span></p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The prosecution refused.</span></p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">This is the reality of the ‘war on drugs’ in Singapore. An uncompromising attitude is sold as being ‘tough on crime’, and largely bought by the populace as the secret sauce to keeping Singapore the safe, relatively low-crime city it is.</span></p> <p class="mag-quote-right">An uncompromising attitude is sold as being ‘tough on crime’.</p><p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“When we talk about death penalty for drug traffickers, what are we talking about? The person brings across heroin enough to feed 950 people for one week, that person faces death penalty. People look at the drug traffickers that we impose a death penalty on. Very little of the literature focuses on the death penalties that drug traffickers impose on society,” </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/excerpts-minister-k-shanmugams-qa-university-students">said</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> law and home affairs minister Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam at a question and answer session with university students in March.</span></p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">This mentality makes capital punishment look like a logical trade-off; we sacrifice the lives of a number of nasty people for the good of hundreds or thousands. It’s taught to Singaporean children from a young age, with little critique or question.</span></p> <p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/mRrgUVQNl8g" frameborder="0"></iframe><em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/opendemocracy/this-is-how-singapore-teaches-children-to-stay-away-from-drugs">This is how Singapore teaches children to stay away from drugs</a></strong></em></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">By the time I entered the picture in 2010, Vui Kong’s case had been taken over by human rights lawyer M. Ravi, who had won him a stay of execution and was mounting a challenge to the constitutionality of the mandatory death penalty (which would later fail). Outside the courtroom, the long-running Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) was doing its best to work within the limits of Singapore’s restrictions on advocacy, activism and protest to raise awareness of his case. By the end of that year, two 18-year-old students and I would set up We Believe in Second Chances, a campaign for Vui Kong meant to emphasise his youth through ours.</span></p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">We had originally intended for Second Chances to just be a campaign for Vui Kong. But his story led to a deeper examination of capital punishment, criminal justice and drug policy, and we quickly realised that the issue went far, far beyond one young Sabahan.</span></p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">We’ve since worked, or are working, with multiple families of death row inmates –&nbsp;we aren’t able to get permission from the prison to visit the inmates themselves. Some of these capital cases are for murder, but the vast majority were convicted of drug trafficking.</span></p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Proponents of the ‘war on drugs’ would have you imagine that the drug traffickers who are caught and put to death are murderers in their own right: evil, greedy criminals who care little for anyone or anything apart from enriching themselves.</span></p><p class="normal"><span class="print-no mag-quote-left" style="line-height: 1.5;">If these cold-blooded hoodlums are getting caught and sent to death row, we’re not seeing them.</span></p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">If these cold-blooded hoodlums are getting caught and sent to death row, we’re not seeing them. The people we see are scared, bewildered parents, siblings and partners, representing similarly scared and bewildered inmates desperate for a chance, any chance, to avoid a date with the long drop. They are often from ethnic minority groups, or low-income, less-educated households. Many of the families are broken or dysfunctional in some way:&nbsp;estranged parents and abusive environments. </span></p><p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Society might prefer to imagine that people offend because they are inherently malicious, but we more often than not see how different socio-economic circumstances create communities or individuals more vulnerable to being both offenders and victims.</span></p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">There is Muhammad Rizuan, who languishes on death row because the prosecution chose </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://secondchances.asia/dying-for-a-certificate/">not to grant him a "certificate of cooperation"</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, a prerequisite before one can avoid the death penalty. In his case, we see people sent to the gallows not just for their crime, but for their subsequent lack of usefulness to the authorities. Yet how useful could a low-level courier really be?</span></p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">There is Roslan bin Bakar, whose conviction </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://secondchances.asia/the-case-of-roslan-bin-bakar/">relied more on testimony than hard evidence</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, showing that there are far more problems with the death penalty than its failure to deal with drug offences.</span></p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">And then there is Yong Vui Kong himself, a boy from a plantation in east Malaysia whose journey to prison was paved with poverty, neglect, abuse and a dearth of opportunities beyond gang membership. (Fortunately for Vui Kong, changes in the law allowed his death sentence to be changed to life imprisonment with caning.)</span></p> <p class="normal"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">It is unlikely that being ‘tough on crime’ would have saved any of these men from their current predicaments. There is even less evidence that being tough on these men, as part of Singapore’s ‘war on drugs’, will prevent any others from being recruited into drug syndicates, or abusing drugs themselves. As long as there are poor, under-served and vulnerable communities, drug lords will enjoy a steady supply of hapless young men and women to use as mules. And as long as we continue to execute these mules, we are shifting focus and resources away from the greater task of education, advocacy, rehabilitation and social justice that is truly important in addressing the problem.</span></p> <p><em>Listen to a recorded audio version of this article courtesy of curio.io.</em></p> <iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/298993619%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-JmuHG&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=true&amp;show_comments=false&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false"></iframe> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/where-do-we-go-from-here-drug-policy-debate-continues">Where do we go from here? The drug policy debate continues</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Listen drugpolicy Kirsten Han Wed, 18 May 2016 07:12:09 +0000 Kirsten Han 102151 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Unravelling the myth of China’s 'Opium Plague' https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/frank-dikotter/unravelling-myth-of-china-s-opium-plague <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The image of China as an opium slave was the starting point for an international ‘war on drugs’ which, over a century later, is still being fought today.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" alt="wfd" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/China,_Opium_smokers_by_Lai_Afong,_c1880.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Opium smokers, China, c.1880. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/China,_Opium_smokers_by_Lai_Afong,_c1880.JPG" alt="Opium smokers, China, c.1880. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain." title="Opium smokers, China, c.1880. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain." width="460" height="339" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Opium smokers, China, c.1880. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.</span></span></span>Last month, the United Nations General Assembly held a Special Session to review its current drug control system. But few people realise that the system actually has its origins in China, over a century ago. In 1909, an international conference proposing to prohibit opium and its derivatives was convened in Shanghai. Three years later, the first drug control treaty was signed at the International Opium Convention of the Hague. It was the cornerstone of a global ‘war on drugs’ which is still unfolding today.</p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">At the time of the 1912 Convention, China was widely understood to be fighting a huge addiction problem, caused by an obnoxious trade in opium started by Britain during the 'Opium Wars' in the middle of the nineteenth century. China was seen as 'Patient Zero', an ancient civilisation in the grip of a drug plague that threatened to contaminate the rest of the world. China became the founding case for concerted international efforts to enforce increasingly draconian measures not only against opium, but against all illicit drug use in America, Europe and Asia.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">To this day, China remains the single most important example in history of a culture commonly claimed to have been 'destroyed' by an intoxicant other than alcohol. I would like to question this image, which underpins much of the legitimacy of today's ‘war on drugs’.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The first step in dismantling the opium myth is to underline the lack of any medical evidence about the impact of the substance on the health of consumers – bar mild constipation. In nineteenth-century England, where opium was chewed and eaten in tiny portions or dissolved in tinctures by people of all social backgrounds, frequent and chronic users did not suffer any detrimental effects: many enjoyed good health well into their eighties. In south Asia, opium pills were commonly taken without creating serious social or physical damage, in contrast to the strong spirits imported from abroad in the face of opposition from both the Hindu and Muslim communities.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Opium is portrayed in narco-phobic discourse as a drug which produces an irresistible compulsion to increase both the amount and frequency of dosage, although the historical evidence shows that very few users were 'compulsive addicts' who 'lost control' or suffered from a 'failure of will'. Consumers want reliable, not infinite supplies. Like nicotine, opium is a psychotropic which is generally taken in determined amounts rather than ever-increasing ones. Opium smokers in China could moderate their use for personal and social reasons and even cease taking it altogether without help. In the late 1930s, when opium prices soared in Canton, most smokers halved the amount they used to make ends meet: few would rigidly hold on to their usual dose.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Another element of the opium myth is the refusal to accept that most of its consumption in Europe, the Middle East and Asia was rarely problematic. The existence of a class of occasional, intermittent, light and moderate users was one of the most controversial issues in the opium debate in the late nineteenth century. Yet there is abundant evidence that many users only resorted to the paste on special occasions. To take an example from nineteenth-century China, the official He Yongqing exclusively smoked opium to treat diarrhoea, while countless others smoked no more than a dozen grams a year strictly for medical purposes. Many were intermittent smokers, drifting in and out of narcotic culture according to their personal and social requirements. Many people would smoke a pipe or two at popular festivals and religious ceremonies several times a year without ever becoming regular users.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Another problem is the demonisation of 'opium' into a single and uniform substance. The paste varied immensely in strength and quality, while many consumers in China were connoisseurs who could distinguish between a large variety of products, ranging from expensive red Persian opium to qualitatively poor local produce. Opium is an extremely complex compound containing sugars, gums, acids and proteins as well as dozens of alkaloids which varied in proportion and content. General statements about the purported effects of 'opium' are thus as vague as blanket condemnations of 'alcohol': a world of difference existed between weak home-brewed beers in medieval Europe and strong spirits in Victorian England.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Most of the imported paste from India and the locally cultivated opium in China had a very low morphine content, on average 3 or 4%. On the other hand, the opium imported every year into nineteenth-century England from Turkey in thousands of tonnes was very rich in morphine, ranging from 10 to 15%. Furthermore, smoking was generally acknowledged to be more wasteful than ingestion, although the morphine content reached the bloodstream more quickly and caused a rush: 80 to 90% of the active compound was lost from fumes which either escaped from the pipe or were exhaled by the smoker.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Researchers working on 'drugs' have often focused exclusively on issues related to production and distribution, replicating the conventional wisdom that supply determines demand. But when we look more closely at consumption in the case of opium, it becomes quite clear that smokers in China were not so much 'addicts' in the grip of an 'addiction' but users who made their own choices for a whole variety of different reasons. Expensive opium imported from India was initially an object of connoisseurship for wealthy scholars and rich merchants, who carefully prepared the substance in intricate and complex rituals. But as the poppy was increasingly cultivated in China and smoking progressed down the social scale during the second half of the nineteenth century, it became a popular marker of male sociability.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Even among the less privileged, the example of the 'lonely smoker' was eschewed: smoking was a collective experience, an occasion for social intercourse, a highly ritualised event which set strict parameters for the consumption of opium. In a culture of restraint, opium was an ideal social lubricant which could be helpful in maintaining decorum and composure, in contrast to alcohol which was believed to lead to socially disruptive modes of behaviour.</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center" style="line-height: 1.5;">But most of all opium was a medical panacea.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">But most of all opium was a medical panacea. The main reason for smoking opium in China was to reduce pain, fight fever, stop diarrhoea and suppress a cough. The lowering of the cost of opium in the nineteenth century allowed ordinary people to relieve the symptoms of endemic diseases such as dysentery, cholera and malaria and to cope with fatigue, hunger and cold. Nothing was more effective than opium in treating pain. Even with the gradual spread of more modern medical facilities in the first half of the twentieth century, opium often remained the cornerstone of self-medication in the absence of effective and affordable alternatives. There are millions of individuals who suffer from chronic and debilitating pain in Europe today, never mind China a century ago, and they are rarely offered adequate treatment, as medical science has yet to discover a drug capable of matching the analgesic qualities of opium.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">If opium was medicine as much as recreation, there is abundant evidence that the transition from a tolerated opium culture to a system of prohibition in China from 1906 onwards produced a cure which was far worse than the disease. Tens of thousands of ordinary people were imprisoned and died from epidemics in crowded cells, while those deemed beyond hope of redemption were simply executed. Opium smokers also died in detoxification centres, either because the medical authorities failed effectively to treat the ailments for which opium was taken in the first place or because replacement treatments were poorly conceived and badly administered.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Plenty of archival evidence exists to illustrate how opium smokers died within the first few days of treatment. In 1946, to take but one example, 73-year-old Luo Bangshi, who had relied on opium to control severe gastro-intestinal problems, was ordered by the local court in Jiangsu province to follow detoxification treatment. He died in hospital on the second day of his replacement therapy.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Official attempts to police the bloodstream of the nation engendered corruption, a black market and a criminal underclass. They also accelerated the spread of morphine and heroin. Both were widely smoked in the first decades of the twentieth century, although some of the heroin pills taken for recreational purposes contained only a very small amount of alkaloids and were often based on lactose or caffeine. Morphine and heroin had few concrete drawbacks, and a number of practical advantages which persuaded many opium smokers to switch under prohibition: pills were convenient to transport, relatively cheap, odourless and thus almost undetectable in police searches, and easy to use since they no longer required the complicated paraphernalia and time-consuming rituals of opium smoking.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Where opium was suppressed the use of heroin went up. The National Anti-Opium Association of China noted in 1929: “We are quite taken by surprise by the fact that inversely as the evil practice of opium smoking is on the decrease through the united effort of the people, the extent of illicit trade in, and use of, narcotic drugs, such as morphine, heroin and cocaine, is ever on the increase.” As one government official noted in 1935, “by enforcing drastic measures against the use of opium the Chinese government would run the risk of increasing the number of drug addicts”.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Some of the morphine and heroin sold on the black market hardly contained any alkaloids, but the needles shared by the poor were rarely sterilised. They transmitted a range of infectious diseases and caused lethal septicemia. Wu Liande, a medical expert based in Harbin in the 1910s, observed how thousands of morphine victims died every year of blood poisoning resulting from dirty needles.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Ironically, the only region where the syringe failed to displace the pipe was the British crown colony of Hong Kong. As a result of colonial commitment to a government monopoly over the sale and distribution of opium from 1914 to 1943, the paste remained more cost-effective and convenient than heroin on the black market. After the colonial authorities were no longer in a position to withstand American opposition to the opium trade and were obliged to eliminate their state monopoly, many opium smokers switched to injecting heroin within less than ten years.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Even without prohibition, opium consumption would probably have eroded over time. Antibiotics appeared in the 1940s and were used to treat a whole range of diseases which had previously been managed with opiates: penicillin took over the medical functions of opium. On the other hand, the social status of opium was already on the decline in the 1930s, abstinence being seen as a mark of pride among social elites. Jean Cocteau put it succinctly: “Young Asia no longer smokes because "grandfathers smoked".”</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The image of China as an opium slave was the starting point for an international ‘war on drugs’ which is still being fought today. But official attitudes towards psychoactive substances have all too often been based on narcophobic propaganda which disregards the complex choices made by human beings and instead portrays 'drugs' as an intrinsic evil leading to certain death. Prohibition fuels crime, fills prisons, feeds corruption, endangers public health, restricts the effective management of chronic pain and produces social exclusion. The best way to win the 'war on drugs' may well be to stop fighting it.</span></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/where-do-we-go-from-here-drug-policy-debate-continues">Where do we go from here? The drug policy debate continues</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> drugpolicy Frank Dikötter Wed, 18 May 2016 06:37:51 +0000 Frank Dikötter 102155 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Kidnapped and coerced: this is Liliana's story https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/wola-washington-office-on-latin-america/kidnapped-coerced-lilianas-story <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In this photo essay, Liliana recounts how she was threatened and forced into transporting drugs to Argentina, where she is now being incarcerated far from her two children in Venezuela. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/wola-washington-office-on-latin-america-cels-center-for-legal-and-social-studies/amenazada-y-secuest">Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="620px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new.jpg" /></a></p> <p>Many women who end up transporting drugs are co-opted by networks that use similar methods to those employed in human trafficking crimes. That is what happened to Liliana, a Venezuelan woman with two children who agreed to transport drugs under the threat that her family would be harmed if she refused. She is incarcerated at an Argentine federal prison and her children remain in Venezuela.</p> <a data-flickr-embed="true" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/wola_org/albums/72157668352867855" title="Liliana"><img src="https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7085/26389705673_7e7ae2c98e.jpg" width="640" height="424" alt="Liliana" /></a><script async src="//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p><div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This photo essay is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> drugpolicy CELS (Center for Legal and Social Studies) WOLA (Washington Office on Latin America) Tue, 17 May 2016 06:43:37 +0000 WOLA (Washington Office on Latin America) and CELS (Center for Legal and Social Studies) 102119 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Searching for an alternative to the ‘war on drugs’ in Rio de Janeiro https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/ignacio-cano/searching-for-alternative-to-war-on-drugs-in-rio-de-janeiro <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Brazilian city has been an extreme example of the failure of the ‘war on drugs’ – but recent policing measures offer potential alternatives. Can Rio learn to fight violence rather than drugs?&nbsp;<em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/ignacio-cano/buscando-una-alternativa-la-guerra-contra-las-drogas-en-r-o-de-janeir">Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Anti-police graffiti Rio Sub.Coop copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Anti-police graffiti, Rio. Sub.Coop. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Anti-police graffiti Rio Sub.Coop copy.jpg" alt="Anti-police graffiti, Rio. Sub.Coop. All rights reserved." title="Anti-police graffiti, Rio. Sub.Coop. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Anti-police graffiti, Rio. Sub.Coop. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Rio de Janeiro is known both for its natural beauty and for its violence. Films and newspaper reports spread word of killings in the <em>favelas </em>and explore the complex ties between drug trafficking, crime and police in ‘the marvellous city.’ Some initiatives have been taken to try to reduce the violence, and the introduction of Police Pacifying Units (UPPs) in these communities is notable among them. Rio has been an extreme example of the dramatic impact of the ‘war on drugs’ policing approach, although some measures adopted in recent years appear to have questioned this model. </p> <p>A constant historical tension has existed between two conceptions of public security in Rio de Janeiro. The first is based on an all-out war against drug trafficking, notwithstanding its human costs, while the second is centred on a community approach and on human rights. These opposing visions have alternated under different governments since Brazil’s re-democratisation, in the late 1980s, leading to different policing strategies. </p> <p>Yet the model of a ‘war on drugs’ has been predominant over the last 30 years, despite having proven itself incapable of containing drug sales or effectively dismantling drug markets. On the other hand, it has been associated with significant increases in lethal violence and human rights abuses. The traditional policy was based on periodic police ‘invasions’ of <em>favelas</em> controlled by drug dealers. After taking over the community, leaving a few dealers dead and apprehending drugs and weapons, police would stay for only a few days, or weeks at most, returning a few months later to reinitiate the cycle. </p> <p>Unsurprisingly, these interventions did nothing to eliminate drug trafficking, since dead dealers were quickly replaced, and business continued as usual. Police corruption was also instrumental in understanding these cycles of violence: the threat of an ‘invasion’ was often used to extract a higher bribe from the dealers.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">The threat of an ‘invasion’ was often used to extract a higher bribe from the dealers.</p> <p>Predictably, these operations also caused enormous insecurity among <em>favela</em> dwellers who learned to fear police even more than the dealers. Basic daily routines were interrupted by these interventions. Civilian victims of the crossfire were often considered collateral damage of the war. Human rights violations were common, including summary executions, and police legitimacy in the <em>favelas</em> was extremely low. In short, the traditional response of the state to drug trafficking became part of the problem and intensified violence.</p> <p>In the early 2000s, there were some signs that the traditional drug-retail model in Rio, associated with territorial control of small communities and very high levels of violence, may have entered into a crisis for reasons associated with its costs, particularly due to lower profits. Analysts mention two possible reasons for this. First, a possible change in consumers’ profiles. Many middle-class drug users would have stopped buying at <em>favela</em> sale points because of the violence. Second, rising costs related to police extortion and heavy investment in weapons would have also reduced profits. </p> <p>This resulted in a certain weakening of drug-dealing groups, which was also fuelled by two other new phenomena: the appearance of so-called ‘militias’ and the introduction of the Police Pacifying Units (UPPs) project.</p> <p>The word ‘militia’ started to be used widely in the city in 2006, even though the phenomenon it describes can be traced back over many years. The term ‘militia’ was applied to groups of law-enforcement agents who, in their free time and under the pretence of freeing communities from drug traffickers, controlled <em>favelas</em> and extorted both local businesses and residents by imposing ‘protection taxes’ and by creating coercive monopolies on goods and services. </p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Social order imposed by militias has been as brutal as that exerted by drug dealers.</p> <p>In many communities, these militias took over the territory from drug-dealers by force whereas in other cases they entered into areas that had not been controlled by any armed group beforehand.&nbsp; The precise intelligence needed for some of these takeovers from drug-dealers strongly suggests that some militias were commanded by police officers who had formerly been on the dealers’ payroll. As such, they probably concluded that they stood to gain more from controlling a variety of economic transactions than just by receiving bribes from traffickers. The weakening of such drug-dealing groups, mentioned above, would have encouraged this move.</p> <p>As in the case of drug dealers, militias lack a centralised command. However, they possess a higher degree of internal organisation than that of drug dealers, who tend to be younger and less experienced. Despite their liberating rhetoric and the frequent attempt to impose a certain moral order, coercion has remained a central trait. While most militias prevent drug trafficking and other kinds of behaviour considered undesirable, some militias continue to sell drugs or allow this sale to continue, as one more way to extract profit. Social order imposed by such groups has been as brutal as that exerted by drug dealers, with frequent expulsions, torture and summary executions. </p> <p>One could argue that militias used the rhetoric of the ‘war on drugs’ to impose an alternative yet equally oppressive style of domination. In fact, one of the most immediate results of militia domination is that aggressive police operations to retake territorial control simply ceased. This may be attributed to a relative degree of tolerance on the part of the police or to the fact that militia members, being police officers themselves, would refuse to engage in armed confrontation with their colleagues.</p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Pacifying Police Unit Rio Sub.Coop copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Pacifying Police Unit, Rio. Sub.Coop. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Pacifying Police Unit Rio Sub.Coop copy.jpg" alt="Pacifying Police Unit, Rio. Sub.Coop. All rights reserved." title="Pacifying Police Unit, Rio. Sub.Coop. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pacifying Police Unit, Rio. Sub.Coop. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In 2009, the government launched a new policing strategy under the Police Pacifying Units (UPP) project, the explicit goal of which was not to end or defeat drug dealing but to reduce or eliminate two of their most damaging traits: territorial control and lethal violence. UPPs permanently stationed police officers in certain </span><em>favelas</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> with the objective of regaining territorial control, formerly in the hands of criminal groups, and of bringing ‘peace’ to the communities: ending regular shootouts and armed violence.</span></p> <p>As such, renouncing victory in the unwinnable ‘war on drugs’ opened up a space for more realistic goals, such as the reduction of violence. In this sense, it could be conceived almost as a harm-reduction initiative related to drug trafficking, which attempts to diminish the negative impacts of its inescapable presence. Interestingly, this renunciation of the ‘war on drugs’ can hardly be found in official police documents, but is permanently used in the leaders’ communication strategy. </p> <p>Besides its main goals of regaining territorial control and reducing armed violence, UPPs were also intended to foster a more community-oriented policing approach, eventually called ‘proximity policing’ by police themselves, and to increase public and private investment so as to improve living conditions. </p> <p>In fact, in the public arena, the ‘UPP project’ was referred to in two different ways. In the first, more limited sense, UPPs would simply be a public security intervention or, even more restrictively, a policing project. In the second sense, UPPs were conceived as a far wider strategy for integrating <em>favelas</em> into the rest of the city and narrowing the gap between both ends of the ‘divided city’ (<em>cidade partida</em>). Those who defended this broader approach often used the term “pacification policy.”</p> <p>Indeed, the first impact of a permanent police presence was that it strongly discouraged attempts to dispute territorial control, typically associated with high levels of lethal violence. Given that the police were there to stay, it was far less tempting for any criminal group to try to force its way into the community. A preliminary evaluation of the impact of the first 12 UPP units on criminal records in 2012 concluded that the intervention drastically reduced homicide rates in and around target areas by approximately 50%.</p> <p>As already stated, UPPs hoped to establish better relationships between poor communities and the police through a different policing paradigm. For that purpose, police officers were freshly recruited for this project, which would allegedly reduce the risk of ‘contamination’ of UPP officers by the corruption levels and old doctrine endemic in the rest of the force. Training and doctrine were supposed to be altered accordingly, even though changes in training were minimal in practice.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">There was understandable resistance to such changes within police ranks.</p> <p>Ultimately, UPPs were considered by some sectors inside and outside the police as a chance to transform public security paradigms and reform the police, replacing the ‘war on drugs’ with a policing model that promoted safety and respect for the law. It was hoped that the success of UPPs would help drag the rest of the police in the same direction. Within the police, those officers more aligned with human rights certainly saw this as a unique opportunity. </p> <p>But there was understandable resistance to such changes within police ranks. Despite the fact that public security authorities claimed that eradicating drug trafficking was not the aim, operational police priorities remained focused on drugs, in a scenario which some observers defined as a ‘cold war on drugs’. For instance, UPP officers who apprehended drugs were rewarded with days off, even to a higher degree than in the rest of the police force.</p> <p>Indeed, the possibility of a paradigm shift was the dimension in which the UPP project showed least progress, and the notion of community policing remained very distant. Contacts between the community and the police were not institutionalised and depended on the goodwill of the local commander. The priorities of local residents in terms of public security were not incorporated by the police and relationships remained tense. As such, the UPP programme was still perceived by communities as a top-down external project of occupation rather than an attempt to protect the local population. </p> <p>Furthermore, the project's legitimacy within the police force remained low, as shown by the fact that most UPP police officers would rather work as 'normal' policemen and policewomen,&nbsp; and UPPs’ capacity to permeate the doctrine of the rest of the organisation has so far been very limited. In fact, the opposite seemed more true. </p> <p>By 2014, the UPP project was perceived to be in crisis, along with the whole security situation in the state of Rio. Homicide and crime rates had escalated in all areas both inside and outside UPPs, frequent shootouts occurred in some UPPs and the image of the project had been tainted by some high-profile cases of police abuse, such as the torture, murder and disappearance of Amarildo de Souza by UPP officers in the community of Rocinha.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Despite its limitations, the UPP project will certainly leave a very important legacy in Rio.</p> <p>Having enjoyed wide support at the beginning, the UPP project is now subjected to various criticisms and doubts remain as to the continuation and the nature of the project in the coming years. Despite its limitations, the UPP project will certainly leave a very important legacy in Rio by showing that there is a practical alternative to the ‘war on drugs’ in dealing with violence. In its acceptance of drug trafficking as an unavoidable reality, the UPP model attempted to invert historical priorities, fighting violence and intimidation rather than drugs. </p> <p>Considering that most fatalities historically result from territorial disputes over drug-selling turf, the ultimate goal of any state intervention should be to ‘de-territorialise’ drug markets so that there would be no need to dominate specific areas, for instance through direct delivery to individual consumers. This is the kind of drug-retail business that is operating in many cities around the world with much lower levels of violence. Ideally, state interventions should try to discourage the traditional model and encourage this more ‘modern style’ of drug dealing. </p> <p>Furthermore, had UPP locations been chosen according to the highest homicide rates, this could have been a strong incentive for dealers to operate with lower levels of violence, given that ‘excessive’ violence would have resulted in the loss of their territory – the basis of their business.</p><p> Despite all these experiences within the last eight years, Rio de Janeiro is still one of the arenas in the world where the 'war on drugs' results in the highest human cost. Although this model has shown its shortcomings, and even though experiences like the UPPs represent potential alternatives, the 'war on drugs' is still very vivid in Rio de Janeiro. It threatens to linger on for a considerable amount of time.&nbsp;</p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/mike-trace/impasse-turning-point-for-war-on-drugs-un-general-assembly-special-session">Impasse or turning point for the ‘war on drugs’? UNGASS 2016, explained</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/where-do-we-go-from-here-drug-policy-debate-continues">Where do we go from here? The drug policy debate continues</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> drugpolicy Ignacio Cano Tue, 17 May 2016 06:29:02 +0000 Ignacio Cano 102071 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In Mexico, the human rights abuses of the ‘war on drugs’ have been a daily reality for more than a decade https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/centro-prodh/in-mexico-human-rights-abuses-of-war-on-drugs-have-been-daily-reality-for-more-than-dec <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Impunity over human rights violations generates an unconscionable mixture: the economic and political interests of criminality go unscathed, while the most marginalised, and often innocent, people face the worst consequences. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/centro-prodh/la-guerra-contra-las-drogas-y-la-crisis-de-derechos-humanos-en-m-xico" target="_blank">Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" alt="wfd" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-13045872.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Drug rehabilitation centre. Tijuana, Mexico. Alejandro Cossio/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-13045872.jpg" alt="Drug rehabilitation centre. Tijuana, Mexico. Alejandro Cossio/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Drug rehabilitation centre. Tijuana, Mexico. Alejandro Cossio/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="316" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Drug rehabilitation centre. Tijuana, Mexico. Alejandro Cossio/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The criminalisation of the sale and consumption of certain substances, under the model known internationally as ‘the war on drugs’, has been increasingly criticised in a variety of global forums due to its evident failure as a strategy to end the use and abuse of prohibited substances, as well as its impact in filling prisons with people accused of non-violent crimes.</p> <p>When this model is adopted in a country where the rule of law, accountability or respect for human rights has not been consolidated, the negative impacts are multiplied. This is the case in Mexico.</p> <p>The prohibition of numerous substances that are in high demand in the United States has made drug trafficking throughout Mexico one of the most lucrative businesses in the world. The million-dollar profits produced by this industry have massively fueled the growth, diversification and conflicts between criminal groups in Mexico. It is worth noting that these groups are often confused with broad sectors of the state in more than a few regions of the country, where the line between organised crime and the public sector has been blurred.</p> <p>Given this reality, approximately a decade ago the federal government ushered in a new era, deploying tens of thousands of soldiers on the streets all over the country, even though neither the army nor the navy are institutions trained or legally authorised to perform public security tasks. Announced as a temporary measure to enable the purging and strengthening of the police corps, the militarisation continues in force today without any plan for its eventual termination. </p> <p class="mag-quote-right">The militarisation continues in force today without any plan for its eventual termination.</p> <p>Along with it, the violence also continues in full force: in the past decade there have been <a href="http://secretariadoejecutivo.gob.mx/docs/pdfs/cifras%20de%20homicidio%20doloso%20secuestro%20etc/HDSECEXTRV_032016.pdf">more than 160,000 intentional homicides</a>, a huge percentage of them related to ‘narco-violence’ and the government’s response. Although the federal government claimed a decrease in the homicide rate a couple of years ago, currently the country has the highest rates of intentional homicide since 2013, a trend that has been on the rise in recent months. For the past two years, Mexico has been among <a href="http://www.iiss.org/en/about%20us/press%20room/press%20releases/press%20releases/archive/2015-4fe9/may-6219/armed-conflict-survey-2015-press-statement-a0be">the three most deadly armed conflicts</a> in the world.</p> <p>The grave human rights violations committed in Mexico in recent years, now of international notoriety, are carried out in this context. </p> <h2><strong>Enforced disappearance</strong></h2> <p>The enforced disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero state in September 2014, at the hands of state agents, shook Mexico and the entire world. &nbsp;</p> <p>Without question, this case is one of the bloodiest examples of the crisis of violence, corruption and impunity that prevails in the country. The events in Iguala clearly showed one facet of the macro-crime context that exists in Mexico, as well as the human rights impact of the ‘war on drugs’: the different police corps involved violated human rights, because they were at the service of criminal organisations associated with drug trafficking.</p> <p>This was documented by the <a href="http://prensagieiayotzi.wix.com/giei-ayotzinapa#!informe-/c1exv">Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts</a> (GIEI in Spanish), which was appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to provide technical assistance in the investigation. As part of a novel approach in international supervision of human rights matters, the GIEI pinpointed the drug trafficking from Iguala, Guerrero to Chicago, Illinois as a relevant line of investigation. According to the GIEI, it is possible that the police unleashed such high levels of violence against the students to protect the heroin trafficking route, in confusing some of the buses commandeered by the students with those that the criminal organisation uses for its illegal activities. This line cannot be discounted since the GIEI proved that, effectively, the organisation uses buses to traffic drugs, according to an accusation filed in Illinois.</p> <p>Beyond this aspect, what makes the disappearance of the 43 students (along with the killing of six more young people and the serious injuries suffered by others that night) even more troubling is the fact that the case falls within broader patterns of severe violations in the country.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Disappearance and other forms of extreme violence are not new to Iguala.</p> <p>Disappearance and other forms of extreme violence are not new to Iguala, where the students were attacked. After the events of 26 September 2014, multiple mass graves were found in that area, resulting in the exhumation of more than 100 bodies. This reality extends beyond the state of Guerrero: there are <a href="http://interactive.fusion.net/mexico-history-violence/">hundreds of mass graves</a> distributed throughout the country.</p> <p>On a national level, according to figures contained in the <a href="http://secretariadoejecutivo.gob.mx/rnped/estadisticas-fuerocomun.php">National Databank on Missing or Disappeared Persons</a> (RNPED in Spanish), as of 31 January 2016, there were 27,215 “missing” persons reported in the common courts (19,881 men and 7,334 women). Between 2013 and 31 January 2016, it registered 12,989 disappearances, including 217 in January 2016 alone. Furthermore, the RNPED lists the number of disappeared persons reported under federal jurisdiction between January 2014 and March 2016 at 943 (786 men and 157 women).</p> <p>Taking into account the cases that went unreported due to fear, as well as the obstacles faced by families who do report them, we can infer that the <a href="http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2015/037A.asp">official figures do not include all disappeared</a> persons. A variety of civil society organisations that document cases of disappearances reviewed the official registry and discovered that only a fraction of their cases appear on the list. </p> <p>In short, it is possible to assert that one of the unforeseen effects of the 'war on drugs' in Mexico has been the exponential increase in disappearances, causing thousands of families pain and uncertainty. </p> <h2><strong>Arbitrary executions</strong></h2> <p>Another problem that Mexican civil society reports, in the context of the ‘war on drugs’, is the extrajudicial execution of civilians by the army.</p> <p>For example: in the town of Tlatlaya, in the state of Mexico, on 30 June 2014, soldiers from the 102<sup>nd</sup> Infantry Battalion took the lives of 22 civilian adults and minors, some associated with a criminal group. The majority were arbitrarily executed, according to the National Human Rights Commission. The only survivors, who were circumstantially at the scene of the events, were subjected to torture, ill treatment and sexual intimidation in a bid to coerce them into confessing that they belonged to a criminal organization and to keep them from talking about what they had witnessed.&nbsp; </p> <p>The orders in force for members of the 102<sup>nd</sup> Battalion at the time of the events included instructions to: “<a href="http://www.wola.org/sites/default/files/MX/English%20summary_Tlatlaya-%20The%20Order%20was%20to%20Kill.pdf">take down criminals</a> after dark”. However, to date there has been no investigation into the chain of command, nor has it been revealed how many other “take down” orders have been issued around the country.</p> <p>Between 1 December 2006 (the approximate start of the current phase of militarisation of public security) and 31 December 2014, the National Defense Secretariat (Sedena, in Spanish) and the Naval Secretariat (Semar, in Spanish) say they participated in more than <a href="http://www.imdhd.org/doctos/151020-Informe-Audiencia-Ejecuciones%20Extrajudiciales-en-Mex.pdf">3,500 armed confrontations</a>. According to data provided by these two institutions in response to public information requests, over 4,000 civilians lost their lives at the hands of Mexico’s armed forces in the same period.</p> <p>Sedena reported that, for the period of 13 January 2007 through 5 April 2014, in the course of supposed confrontations with criminal groups, 3,967 civilians died. It also reported that 209 military personnel died between 13 January 2007 and 30 October 2014. In other words, for every soldier who has died, approximately 19 civilians have lost their lives. Such numbers are evidence of the disproportionate use of lethal force.</p> <p>During that same period, human rights organisations in different regions of the country and international groups documented executions by military agents in which the civilian victims were not involved in any criminal activity whatsoever. Currently, however, Sedena no longer keeps records of civilian deaths and injuries at the hands of the armed forces. This lack of access to information hinders public scrutiny of their operations.</p> <h2><strong>Arbitrary detention, torture and fabrication in criminal investigations</strong></h2> <p>No analysis of public security in Mexico can omit the widespread use of arbitrary detentions, torture and the fabrication of evidence and guilty parties — a practice that not only generates thousands of direct victims, but also makes professionalisation of the country’s criminal investigations impossible.</p> <p>From 2004 to 2014, public human rights bodies registered at least <a href="http://centroprodh.org.mx/PatronesViolacionesDDHH_Prodh.pdf">57,890 complaints of arbitrary detention</a>. In a country where the percentage of supposed <em>in flagrante</em> detentions – made at the time the crime is committed – by federal and state police continues to be disproportionate, the criminalisation of the possession or sale of drugs is used to justify arbitrary or illegal detentions.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">The immediate aftermath of many arbitrary detentions is torture.</p> <p>The immediate aftermath of many arbitrary detentions is torture. Upon concluding his official visit to the country in May 2014, current UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, <a href="http://antitorture.org/mexico-2014/">confirmed that torture is rampant</a> and practiced at all levels by civilian and military forces. Likewise, he found that “the use of torture and ill treatment appear to be excessively related to obtaining forced confessions,” and noted “with concern, the elevated number of allegations related to the fabrication of evidence and false incrimination of persons as a consequence of the use of torture and ill treatment.”</p> <p>The <a href="https://youtu.be/uox0adj-o4c">cases of torture reported</a> just by judges in the federal courts in the first eight months of 2014 numbered 1,398. If the judicial authorities in the common courts were to report cases of torture as often as their federal counterparts, in total there would have been some 10,000 reported cases of torture that year. Some statistics revealed in the media suggest that the rate of reports of torture in criminal cases <a href="http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2015/04/27/opinion/008n1pol">was even higher</a> in 2015, but all these figures still only represent a fraction of the cases of torture in the country.</p> <p>As a general rule, public prosecutors barely, or wrongly, apply medical-psychological rules for documenting torture and/or ill treatment. A variety of ways to manipulate this tool have been documented, making it materially impossible to document torture and keeping it almost universally in the realm of impunity. </p> <p>Of course, for every innocent person incarcerated because of a confession fabricated under torture, there is at least one unpunished crime and one perpetrator at large. The use of torture and other methods in the fabrication of evidence, instead of developing techniques for scientific investigation based on the collection and analysis of real evidence, is one factor that explains why approximately 98% of crimes go unpunished in Mexico.</p> <h2><strong>An unconscionable mixture</strong></h2> <p>The past decade, and especially the series of paradigmatic cases of gross violations that have come to light in recent years, demonstrate the obvious: if the security forces and the justice system diverge from the rule of law and systematically violate human rights, granting these institutions more power and discretion in the name of the ‘war on drugs’ will lead to more violence.</p> <p>For Mexico, current drug policy has only brought a large-scale deterioration of its institutions and social fabric. The impunity over human rights violations and corruption generates an unconscionable mixture, in which the strong economic and political interests of criminality go unscathed, while it is the most marginalized, and often innocent, people who face the worst consequences. In short, the negative impact on human rights of the war on drugs in Mexico is not a mere analytical hypothesis to be proven; it is, rather, a daily reality experienced for more than a decade by thousands of families scarred by the crisis of violence.</p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/benjamin-ramm/our-children-are-dying-meet-activists-saying-no-more-to-war-on-drugs">&quot;Our children are dying&quot;: meet the activists saying &#039;no more&#039; to the &#039;war on drugs&#039;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> drugpolicy Centro Prodh Tue, 17 May 2016 06:12:19 +0000 Centro Prodh 102113 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Where do we go from here? The drug policy debate continues https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/where-do-we-go-from-here-drug-policy-debate-continues <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The global drug prohibition model stokes human rights violations across the world, despite the recent UN drug summit. What can be done? openDemocracy and the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) explore in our ongoing partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-25717318.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Counter-narcotics officer, Colombia. Fernando Vergara/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-25717318.jpg" alt="Counter-narcotics officer, Colombia. Fernando Vergara/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Counter-narcotics officer, Colombia. Fernando Vergara/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Counter-narcotics officer, Colombia. Fernando Vergara/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>More and more countries are breaking with the notion that a "drug free world" is possible − or even necessarily desirable. They urge reforms to reduce the violence associated with the illicit drug market and the harmful health effects. But the prohibition-focused international drug control treaties remain in place, despite their failure to reduce the trade after five decades of brutal efforts. Change is happening, but from the bottom up.</p> <p>In the articles, videos and personal stories we are publishing this week, we reflect on the tremendous pitfalls of the ‘war on drugs’, the widening gulf among governments over the punitive approach, the myths that fed into this system in the first place, and the policy innovations that can be expected in the coming years.</p> <p>This six-month editorial partnership was timed to coincide with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem (UNGASS), which took place in April. Although UNGASS fell short of expectations in many ways, it did show that the global consensus in favour of drug prohibition has crumbled. We seek to contribute to the ongoing debate with thoughtful analyses and personal tales.</p> <p>What follows is a 'day-by-day' guide to our guest week on “the human cost of global drug policy”, running from 16 to 20 May 2016.</p> <h2><strong>Monday</strong></h2> <p>We kick off the week with an article by Mike Trace, Chair of the Board at the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), who details t<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/mike-trace/impasse-turning-point-for-war-on-drugs-un-general-assembly-special-session">he disappointments and progress seen at UNGASS</a>. As the polarisation among countries intensifies, reform-minded politicians won't wait for a global green light to start changing detrimental policies. Mike Trace predicts what we can expect to see before the next UN ‘jamboree’ in 2019: more cannabis regulation and harm reduction, and less reliance on enforcement and punishment.</p> <p>The Caravan for Peace, Life and Justice travelled through five countries from Honduras to the United States to arrive in New York City on the eve of UNGASS. Leading the caravan were victims of the ‘drug war’, including families who lost loved ones to violence, addiction and incarceration. Benjamin Ramm, editor-at-large at openDemocracy,<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/benjamin-ramm/our-children-are-dying-meet-activists-saying-no-more-to-war-on-drugs"> interviewed them in this video</a>, which leaves no doubt about the urgent need for reform.</p><h2>Tuesday</h2><p>The case of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa, Mexico shocked the world with its brutality and magnitude. But enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and arbitrary detentions and torture have been on the rise for years in Mexico, as militarised efforts to combat drug trafficking, state connivance, and weak accountability and rule of law mechanisms converge. Leading human rights organisation Centro Prodh <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/centro-prodh/in-mexico-human-rights-abuses-of-war-on-drugs-have-been-daily-reality-for-more-than-dec">tells the story</a>.</p><p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/wola-washington-office-on-latin-america/kidnapped-coerced-lilianas-story">In a photo essay</a>, Liliana recounts how she was threatened and forced into transporting drugs to Argentina, where she is now being incarcerated far from her two children in Venezuela. She was subjected to the methods that human trafficking networks and drug-running organisations use to lure or coerce women into their criminal activities.</p><p>Rio de Janeiro evokes images of both natural beauty and gun violence.&nbsp;Different policing strategies have been used to tackle drug-related crime there over the years, and the Police Pacifying Units (UPPs) were created to reduce the territorial disputes and lethal violence associated with trafficking, rather than to quash the drug trade. Ignacio Cano of Rio de Janeiro State University’s Laboratory for the Analysis of Violence weighs <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/ignacio-cano/searching-for-alternative-to-war-on-drugs-in-rio-de-janeiro">the successes and failures of this alternative force</a>.</p><h2>Wednesday</h2><p>Kirsten Han was just 21 years old when she came face to face with Yong Vui Kong, a young man of the same age who faced the death penalty under Singapore’s draconian drug laws. Local officials justify the state’s killing of traffickers by arguing that it&nbsp;‘saves' hundreds or thousands of other lives that would otherwise be ruined by drug addiction. Han, co-founder of We believe in Second Chances, says <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/kirsten-han/how-discovering-truth-about-singapore-s-war-on-drugs-led-me-to-campaign-to-abolish-death">this dangerous logic ignores a host of important factors</a>.</p><p>The current drug control system can be traced back to China, where an international conference was held in 1909 to propose prohibiting opium and its derivatives. Frank Dikötter, a professor at the University of Hong Kong, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/frank-dikotter/unravelling-myth-of-china-s-opium-plague">deconstructs the myth of the 'opium plague'</a> in that country, which underpins much of the legitimacy of today’s so-called 'war on drugs'.</p><h2>Thursday</h2><p>How should we gauge the success of our drug policies? David Bewley-Taylor, founding director of the Global Drug Policy Observatory at Swansea University, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/dave-bewley-taylor/missed-opportunity-or-foundation-for-future-of-drug-reform-measuring-success-at-u">explores discussions around the metrics</a> used to measure an increasingly complex and fluid illicit market along with the impact of drug-related measures in areas such as health, development and security. Post-UNGASS, profound analyses are needed to ensure that&nbsp;‘success' measurements aren't focused on the wrong things.</p><p>More and more women are being incarcerated for low-level drug offences in Latin America, and most are single mothers whose detention causes harm to their children and society as a whole. In some cases women are coerced into transporting drugs, and the situation of girls and women subjected by Jamaican drug lords is an extreme, but pertinent, example. Coletta Youngers of WOLA, Margarette May Macaulay of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and Nischa Pieris of the OAS's Inter-American Commission of Women discuss, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/coletta-youngers-nischa-pieris-margarette-may-macaulay/is-war-on-drugs-destroying-women-s-lives">in this video on the destructive 'war on drugs'</a>.</p><p>Supatta Ruenrurng was arrested in her native Thailand with one-and-a-half methamphetamine tablets she had brought back from Laos for her personal use. Her child's primary caregiver, Supatta was sentenced to 25 years in prison for drug importation. A gender and human rights perspective is absent in south-east Asia's drug policies, and Supatta's case demonstrates the injustice of disproportionate sentencing practices that affect women and their families. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/nischa-pieris/across-asia-we-need-to-give-women-incarcerated-by-war-on-drugs-voice">Nischa Pieris of the OAS provides an overview</a>.</p><h2>Friday</h2><p>Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala − countries with firsthand knowledge of the violence perpetuated by the 'war on drugs' − urged the UN system to address the failings of global prohibition policies. But last month's UNGASS drug summit made little real headway. The world's traditional powers don't recognise the problem as their own, even though the major centres of consumption are in Europe and North America. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/luciana-pol/after-insubstantial-un-drugs-summit-last-month-what-s-left-for-latin-america">Luciana Pol of CELS writes</a>.</p><p>The story of Miguel Ángel Durrels is a tale of a drugs arrest that went terribly wrong. Miguel was picked up by police in a Buenos Aires suburb for possessing 78 grams of marijuana. Some 12 hours later, he was found dead in a police station holding cell area that a judge had expressly ruled could not be used to detain anyone. His family still has doubts about the official version of events and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/center-for-legal-and-social-studies-cels/marijuana-arrest-that-went-terribly-wrong-story-of-miguel-n">calls for an end to the persecution of consumers</a>.</p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/mike-trace/impasse-turning-point-for-war-on-drugs-un-general-assembly-special-session">Impasse or turning point for the ‘war on drugs’? UNGASS 2016, explained</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/centro-prodh/in-mexico-human-rights-abuses-of-war-on-drugs-have-been-daily-reality-for-more-than-dec">In Mexico, the human rights abuses of the ‘war on drugs’ have been a daily reality for more than a decade</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/ignacio-cano/searching-for-alternative-to-war-on-drugs-in-rio-de-janeiro">Searching for an alternative to the ‘war on drugs’ in Rio de Janeiro</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/wola-washington-office-on-latin-america/kidnapped-coerced-lilianas-story">Kidnapped and coerced: this is Liliana&#039;s story</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/benjamin-ramm/our-children-are-dying-meet-activists-saying-no-more-to-war-on-drugs">&quot;Our children are dying&quot;: meet the activists saying &#039;no more&#039; to the &#039;war on drugs&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/frank-dikotter/unravelling-myth-of-china-s-opium-plague">Unravelling the myth of China’s &#039;Opium Plague&#039; </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/kirsten-han/how-discovering-truth-about-singapore-s-war-on-drugs-led-me-to-campaign-to-abolish-death">I discovered the truth about Singapore&#039;s &#039;war on drugs&#039;. Now I campaign against the death penalty</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/dave-bewley-taylor/missed-opportunity-or-foundation-for-future-of-drug-reform-measuring-success-at-u">Missed opportunity or a foundation for the future of drug reform? Measuring success at UNGASS 2016</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/nischa-pieris/across-asia-we-need-to-give-women-incarcerated-by-war-on-drugs-voice">Across Asia, we need to give the women incarcerated by the ‘war on drugs’ a voice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/coletta-youngers-nischa-pieris-margarette-may-macaulay/is-war-on-drugs-destroying-women-s-lives">Is the ‘war on drugs’ destroying women’s lives?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/luciana-pol/after-insubstantial-un-drugs-summit-last-month-what-s-left-for-latin-america">After an insubstantial UN drugs summit last month, what’s left for Latin America?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/center-for-legal-and-social-studies-cels/marijuana-arrest-that-went-terribly-wrong-story-of-miguel-n">A marijuana arrest that went terribly wrong: the story of Miguel Ángel Durrels</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> drugpolicy Luciana Pol Gabriela Kletzel Mon, 16 May 2016 01:38:09 +0000 Gabriela Kletzel and Luciana Pol 102088 at https://www.opendemocracy.net "Our children are dying": meet the activists saying 'no more' to the 'war on drugs' https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/benjamin-ramm/our-children-are-dying-meet-activists-saying-no-more-to-war-on-drugs <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In April, openDemocracy was in New York to meet the Caravan Activists, a remarkable group of men and women, who have lost loved ones to the 'war on drugs'. Now they campaign to change the system.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" /></a></p> <iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/9exDuJ3AkQM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p class="mag-quote-right">I sat there and had to watch her while her respirations declined.</p><p><strong>Donna May, “mumsDU”:</strong> My daughter Jack was an opiate user. I found her in an overdose one evening and rushed her to the hospital. In hospital, the doctor failed to recognise that she was indeed in an overdose situation and failed to administer naloxone, the opiate reversal drug. And I sat there and had to watch her while her respirations declined, and she eventually went into cardiac arrest and passed away. And they revived her and left it to me to decide to pull the plug. I think that Canada needs to be adequately educated and trained in responding to overdose and I think that all measures of an overdose should be looked at. Had the drugs that my daughter was taking been legalised and regulated, they wouldn't have been cut with levamisole that eventually led to tremendous infection within her body, causing necrotising fasciitis or flesh-eating disease; my daughter lost her legs.</p> <p><strong>Karen Garrison, radio host of “Mommie-activist and sons”</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">: Well I think that, as all wars end in tragedies, and that the tragedies have taken their toll, I think that now you should consider alternatives to incarceration. I mean, not everybody's on drugs, but the ones that are need some kind of treatment. It should be considered not just one time, but several times – the proper treatment for the proper person. Don't cookie-cut these treatments and say, "well he's a heroin addict just send him there. He's a crack addict send him there".&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">But the first thing: incarceration alone is a horrific thing, whether it's one day, one year or a hundred years, or these triple life sentences they give people that are just ludicrous. Alternatives to incarceration, period. A lot of people that went to jail didn't have to, because when they went, it broke down a whole community, the whole family, all of these things. It's like a domino effect on everything. Now that we've already had this war, the casualties are off the chart. It's time to reconsider incarceration.</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-left" style="line-height: 1.5;">The doctors were not conversant in addiction and withdrawal.</span></p> <p><strong>Leslie McBain, “mumsDU”</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">: My son Jordan was diagnosed with a minor back injury and our physician gave him about seven months worth of oxycodone over seven months. He was firmly addicted. He asked to go to detox&nbsp; – he did go to detox – and he came out with no support. It was a few months later, he couldn't take the strain of withdrawal, and he relapsed and he died from an overdose.&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I have been completely radicalised by the way everything went. The doctors were not conversant in addiction and withdrawal. I have been working on that. I have been working on the drug naloxone, that reverses the opiates, the "Good Samaritan law" where someone will call with no consequences to emergency services. So I see that as the smaller picture. The larger picture is ending the ‘war on drugs’ which takes care of all harms.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;<strong>Dr. Tamara Olt, JOLT Foundation</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">: It's such a criminal justice approach right now versus a health approach. And so my son used alone because of the stigma and shame that he felt. He was only 16, and he was afraid to tell me or anybody to get help and so he died, using alone. So that's why I've decided to not be quiet, to tell my story. I'm not ashamed of my son; he was an amazing child, but my story is way too common. Our children are dying. The billions of dollars and a failed war on drugs, there has to be another answer. And not one where mums should be standing here like me.</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center" style="line-height: 1.5;">There has to be another answer. And not one where mums should be standing here like me.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I think that we have a huge battle in front of us with decriminalisation, which I do support. But boy, there are still a lot of people here who see using drugs as a moral failure, an ethical issue and I really see it as a human rights issue. But you know, coming from Illinois there's a lot of people who do not. Everybody's still about "put the dealer in jail, put the users in jail". I heard a sheriff say: "we're gonna bring the hammer down on these users". And I'm like, you've got to be kidding me, it's not how we're going to get people to stop, or get them help. We've got a lot of work, but at least the conversation is happening.</span></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This video is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/mike-trace/impasse-turning-point-for-war-on-drugs-un-general-assembly-special-session">Impasse or turning point for the ‘war on drugs’? UNGASS 2016, explained</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/where-do-we-go-from-here-drug-policy-debate-continues">Where do we go from here? The drug policy debate continues</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> drugpolicy Benjamin Ramm Mon, 16 May 2016 01:00:45 +0000 Benjamin Ramm 102070 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Impasse or turning point for the ‘war on drugs’? UNGASS 2016, explained https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/mike-trace/impasse-turning-point-for-war-on-drugs-un-general-assembly-special-session <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The official consensus from the United Nations summit last month was ‘business as usual’ for the global drug control regime. But there’s cause for optimism for the future. Here are three predictions. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/mike-trace/imp-s-o-cambio-real-en-la-guerra-contra-las-drogas-as-fue-ungass-2016">Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-26133951.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Bolivia president Evo Morales holds up a coca leaf at UNGASS press conference. B. Matthews/AP/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-26133951.jpg" alt="Bolivia president Evo Morales holds up a coca leaf at UNGASS press conference. B. Matthews/AP/PA Images. All rights reserved." title="Bolivia president Evo Morales holds up a coca leaf at UNGASS press conference. B. Matthews/AP/PA Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bolivia president Evo Morales holds up a coca leaf at UNGASS press conference. B. Matthews/AP/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>So it’s all over. A United Nations summit that took three years to prepare for, cost tens of millions of dollars, and filled the General Assembly hall with political leaders and diplomats for three days, concluded last month. The official outcome, a consensus declaration running to 14 pages, despite some positive language in some areas, is largely a statement of ‘business as usual’ – no changes to the international drug control treaties, no revisions to the structure of the UN system for responding to drug markets and consumption, and no specific actions or deadlines to be implemented by member states or international agencies. </p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Behind this disappointing headline, however, there is certainly some cause for optimism. There are many governments that accept the value and urgency of modernising drug policies and programmes, and of implementing new approaches. Several national leaders made it clear to the General Assembly that they are not happy with the inertia represented by the consensus declaration, and will not wait for permission from the UN to proceed with the implementation of the reforms that work best for their citizens (including the legalisation of cannabis).&nbsp; Meanwhile, others expressed equal determination to continue to, in the words of the Russian spokesperson, “intensify the war on drugs”.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">This polarisation of approaches means that the United Nations definitely has a real and persistent drug problem. This encompasses an ever-growing and diversifying illegal market that generates hundreds of billions of dollars per year in revenues for organised crime groups; the widespread use of this illicit revenue to corrupt institutions and political processes, and to fund other forms of crime and terrorism; increasing rates of addiction across all societies and cultures; hundreds of thousands of deaths due to drug overdoses, or drug market-related violence, every year; millions of people who use drugs without access to sterile injecting equipment contracting HIV or hepatitis infections every year; millions of people who use drugs arrested every year, and often subjected to harsh and disproportionate punishments, including a rising use of the death penalty.</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-right" style="line-height: 1.5;">Any sense of shared responsibility between member states is now fundamentally broken.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The global drug control regime was established to bring state control over, and eventually eradicate, illicit drug markets. But it is not going well. The last UN drug summit, in 1998, met under the slogan “A Drug Free World – We Can Do It”. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that, 18 years later, we can’t do it. The challenge facing the member states gathered in New York last month was to acknowledge that basic truth, acknowledge that repressive approaches had actually created many of the problems we now face, and agree a programme of action that could at least reduce the harmful impacts of a globally established commodity market with high demand, and multiple supply options.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Their failure to do this demonstrates the other world drug problem – that any sense of shared responsibility or mission between member states is now fundamentally, and maybe irrevocably, broken. The United Nations drug control treaties were drafted and ratified in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in a spirit of shared faith in the ability of prohibition and law enforcement to strangle the illegal market, and thereby minimise the consequential harms to the health and welfare of citizens. Decades later, all governments know that this strategy has not worked – some (mainly from Latin America, but also including Canada) are reacting to that reality by calling for fundamental reforms, while others (authoritarian governments such as Russia, China, Indonesia, Pakistan and Egypt) are seeking further escalation. There is another group – and this includes most western European countries and the USA – which know that reforms are necessary, and are pursuing them in their own countries (often in sub-national jurisdictions), but are not willing to expend the diplomatic energy on attempts to reset the global agreements at this time.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Therefore, at the UN level, the problem is pushed down the road a little – the whole jamboree happens again in 2019. Those of us who think that the UN should be the setting where governments can overcome their own diverse interests, and provide leadership in finding effective responses to shared global challenges, have again been disappointed. In the absence of a credible multilateral strategy, it is likely that the realities on the ground, and the political realities in local and national governments, will drive an increasing divergence of approaches that will render future co-operation more difficult. So what is likely to happen between now and 2019? Here are a few predictions:</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-left" style="line-height: 1.5;">The era of tough punishment will increasingly be seen as a bizarre historical mistake.</span></p> <p><strong>Cannabis regulation: </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In the last few years, one country (Uruguay) and five US states have implemented legislation to manage legal recreational cannabis markets. Canada has announced that it will implement the second national legal market in 2017, and several more US states seem likely to follow suit following votes planned for November this year. It is therefore reasonable to assume that by 2019 these defections from the global commitment to prohibition of all controlled drugs will no longer be possible to ignore. The United Nations’ drug treaty watchdog has already confirmed that regulated cannabis markets are a direct breach of drug treaty obligations, so either a process will need to be started to reform the treaties, or it will become clear that compliance with them is now optional.</span></p> <p><strong>Reducing reliance on enforcement and punishment: </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The recent trend for countries to implement reforms that reduce the numbers arrested for drug possession, and reduce the punishments to those convicted, is likely to continue and intensify in the next few years. Governments around the world have viewed tough enforcement and sentencing policies as a sign of their commitment to the international regime, but that ‘spirit’ of drug control is now no longer in the ascendancy – most countries, and all UN spokespeople, at the UNGASS called for a move away from harsh punishments. While a few repressive countries declared their intention to continue arresting, incarcerating and executing those involved in the drug trade, it is likely that there will be further reforms around the world to decriminalise or de-penalise minor drug offences, or make punishments more proportionate (as endorsed by the UNGASS consensus document). As the evidence accumulates for the effectiveness of these measures, they will increasingly be seen as the mainstream, rational, approach to non-violent drug offenders – with the era of tough punishment increasingly seen as a bizarre historical mistake.</span></p> <p><strong>Harm reduction: </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Speaking of bizarre mistakes, it proved once again impossible for the international community at UNGASS to even mention the term ‘harm reduction’ by consensus. Harm reduction is a policy approach that focuses on reducing the harms associated with drug use, rather than preventing drug use itself. It is already endorsed by every relevant UN agency, the World Health Assembly, the UN General Assembly and the UN human rights mechanisms, it has been irrevocably proven effective by numerous rigorous research reviews, and it is implemented in the majority of member states as an effective health promotion strategy. Harm reduction is one of the few clear successes in the drug policy field over the last three decades. It is therefore breathtaking that the consensus-based system for these UN drug debates allows a small number of countries to continue blocking its endorsement by the UN drug control organs. These countries do this not because they have any evidence of effective alternative strategies, but because harm reduction is rooted in support and tolerance for people who use drugs – and that challenges the ideology of zero tolerance and stigmatisation preferred by repressive regimes.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Despite such resistance, more than 30 countries explicitly declared their support for harm reduction in their national statements at the UNGASS, and it is inevitable that the principles and practices of this approach will continue to expand in coming years. Unfortunately, and somewhat predictably, it is those governments that most vehemently oppose harm reduction that have the most urgent problems with overdoses and HIV transmission, and it is their intransigence that will ultimately undermine the achievement of the United Nation’s goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">While these policy debates move from the floor of the General Assembly to national parliaments and local administrations, it is ultimately the changing reality on the ground that will set the context for the next UN drug policy gathering in 2019. We have seen a significant shift in the nature and diversity of illicit drug markets over the last five years – no longer is consumption focused on a handful of substances, no longer can we draw clear distinctions between producer and consumer countries, no longer are the trafficking routes simple to identify and interdict, and no longer can the dream of stifling the entire market through big enforcement successes be seen as a credible strategy. A rapid diversification of psychoactive substances, production techniques, distribution methods, and patterns of consumption is inevitable, and governments now need to focus their efforts on how best to manage this reality in a way that minimises the social and health harms to their citizens. Any more time wasted on chasing the illusory objective of a drug-free country, region or world should increasingly be recognised as ideologically driven self-indulgence.</span></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/ann-fordham-martin-jelsma/will-ungass-2016-be-beginning-of-end-for-war-on-drugs">Will UNGASS 2016 be the beginning of the end for the ‘war on drugs’?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/where-do-we-go-from-here-drug-policy-debate-continues">Where do we go from here? The drug policy debate continues</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> drugpolicy Mike Trace Mon, 16 May 2016 00:30:02 +0000 Mike Trace 102030 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘Symbol of life’: where taking drugs is a sacred act https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/benjamin-ramm/symbol-of-life-where-taking-drugs-is-sacred-act <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>The war on drugs is presented as a battle against social evils. But from the Andes to the Caribbean, prohibition has criminalised cultural expression.&nbsp;<STRONG><EM><A href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/benjamin-ramm/un-s-mbolo-de-vida-cuando-tomar-drogas-es-un-acto-sagrado">Español</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/COCALEAFARTICLE.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Coca leaf producers, Bolivia, 2013. PA Images / Juan Karita. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/COCALEAFARTICLE.jpg" alt="Coca leaf producers, Bolivia, 2013. PA Images / Juan Karita. All rights reserved." title="Coca leaf producers, Bolivia, 2013. PA Images / Juan Karita. All rights reserved." width="460" height="310" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Coca leaf producers, Bolivia, 2013. PA Images / Juan Karita. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>It begins with the careful parceling out of coca leaves, into small bundles called <em>k’intus</em>. The tip of each leaf points to the sky, to <em>Inti </em>(the sun god), while the stem is directed to <em>Pachamama</em>, mother earth. The bundle is blessed with a gentle breath, and offered as a gift to a sacred place, sometimes with a wish (‘may the rain stop’). The bundles are then exchanged – <em>k’intus</em> are always prepared for others, unless one is alone. Elders are prioritised, as are guests; reciprocity is key, and the process is an important part of social mediation. Once the exchanges are complete, a benediction is shared: <em>hallpakusunchis.</em> Let us chew coca together.</p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">This ritual is performed up to five times a day across the Andes, binding people to their communities and their ancestral traditions. “Coca is our culture and our identity”, Bolivia’s president Evo Morales told the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) last week, emphasising that for indigenous people the plant is a symbol of life, not death. In the nations that make up the former Inca empire – Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, and northern Argentina – the consumption of this plant is legal; yet under international law, coca leaf is classed as a narcotic drug on a par with cocaine. In 2016, the EU </span><a href="https://twitter.com/MartinJelsmaTNI/status/712675027813076993" style="line-height: 1.5;">still</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> refuses to back an amendment to the 1961 Single Convention that would acknowledge the legitimacy of coca consumption.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Critiques of the 'war on drugs' focus disproportionately on the developed world: on a lack of harm reduction, and the futility of prohibition. But in the developing world, an actual war is taking place, with unprecedented levels of violence – during Mexico’s counter-narcotics surge between 2007 to 2014, an estimated 164,000 people were&nbsp;killed, a </span><a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/the-staggering-death-toll-of-mexicos-drug-war/" style="line-height: 1.5;">higher</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> number than in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.</span></p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-right" style="line-height: 1.5;">For indigenous people the plant is a symbol of life, not death.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Militarisation has been selectively implemented: the Netherlands is a leading producer of illegal narcotics, but it is unthinkable that it would become a theatre of war.&nbsp;In Colombia, a 20-year US-funded campaign to eradicate coca by aerial bombardment has failed not only to reduce supply, but contaminated waterways and food crops, and may have carcinogenic consequences (according to the WHO, glyphosate is “probably cancer-causing”). President Juan Manuel Santos highlighted the double-standard in the General Assembly: “how do you tell a Colombian peasant that he can’t grow marijuana when people in Colorado can?”&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;"></span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Colombia is the de-facto leader of the Cartagena group, a loose confederation of reform-minded nations, opposed to what Santos describes as “counterproductive and cruel” criminalisation. Across the continent, prohibition is advocated by authoritarian statists on both the left and right, while reform is a position derived either from conviction, practicality, or fatigue. The global north has viewed Morales as a comrade of Castro, but Cuba has been among the most aggressively prohibitionist advocates in recent decades. In truth, Morales is more of an indigenist than a socialist; unlike Castro, his politics are more communitarian than statist. Even politicians friendly to the US, such as Mexico’s plutocratic president Enrique Peña Nieto, are breaking with prohibition. Peña Nieto attended the UNGASS after a dramatic volte-face, and surprised the Assembly by calling for “a transition from prohibition to effective prevention and effective regulation”.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">At a pop-up exhibition in midtown Manhattan called "The Museum of Drug Policy", I met Amapola (‘opium poppy’), a Peruvian peasant activist at odds with her government’s increasingly hawkish approach to prohibition. She told me about being excluded from the process of decision-making: “we have no real participation – agriculture is not represented, and the interests of farmers are neglected”. Outgoing president Ollanta Humala, elected on an indigenist-leftist ticket, failed to improve conditions. “We have not seen greater justice: there is still repression, and little respect for the rights of workers and peasants”.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Now, to the horror of human rights campaigners, Peru is set to elect Keiko Fujimori, daughter of an imprisoned ex-president whose office was characterised by privatisation, corruption, and repression. Amapola says that Keiko is “a candidate of the capital [Lima], and of capitalists”, and remembers Fujimori’s tenure as a time of “assassinations, incarcerations, disappearances” – it was he who pursued a policy of forced sterilisation in indigenous areas; arguably an act of genocide.</span></p> <p class="mag-quote-left">This issue has thrust the Caribbean to the forefront of the reformist movement.</p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">At a roundtable discussion at the exhibition, policy analyst Vicki Hanson described the criminalisation of cannabis as “a war on culture” – an assault on Rastafarian religious tradition. Hanson challenged the audience to look beyond the recreational image of marijuana to acknowledge its ceremonial and medicinal significance. This issue has thrust the Caribbean to the forefront of the reformist movement. “Jamaica is the new Bolivia”, says Pien Metaal of the Transnational Institute. Metaal is insightful on how prohibitionist drug policy evolved from a limited European understanding of the ritual role of hallucinogenic plants. Liberalism is astute on the virtue of personal choice, but it underestimates the importance of communal bonds.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The late Eduardo Galeano, always a perceptive observer of the iniquities of globalisation, wrote on the eve of the millennium:</span></p> <blockquote><p><em>“Five centuries ago, the people and the lands of the Americas were incorporated into the world market as things. A few conquerors, the conquered conquerors, were able to fathom the American plurality, and they lived within it and for it; but the Conquest, a blind and blinding enterprise like all imperial invasions, was capable of recognising the indigenous people, and nature, only as objects to be exploited or as obstacles. Cultural diversity was dismissed as ignorance and punished as heresy, in the name of a single god, a single language and a single truth, and this sin of idolatry merited flogging, hanging or the stake.”</em></p></blockquote> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Embrace legalisation, say the reformists, and incorporate drugs into the world market of things, so they may be treated as a commodity, like soya or timber. But this ought to tell us that liberalisation is only a limited solution: the global market is inherently indifferent to the fates of those cultivating and producing goods. Most consumers are unconcerned by the conditions of those who toil, in part because their labours are out of sight. Legalisation of narcotics will not solve the social crises of the global south, although it will bring greater peace and stability and lessen corruption. Social justice requires a profound shift in our relationship with the developing world: one that is symbiotic, rather than parasitic. And it demands we reassess our attitude to how other cultures use drugs – because, as Amapola says, “it is more important than the market; it is sacred.”</span></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/julia-buxton/myths-moralism-and-hypocrisy-drive-international-drug-control-system">Myths, moralism, and hypocrisy drive the international drug control system</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics drugpolicy Benjamin Ramm Tue, 26 Apr 2016 13:10:26 +0000 Benjamin Ramm 101650 at https://www.opendemocracy.net From the US to Indonesia, why do we perpetuate the ‘war on drugs’? https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/hannah-hetzer-r-elliott-gloria-lai/from-us-to-indonesia-why-do-we-perpetuate-war-on-drugs <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As the United Nations General Assembly Session meets in New York today to discuss the ‘world drug problem’, our roundtable explores the political convenience and political gain that drives prohibitionist drug policy and the ‘war on drugs’. Video (7:34).</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" /></a></p> <p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dAwA_cwtD6c" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p class="mag-quote-left">It’s really based in racial prejudices.</p><p><strong>Hannah Hetzer: </strong>The reason for keeping legal some drugs and not others<strong> </strong>has nothing to do with scientific evidence,<strong> </strong>it’s really based in racial prejudices,<strong> </strong>the association of certain drugs with certain populations,<strong> </strong>assumed to be using certain drugs.<strong> </strong>You’ve seen the hardest and most repressive<strong> </strong>drug policies mirror the populations that the US<strong> </strong>assumes are using those drugs.<strong>&nbsp;</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The anti-cocaine laws were directed at the African-American community, the opium laws at the Chinese community, anti-marijuana laws at the Mexican community.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">This is the difficulty, you now have a country which was the creator and leader of the ‘war on drugs’, it started internally, and then imported and exported its failed policies to the rest of the world with bilateral agreements, and then embedding it in the UN framework. A lot of what we see today is also the result of what the US has been advocating for. And now we are at an interesting position&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">where the US, I won’t say is a leader in drug policy reform, but is considering alternatives within its borders. That’s on two major fronts, the marijuana front with 23 states with legal medical marijuana, four states with regulated recreational marijuana, and a whole slew of states that are going to keep voting on it, progressing and progressing. On marijuana reform, the US is moving quicker than anywhere else. A second major area is criminal justice reform, where you have the Obama administration talking about mass incarceration, trying to roll that back, and being a real advocate for supporting those reforms internally.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Unfortunately we haven’t seen the reforms happening domestically translated into US foreign policy and its attitude at the UN. Until the US does that internationally, it will still be assumed that what it does internally might just be a phase, might be something that is just linked to the Obama administration, and not yet internationalised.&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">When you’ve invested so much in rhetoric and a system that’s infiltrated your scientific institutions, your international institutions, it’s really hard to roll that back. It’s hard to admit that those policies aren’t working, it’s hard to get those institutions to change track.</span></p> <p><strong>Richard Elliott</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">: Since the mid-80s, Canada began to introduce needle and syringe programmes, which have expanded across the country. Nowhere near the level of coverage needed, but there are needle and syringe programmes operating in cities across the country, and usually with funding from various levels of government. We have seen over the last 15 years, the introduction of a couple of supervised consumption services, particularly in Vancouver, where they’ve been some of the most well-studied examples of supervised consumption in the world, contributing to the literature to demonstrate the effectiveness of these health programmes.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">So there are a number of things where Canada has been reasonably progressive compared to others. That now needs to translate into policy positions in international forums. We have been calling for the newly elected government to be a strong proponent of harm reduction, a strong proponent of public health-based approaches, a strong proponent of evidence-based approaches,&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">of human rights, of opposition to the death penalty, again something Canada historically has been opposed to. We think Canada should be firmly speaking out against the death penalty for drug offences, which is clearly a violation of international law. That should not be a difficult position for Canada to take.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">With the question of access to controlled substances for medical purposes, that should be a no-brainer for pretty much any country. Certainly for Canada, it shouldn’t be hard to get behind saying, we can’t let repressive prohibitionist approaches stand in the way of access to these substances for medical purposes. Particularly when the drug-control conventions themselves speak explicitly about this as a purpose of the drug-control regime: access for medical purposes.&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">We know in reality that is often not the case.</span></p> <p class="mag-quote-right">It’s political convenience, it’s political gain.</p> <p><strong>Gloria Lai: </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The symptoms of this problem</span><strong> </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">that we see in Asia</span><strong> </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">are some of the most extreme&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">forms of punishment for drug trafficking and drug supply. That’s the death penalty for drug offences. In countries like Singapore and Malaysia those sentences are mandatory, where the judge doesn’t have discretion over whether to impose the death penalty or an alternative sentence, when someone is arrested for possession of quite a minor quantity of drugs: 15 grams of heroin in Singapore for example. And this is a problem not just as a violation of international human rights law, it’s also a problem in that it’s not a deterrent. It doesn’t deter people from engaging in the drug trade or drug supply. It’s inevitable that it’s the people who are engaged&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">in the lowest level of the drug market who end up arrested in possession of drugs. Not the high-level bosses of the drug trade. People who control the drug trade are not often found in possession of those drugs. It ignores the fact that people often engage in the drug trade due to poverty, to marginalisation.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, decided to declare a state of emergency in relation to drugs. And one key measure he would take in response to this emergency was to execute everyone on death row for drug offences. So Indonesia proceeded to execute 14 people last year.&nbsp; They’ve recently made statements that they wish to continue with more executions. Some analysts say that this is part of a political strategy. That he was seen as someone who was not a tough man, who did not have strong standing or the confidence of party members. And so he decided to take this stance to show that he could be tough.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">It’s political convenience, it’s political gain, that governments choose to perpetuate and stay on this path.</span></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This video is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/richard-elliott-hannah-hetzer-coletta-youngers/why-is-un-failing-to-solve-world-drug-problem">Why is the UN failing to solve the ‘world drug problem’?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Civil society Democracy and government Ideas International politics drugpolicy Gloria Lai R Elliott Hannah Hetzer Tue, 19 Apr 2016 15:48:42 +0000 Hannah Hetzer, R Elliott and Gloria Lai 101498 at https://www.opendemocracy.net At the United Nations, are we any closer to ending the global addiction to prohibition? https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/benjamin-ramm/at-united-nations-are-we-any-closer-to-ending-global-addiction-to-prohibition <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The unregulated, unlicensed drug market is the purest, most deadly form of capitalism – prioritising profit above all else. It is time for an approach rooted in public health rather than criminal justice.&nbsp;<em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/benjamin-ramm/ungass-2016-estamos-cerca-de-acabar-con-la-adicci-n-la-prohibici-n">Español</a></strong></em><strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" alt="wfd" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-26048629 copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Poppy field, Kandahar, Afghanistan, 2016. Allauddin Khan/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-26048629 copy.jpg" alt="Poppy field, Kandahar, Afghanistan, 2016. Allauddin Khan/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Poppy field, Kandahar, Afghanistan, 2016. Allauddin Khan/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="301" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Poppy field, Kandahar, Afghanistan, 2016. Allauddin Khan/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The ‘war on drugs’ is not a policy, but an ideology – a dogma insensitive to the facts, and uncaring of the consequences. On the evidence, no global initiative has failed as emphatically: prohibitionist measures have not reduced the drug supply, but created instead a lucrative industry in the provision of narcotics by gangs and cartels. (In 2016, illegal drugs are literally worth more than their weight in gold). The drug war has punished the most vulnerable in society: the poor; racial and ethnic minorities; and, increasingly, women. It is a world war – from the poppy fields of Afghanistan to the streets of Chicago – with a terrible human toll: in Latin America alone, deaths from the drug war exceed that of the conflict in Syria.</p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">At the request of three Latin American nations – Mexico, Colombia, and Guatemala – the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the world drug problem was brought forward from 2019 to 2016. But this sense of urgency was not reflected in the preparatory meeting in Vienna in March, where the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) published an ‘outcome document’ that broadly maintains the status quo – a position “almost entirely disconnected from reality”, according to Ann Fordham of the International Drug Policy Consortium. Negotiations in Vienna followed a pattern familiar to even casual observers of the UN: tense final hours of dispute resolution, followed by a sense of anticlimax upon publication, with a statement of consensus that sacrifices reform in the name of unity. Statements that challenged the failings of the current system were either vetoed or watered down.</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-right" style="line-height: 1.5;">The drafting of the document was a profoundly undemocratic process.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The drafting of the document was a profoundly undemocratic process – both unrepresentative and lacking transparency. Over 100 member states, most from the global south, played no role at all in the negotiations, despite being legally bound by international treaties to implement policies that disproportionately impact them. They will not have an opportunity to debate or redraft, because the document will be signed at the </span><em>start&nbsp;</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;">of the Special Session in New York on Tuesday. Seasoned observers seemed demoralised, and were almost universal in their condemnation. Steve Rolles of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation described the document as “a profound betrayal for the many stakeholders across the world who were promised real dialogue”.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">How will this lack of democracy impact on the outcome of UNGASS? “In diplomatic parlance, Vienna rather than New York will rule”, predicts former president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo – meaning that an agreement negotiated behind closed doors will trump the demand for reform. Mexico is on the front line of the drug war, and its citizens can verify that hardline policies have only entrenched corruption, violence and intimidation, by both state and non-state actors. Mexico led the charge for the CND to acknowledge the socio-economic issues that drive cultivation, production and trafficking, but geography and geopolitics limit its autonomy, and experimentation is stymied by a strict international legal framework that offers little flexibility for the piloting of a regulated market. (Decriminalisation of demand must go hand in hand with regulation of supply, if not to enhance the power of traffickers).</span></p> <p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/DC79T9RREJc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">It is important to frame the ongoing drug war in the context of the industries that rely on its continuation. The Panama Papers revealed how vast profits from drug cartels have been laundered into legality, while possession of minor amounts of cannabis can result in arrest. (In 2014, 1.5 million Americans were arrested on non-violent drugs charges; 83% solely for possession). In the US, a staggering 500,000 citizens are currently incarcerated for narcotics offences – more than the total amount of prisoners for all crime in western Europe. The privatised prison system relies on mass incarceration, as do the prison-guard unions that fund anti-legalisation campaigns. The US spends $50 billion a year on counter-narcotics; it would receive almost the exact same amount if drugs were taxed at rates comparable to alcohol and tobacco. Americans know that drug prohibition has been no more successful than alcohol prohibition: 70% disapprove of current policy, while over 50% favour decriminalisation.</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-left" style="line-height: 1.5;">Viable alternatives exist.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">It is time for an approach rooted in public health rather than criminal justice. The unregulated, unlicensed drug market is the purest, most deadly form of capitalism – prioritising profit above all else. By transferring the supply of drugs from medical professionals to unscrupulous dealers, prohibition has increased the likelihood of contamination and forced vulnerable users to engage in crime. In addition, it has prevented vital research into potentially life-enhancing treatments. Professor David Nutt has described the prohibition of research on psychedelics as “the biggest missed opportunity in the history of medicine”. Recent neuroscientific findings have highlighted the potential of both LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms) to alleviate depression and tackle addiction, with particularly striking success in curing alcoholism.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Viable alternatives exist. Taxing consumption, and reinvesting revenue into prevention and treatment, has brought positive results. Portugal implemented this policy 15 years ago, and has seen a 50% decrease in injected drug use. The recent success – socially and fiscally – of the decriminalisation of cannabis in four US states reflects a growing understanding of the benefits of regulation. While federal law remains inflexible and treaties are globally binding, the US is becoming less hawkish about implementation. Against international law, Uruguay has decriminalised cannabis, while Canada has pledged to regulate it, and legislative proposals are under consideration worldwide. Notably, it is the authoritarian reactionary states – Russia, China, and Iran – that are pressing for even harsher prohibitionist and punitive policies. This divergence in opinion is creating tension, which will be on display at UNGASS. As Alex Wodak of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation notes, “international consensus is irretrievably broken and the fractures are multiple, deep, severe and irreparable.”</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Over the coming days, I will be speaking to a range of voices in and around the Special Session, including government representatives, civil society activists, and witnesses from the front line of the drug war. Will global leaders heed the reasoned, evidence-based case for reform? We already know the formidable cost of not doing so: millions of lives ruined, billions of dollars wasted. As a famous user of LSD once observed, “the definition of insanity&nbsp;is doing something over and over again and expecting different results.”</span></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/ann-fordham-martin-jelsma/will-ungass-2016-be-beginning-of-end-for-war-on-drugs">Will UNGASS 2016 be the beginning of the end for the ‘war on drugs’?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/richard-elliott-hannah-hetzer-coletta-youngers/why-is-un-failing-to-solve-world-drug-problem">Why is the UN failing to solve the ‘world drug problem’?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Civil society Democracy and government Ideas International politics drugpolicy Benjamin Ramm Mon, 18 Apr 2016 16:42:55 +0000 Benjamin Ramm 101467 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why is the UN failing to solve the ‘world drug problem’? https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/richard-elliott-hannah-hetzer-coletta-youngers/why-is-un-failing-to-solve-world-drug-problem <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On 19 April, the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) meets to find a solution to the failed policies of the ‘war on drugs’. Our specialist roundtable discusses why the preparatory negotiations have been riddled with problems. Video (7:17).</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" /></a></p> <p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/DC79T9RREJc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p class="mag-quote-right">It will be looked at as the time the consensus was broken.</p> <p><strong>Hannah Hetzer:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> This is the first UNGASS that has happened in almost two decades and it’s a vastly different world to the one in 1998 when the slogan was ‘a drug-free world, we can do it’,&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">and you had countries rallying behind that, president Clinton addressing the general assembly&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">with his position of tough on crime, where dissent wasn’t really acknowledged. Now, 2016 is a different world. The idea of a drug-free world is still pushed by some countries but it’s no longer&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">widely accepted throughout the UN system. And you do have this break where more countries&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">have done something nationally and are willing to speak out about it. It is a different time, we can be more hopeful. There are more NGO actors, and I think this UNGASS will at least pave the way for future gatherings, for 2019. It will be looked at as the time the consensus was broken.</span></p> <p><strong>Richard Elliott: </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I think it’s fair to say that the process and the negotiations</span><strong> </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">for the outcome document from the UNGASS</span><strong> </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">have been less than satisfactory,</span><strong> </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">in fact, they have been quite flawed.&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The fact they have been kept in the Vienna bubble, where only a minority of member states have the ability to effectively engage in the negotiations, is a real problem. This is a global challenge, all countries are affected by this.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">So we are troubled but not surprised by reports that the Russian federation has been actively engaged in trying to block any sort of reasonable language about harm reduction, about human rights. Given the way Russia is playing politics with the drug issue domestically, for domestic political power purposes, it’s not surprising, but it is disappointing.</span></p> <p><strong>Coletta Youngers: </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">So what we’ve seen is a process of </span><strong>&nbsp;</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">negotiating a document behind closed doors, with, frankly, bullying by some of the bigger countries, and where a lot of countries don’t have a say.</span><strong> </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">From my point of view,</span><strong> </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">the document lacks credibility and legitimacy</span><strong> </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">whatever the outcome is,</span><strong> </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">because the process has been so non-transparent,</span><strong> </strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;">not open, and not democratic.</span></p> <p class="mag-quote-left">The process has been so non-transparent,<strong> </strong>not open, and not democratic.</p><p><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><strong>Hannah Hetzer:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> One of the sad things happening at the UN is that all of these conversations around drug policy and the UNGASS are not being reflective of what is happening in the world,&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">on a country level, on a city level, on a local level. We are at a really interesting time with drug policy, where over the last few years, the rate of change has accelerated, and you now have an incredible network of NGOs, of governments, of academics, great spokespeople who are talking&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">about the need for new policies. And having worked in this, it feels like a really exciting time when you look at those changes. But we’re not seeing that reflected anywhere at the UN level.</span></p> <p>You have your group of friendly countries trying to bring that on-the-ground reality to the UN, but it just gets lost in a lot of process-related issues.&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">The status quo eventually prevails because of the consensus nature of&nbsp; UN negotiations. The countries advocating for the status quo are able to say no to a lot of the changes.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">We still have a long way to go when you look at the actual numbers and it’s those countries&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">wedded to the repressive approach which sometimes feel like they are dominating the conversation.</span></p> <p><strong>Richard Elliott:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> Those countries that are ready and prepared to be guided by the evidence, by a concern for public health, a concern for human rights, should find the resolve, at long last, to move ahead with different approaches. A number of countries have done that, they remain an important minority, who’ve shown that it is possible to take a different approach, with very good outcomes. That you don’t need to hew blindly to the orthodoxy of the drug control regime, and its strict, narrow prohibitionist interpretations. That you can, in fact, jettison the ‘war on drugs’ and take a different approach. And you get better outcomes in terms of saving money, better protection for public health, better respect for human rights. More and more countries need to find the courage to do that, and show that the old system is damaging and broken, and we’re not going to be bound by it any more.</span></p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center" style="line-height: 1.5;">You can, in fact, jettison the ‘war on drugs’ and take a different approach.</span></p> <p><strong>Coletta Youngers:</strong><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> Regardless of the outcome document, I think that the UNGASS has achieved some very important things. One, civil society has been much more engaged and present&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">than has been the case in the past, and we have been able to interact directly with governments&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">that share some of our concerns, and have participated in a civil society task force. We have produced amazing material. That, in and of itself, has really helped to bring civil society together around the world, and that will continue after the UNGASS.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The other very important points are that the UNGASS has also served to bring in other UN agencies. Drug policy is the only issue within the UN system that is managed solely by basically two agencies that deal with drug policy: the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the International Narcotics Control Board. And no other agencies, not even health-related UN agencies are part of that discussion. And because of the UNGASS we have seen much more engagement on the part of the World Health Organisation, the UN Development Programme, the High Commissioner for Human Rights. And our challenge is going to be to keep them engaged after April of this year. And finally, the very fact that we’re having this debate is very significant. I’ve been working on drug policy for a very long time now. This debate was taboo, even when I started coming to the United Nations about ten years ago for these meetings and certainly in parts of the world like Latin America, until recently, you didn’t question the policy. We now have a bloc of countries that are saying, these policies aren’t working, and in fact, they may be doing more harm than good, and we need to be thinking about alternative approaches.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">My feeling is that post-UNGASS, after April, the debate goes back to the countries, and that’s where I think we’re going to see some really interesting reforms in addition to those already taking place, starting on the ground. And ultimately, change is going to come from the ground up,&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">not from the UN down.</span></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This video is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/ann-fordham-martin-jelsma/will-ungass-2016-be-beginning-of-end-for-war-on-drugs">Will UNGASS 2016 be the beginning of the end for the ‘war on drugs’?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Civil society Democracy and government International politics drugpolicy R Elliott Coletta A Youngers Hannah Hetzer Mon, 18 Apr 2016 12:50:31 +0000 Hannah Hetzer, Coletta A Youngers and R Elliott 101455 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What hope remains for drug policy reform at UNGASS? https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/oliver-robertson/what-hope-remains-for-drug-policy-reform-at-ungass <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The inability to recognise the reality of the current situation worldwide is the biggest failing of the ‘outcome document’ for the UN General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/oliver-robertson/hay-esperanza-de-reformar-las-pol-ticas-contra-las-drogas" target="_blank">Español</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/8250223333_1610f74370_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="United Nations, New York. Flickr/United Nations Photo. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/8250223333_1610f74370_z.jpg" alt="United Nations, New York. Flickr/United Nations Photo. Some rights reserved." title="United Nations, New York. Flickr/United Nations Photo. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>United Nations, New York. Flickr/United Nations Photo. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><blockquote><p>The Fifty-Ninth Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) took place from&nbsp;14 to 22 March 2016 in Vienna. This year’s meeting included a preparatory session for the forthcoming UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the world drug problem and agreed an ‘outcome document’&nbsp;which sets out what will be&nbsp;negotiated at UNGASS. </p></blockquote> <p>The outcome document from the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the world drug problem is out, before the meeting it summarises has happened. The product of another UN late-night, last-minute deal, it was finally agreed at the end of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna, which has been overseeing the UNGASS preparations. You can read it in its full glory&nbsp;<a href="http://www.un.org/Docs/journal/asp/ws.asp?m=E/CN.7/2016/L.12/Rev.1">here</a> (the outcome document itself is the annex starting on page 2).</p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-right" style="line-height: 1.5;">The innovation of adopting outcome documents before the meeting has happened is a worrying and potentially self-defeating development.</span></p> <p>The outcome document runs to 23 detailed pages and is as notable for what isn’t there as for what is. It repeats some bad practices that have been increasingly picked up in UN resolutions in recent years, including language stating that measures should be enacted “in accordance with national legislation” (only if the country agrees to it) and “as appropriate” (only if you want to). </p> <p>Additionally, the innovation of adopting outcome documents before the meeting has happened, first seen at the 2015 UN Crime Congress, is a worrying and potentially self-defeating development. Not only does it mean that any inputs at the meeting cannot be added to the document, but it also makes it harder for diplomats to justify participating in the meeting at all (why go if there’s nothing to decide?), which will damage the authority of the meeting itself.</p> <p>Those seeking explicit references to harm reduction or the death penalty will be disappointed (though several harm reduction methods are mentioned), while mentions of human rights are fairly limited: just five mentions in operative paragraphs, mostly general, optional or aspirational. Even a statement of fact that different countries have different approaches to the death penalty, with some permitting executions for drug offences and others considering it inappropriate and disproportionate, did not get in. Much of the language and approach reads like a re-run of previous inter-governmental declarations on drugs.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Much of the language and approach reads like a re-run of previous inter-governmental declarations on drugs.</p> <p>And this is perhaps the biggest failing in the outcome document: that it fails to recognise the reality of the current situation worldwide. While some countries are keen to continue the ‘war on drugs’, focusing on prohibition of narcotics, seizures of drugs and harsh prison sentences for those possessing, trafficking or using them, others have – through experience – grown weary or disillusioned with this approach. Instead, they are looking to minimise the harms done by drugs and state responses, and to deal with drug use primarily as a health not a crime issue. There is clearly a debate to be had and experiences to be shared.</p> <p>But the outcome document, earlier documents and the process have not reflected this. The chosen method, of forcing an appearance of consensus where in reality one does not exist, has&nbsp;<a href="http://idpc.net/alerts/2016/03/civil-society-statement-on-the-ungass">been roundly condemned by around 200 NGOs</a>&nbsp;and risks damaging the legitimacy of the CND and causing differently minded states to negotiate an alternative outside the formal UN setting. This has happened before: the treaties banning landmines and cluster munitions were developed outside formal UN processes after the UN Conference on Disarmament became paralysed by the need for consensus. </p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">For those wanting a fuller review of the world’s response to drugs, the UNGASS now increasingly looks like a step on the road to the next review in 2019, rather than the major change that was hoped for.</span></p> <p><em>Originally published by <a href="http://www.penalreform.org/blog/after-cnd-what-hope-remains-for-drug-policy/">Penal Reform International</a>.</em></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/ann-fordham-martin-jelsma/will-ungass-2016-be-beginning-of-end-for-war-on-drugs">Will UNGASS 2016 be the beginning of the end for the ‘war on drugs’?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Civil society Democracy and government International politics drugpolicy Oliver Robertson Fri, 08 Apr 2016 17:24:56 +0000 Oliver Robertson 101240 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Our drug policy system is an expensive failure. What are the alternatives? https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/joanne-csete/our-drug-policy-system-is-expensive-failure-what-are-alternatives <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The exorbitant cost of punitive drug policy is actually an argument for change. What if we invested in good quality treatment for addiction instead? <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/joanne-csete/nuestras-pol-ticas-contra-las-drogas-son-un-fracaso-y-una-ruina-qu-al" target="_blank"><em><strong>Español</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" alt="wfd" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-12541648 copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Needle exchange programme, Portland, Maine 2012. Press Association/Robert F. Bukaty. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-12541648 copy.jpg" alt="Needle exchange programme, Portland, Maine 2012. Press Association/Robert F. Bukaty. All rights reserved." title="Needle exchange programme, Portland, Maine 2012. Press Association/Robert F. Bukaty. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Needle exchange programme, Portland, Maine 2012. Press Association/Robert F. Bukaty. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The war on drugs has been an expensive failure, but its true price tag can only be measured when we include the indirect costs that far exceed the $100 billion that governments spend each year trying to control the world supply of illegal drugs. The full implications of this wasted expenditure should factor into arguments for an urgently needed and <a href="https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/reports/economics-drug-war-unaccounted-costs-lost-lives-missed-opportunities">radical redirection of drug policy.</a> </p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Much of the $100 billion pays for apprehending, processing and incarcerating people for non-violent drug offences. But this figure is far outweighed by the value of the illegal drug market that results from punitive drug wars, a figure estimated at $330 billion, a vast source of funds for corruption and insurgency. Militarised drug disruption programmes in central and south America and Asia have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, the displacement of significant numbers of people and massive environmental degradation. The global south has also lost significant investment opportunities in their economies and health systems as they pay to prosecute drug wars, often under pressure from the United States.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The scale of the policy’s failure is profound, and it is imperative that we step back from the ideology behind it. In place of an expensive ‘war’ against producers and traffickers in illegal drugs with front lines in low-income states, we should work to reduce problematic demand for these drugs amongst consumers at home, including by ensuring that the small percentage of drug users who are dependent on drugs get access to the full range of services and support that they need. The prohibition-first approach tramples on human rights and relegates public health to a secondary consideration. Reversing these priorities would improve lives at both ends of the supply chain, perhaps dramatically.</span><a href="https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/reports/economics-drug-war-unaccounted-costs-lost-lives-missed-opportunities" style="line-height: 1.5;"> And economic benefits and their knock-on effects could also be significant</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">.</span></p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-right" style="line-height: 1.5;">The prohibition-first approach tramples on human rights and relegates public health to a secondary consideration.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The key is to follow the empirical evidence. Most demand comes from a small number of users, so treating relatively few people can have a disproportionately large impact. Spending on good quality treatment for addiction can produce a many-fold return on investment: in reduction in crime, in saved healthcare costs and earnings of people who become productive again. Even expensive residential treatment can pay for itself.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Effective treatment options do exist. One is opioid substitution therapy (OST) in which a prescription opioid medication like methadone or buprenorphine helps people manage the craving for more dangerous substances. OST, when scaled up, can contribute to reducing overdose, the cause of 47,000 deaths in the United States in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. OST pays for itself many times over, partly through savings in health costs and reduction in the harms of problematic opioid use.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Needle exchanges help to prevent incidence of HIV and hepatitis C, both of which are expensive to treat. &nbsp;Needle and syringe programmes are among the best researched interventions in all of public health.&nbsp; They prevent disease without encouraging new or more frequent drug use. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">But scientifically sound drug treatment and preventive programmes like needle exchanges are not options for most of the world’s drug users. They are not available or there are major barriers to their use. Often this is because of a belief that the best response to drug use is a criminal justice rather than a public health response.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Drug courts in the United States, for example, were established, in theory, to offer an alternative to jail in the form of court-supervised treatment for drug dependence. But in many cases judges do not have the training to make good medical decisions, and some don’t seem to listen to health professionals. OST is disallowed by many drug courts, which is a missed opportunity to get people what may be the most effective treatment possible. Some judges also punish ‘failure’ of treatment programmes by putting people in jail, even though health professionals know that not all people succeed the first time in addiction treatment.</span></p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-left" style="line-height: 1.5;">We must challenge attitudes that portray drug use as the result of a moral failing or character flaw.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">We must challenge attitudes that portray drug use as the result of a moral failing or character flaw. The US experience suggests that many prevention programmes that preach abstinence at kids and try to scare them away from drugs don’t have a good record, and may even make drugs more, rather than less, appealing. Approaches based more on the reality of kids’ lives – finding out what really motivates them to try drugs – and on helping them to protect themselves from problematic use have a better chance of success.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Official rhetoric is shifting slowly away from complete prohibition. The inertia that characterises the federal government in the United States means that progress must be sought at the state and municipal level. One such initiative is the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) programme that began in Seattle that allows police officers to divert low-level offenders into drug programmes or to employment assistance or housing or social support in the community rather than jail. Albany and Santa Fe are among other communities to adopt LEAD programmes.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Laws against marijuana use have been relaxed in a number of states, and part of the argument in favour of state regulation has been revenue-based. The state of Colorado raised more than $70 million from marijuana in 2014, more than it took in for alcohol sales, and savings have accrued from averted law enforcement and incarceration on the other side of the ledger. Economic pressure continues to grow on the existing system, and </span><a href="https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/reports/economics-drug-war-unaccounted-costs-lost-lives-missed-opportunities" style="line-height: 1.5;">evidence-based arguments for a change in policy should incorporate the exorbitant indirect and direct costs of the current system</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, not just in the United States but in producer and transit countries long ravaged by the disastrous consequences of the war on drugs.</span></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/ann-fordham-martin-jelsma/will-ungass-2016-be-beginning-of-end-for-war-on-drugs">Will UNGASS 2016 be the beginning of the end for the ‘war on drugs’?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Civil society Democracy and government Ideas International politics drugpolicy Joanne Csete Fri, 08 Apr 2016 15:25:41 +0000 Joanne Csete 101235 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Has Argentina entered the 'war on drugs'? https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/manuel-tufr-paula-litvachky/has-argentina-entered-war-on-drugs <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>One of the dangers of the new government's anti-drugs measures is that they enable military intervention in matters of domestic security, a path that once taken, is hard to reverse.<strong><em>&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/manuel-tufr-and-paula-livachky/entr-argentina-en-la-guerra-contra-las-drogas">Español</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" alt="wfd" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Nicolás Rapetti (all rights reserved) for Manuel piece.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A federal prison in Argentina. CELS / Nicolas Rapetti. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Nicolás Rapetti (all rights reserved) for Manuel piece.jpg" alt="A federal prison in Argentina. CELS / Nicolas Rapetti. All rights reserved." title="A federal prison in Argentina. CELS / Nicolas Rapetti. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A federal prison in Argentina. CELS / Nicolas Rapetti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>December 2015 brought a change of government to Argentina. Since the election campaign, the new authorities have declared drug trafficking to be the most severe problem affecting the country. They have stirred up arguments rooted in fear – the dangers of becoming another ‘Colombia’ or ‘Mexico’ – but without offering any definite diagnosis as to the forms of drug trafficking or the magnitude of its impact on Argentine society. </p> <p>Upon taking power, the current government carried on with its escalating discourse, referring to a ‘paradigm shift’ in drug policy. The measures announced show a realignment of the country on the map of world debate with regard to drug-related problems and drug trafficking. The previous government had implemented vacillating policies, which combined support for progressive-minded positions in international arenas with erratic measures on the domestic front. The new administration seems to have begun to address these inconsistencies in the worst way, marking Argentina’s entry into the ‘war on drugs’.</p> <p>Internationally, the economic, institutional and humanitarian consequences of this ‘war’ have mobilised an increasingly important bloc of actors who assert the need to abandon this paradigm and explore new forms of state regulation of these markets, along with policies that apply the perspective of harm reduction when it comes to problems of violence, instead of inciting yet more of it through the criminal justice system and militarisation. </p> <p>In regional and international debates before 2015, Argentina stood by the countries that advocated further discussion of the effectiveness of the ‘war on drugs’ paradigm. The new government has begun to abandon that position, through regulatory decisions and an ever more explicit rapprochement with the United States, the main proponent of the war-like approach to drugs. At the same time, domestically, a fear campaign built around the growing problem of drug trafficking over the past two years has silenced incipient debates on the decriminalisation of consumption. </p> <p>Argentine academics and experts on drugs, members of the “Grupo Convergencia”, published a document in 2015, “<a href="http://cuestiondrogasargentina.blogspot.com.ar/?zx=1941642d0b998f38">Drogas: una initiative para el debate</a>” (Drugs: a debate initiative), in which they point out: “At present, Argentina does not have a comprehensive diagnosis of the drug phenomenon. By comprehensive diagnosis, we mean the existence and availability at all state levels of exhaustive, systematic and updated institutional knowledge of the drug phenomenon. This is not the case in our country where, unfortunately, presumption, intuition and improvisation have prevailed." </p> <p>But what is known for certain is that in recent years, the policies deployed against drug trafficking, by way of action or omission, have conspired to strengthen two of the most negative aspects associated with criminal networks, and not exclusively in the case of drug trafficking: institutional penetration, or the collusion or involvement of public, judicial and police officials in these networks; and the cycle of violence in poor neighbourhoods. The new authorities have not included these issues among their priorities. </p> <h2><strong>‘New threats’ as justification for military intervention</strong></h2> <p>One of the main risks of the new approach being adopted in Argentina is that it opens the door to military intervention in matters of domestic security, a path that once taken, is hard to reverse.</p> <p>The examples of Mexico and Colombia are extreme cases that nevertheless highlight the fact that direct intervention by the armed forces in actions against drug trafficking or other forms of crime has grave consequences in terms of increased violence, massive human rights violations, and the de-professionalisation and corruption of military structures. At the same time, progress toward the dismantling of markets and criminal organisations has been little to none. </p> <p>In contrast to various other countries in the region, in Argentina, the distinction between domestic security and foreign defence has been upheld since the return of democracy in 1983, although during the 1990s there were attempts to involve the armed forces in the fight against drug trafficking. Military resources were mobilised as of 2013 to provide logistical support to border control, with the ‘advance of drug trafficking’ as the underlying argument. </p> <p>The new government took a qualitative leap in this same direction: on 22 January 2016, a presidential decree declared a “security emergency” for the entire country. Among other things, the decree characterises drug trafficking as a “threat to national sovereignty” in that it is a crime that may have transnational connections, even when other transnational crimes do not receive the same treatment. Characterising drug trafficking as a “threat to national sovereignty” places it in a grey area somewhere between domestic security (the field of action of police and security forces) and defence (within the scope of the armed forces). The decree thus brings about a substantive change in that it authorises direct intervention by the military – in this case the air force – to shoot down planes that resist identification (or cannot be identified).</p> <p>The measure also implies explicit alignment with the doctrine of ‘new threats’ and, more generally, with the areas of work envisioned by different US agencies that advocate the armed forces' participation in internal security. This approach can be observed, for example, in the appointment of a former head of the Buenos Aires Provincial Police's Drug Division as the new chief for the entire provincial police force (which is the largest in the country); according to news reports, he was recommended by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). It can also be seen in the trip that security minister Patricia Bullrich made, along with other officials, to the United States at the end of February, where they met with officials from the US Department of State, the DEA and FBI, among others, for technical advice on interventions and weapons.</p> <h2><strong>Other forms of militarisation</strong></h2> <p>Another regional trend indicates that the fight against organised crime has served as an alibi for other forms of militarisation of domestic security. For instance, the adoption by police and other security forces of military equipment and tactics. This phenomenon has reached the United States, where the federal government equipped police with weapons, vehicles and other items used by the military in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and trained their security forces in military tactics. All of this has been used in the context of the war on drugs, essentially against the black population, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “<a href="https://www.aclu.org/feature/war-comes-home">War Comes Home</a>: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing”<em>. </em></p> <p>This militarisation of the police exceeds the matter of the war on drugs and has consequences for fundamental aspects of democratic life, such as the right to protest. The episodes in Ferguson, Missouri showed the world how military uniforms, weapons and vehicles are used as part of extremely aggressive tactics to control and repress public protests. </p> <p>In Latin America, this phenomenon builds on historic patterns of police militarisation, inherited mainly from the dictatorships, but also combined with seemingly contradictory trends, such as neighbourhood or community policing. These forces, at least on paper, should adopt methods of action that insert police into communities and move away from militarised models of territorial control. A clear example of these opposing trends are the Police Pacification Units (UPP) used in Rio de Janeiro since 2008, a policy aimed at regaining control of some <em>favelas, </em>or shantytowns. The neighbourhoods are invaded by heavily armed elite corps or, in some cases, by the armed forces, to then install police forces supposedly trained in community techniques. The apparent initial success of the programme has been tainted, however, by the serious claims of police violence toward shantytown inhabitants in recent months.</p> <p>In Argentina, although levels of police militarisation are lower, the trend in recent years has not been wholly absent. The province of Córdoba has a heavily armed police force called the Department of Territorial Occupation that, since its creation, has used deployment tactics that reflect a military indoctrination which envisions poor neighbourhoods as enemy territory to be occupied and controlled. During the previous government, this trend gained ground through the use of the national gendarmerie, an intermediate militarised force, to patrol zones of urban conflict. And while interventions by the gendarmerie have proven less lethal than those of the actual police forces, this highlights other problematic aspects of the use of militarised forces in urban settings, such as the difficulties of coexisting with the inhabitants of these neighbourhoods, especially the young men, who the gendarmerie see as subjects to be disciplined. </p> <h2><strong>Lack of oversight of police and judicial institutions</strong></h2> <p>In the case of Argentina, the militarisation of domestic security in any aspect is an ineffective and disproportionate recipe for taking on the key problems associated with the activities of criminal networks, foremost of which is collusion on the part of different state agencies. </p> <p>Institutional penetration is far below the levels seen in so-called ‘narco-states’; however, it is a phenomenon that allows different criminal networks to persist. Recent cases confirm this, such as the lawsuits brought against judicial officials or the scandals caused by police and politicians’ involvement in drug-trafficking networks.</p> <p>The measures taken to date by the new government suggest that the official position is that the weaknesses in prosecuting criminal networks are quantitative rather than qualitative. Therefore, more resources have been announced for the judicial branch, and new tribunals opened to alleviate the work of courts clogged with minor cases, but there has been no assessment of the structural problems in the justice system or the police forces that impede effective prosecution of the big players in drug trafficking and other illegal businesses. </p> <p>The justice ministry recently announced a legislative package intended to facilitate the fight against organised crime. It is still too soon to know if these bills will be passed and implemented, or what impact they might have. Some seem to be aimed at intervention in the complex structures of criminality. However, there were no announcements as to underlying reforms to deal with the problem of police and judicial powers that function as key mechanisms in illegal markets.</p> <p>At the same time, other troubling measures have been taken that cast doubt on the true intentions of the government’s fight against drug trafficking, such as the appointment to key positions in the anti-money laundering office (Financial Information Unit, or UIF) of lawyers who defend companies and banks accused of laundering funds.</p> <h2><strong>Dangers of the new direction</strong></h2> <p>Since the previous administration, drug policy and the pursuit of drug traffickers have been erratic, with a pronounced toughening of the criminal justice system in the last years of president Cristina Fernández's second term (2011 to 2015). The new government has announced its alignment with the ‘war on drugs’ paradigm, the inefficacy of which has been demonstrated in several other countries. If this new direction gains strength, adverse effects can be expected in terms of violence, human rights violations and institutional functioning.</p> <p>In the same way that prohibition leaves the market in the hands of drug traffickers, the war on drugs leaves the problem fundamentally in the hands of violent and corrupt police forces, and opens the possibility of military intervention. While criminal networks have an impact on institutional quality and on the quality of life of the poorest people, so do the anti-trafficking policies adopted and announced, because they are not aimed at the core of institutional collusion that allows these networks to exist. The real problems of violence in some areas thus remain hidden under the guise of an indefinite threat. </p> <p>In this context, the prohibitionist paradigm is not being discussed, leaving debates to focus rather on how much to intensify punitive interventions against the <em>narcos</em>, minor dealers, traffickers, micro-traffickers and even consumers. This type of focus has proven to be ineffective in its objectives – which are the reduction of consumption and trafficking – whereas its negative impact on the spread of violence and on human rights has been documented throughout the region, as can be seen in this <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/common/drug%20policy%20impact%20in%20the%20americas.pdf">report compiled by 17 organizations</a>, "The Impact of Drug Policy on Human Rights: The Experience in the Americas."</p> <p>Under a state of emergency and in a climate of fear-mongering, the problems associated with drug trafficking and drugs get muddled. They end up outside of the political debate, as part of a seemingly indisputable consensus that dictates the toughening of the criminal justice system, bolstering of police and, eventually, military intervention. The spaces for other voices to be heard are narrowing, voices that contend that there cannot be effective policies against organised crime without deep reforms of the police and security systems, and that the ‘drug problem’ should be approached from a standpoint of harm and violence reduction that tackles the mafia-like ways of regulating these markets that prohibition merely foments.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/unravelling-human-cost-of-global-drug-policy">Unravelling the human cost of global drug policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/carl-hart/nobody-wants-to-live-in-drug-free-world-interview-with-carl-hart">&quot;Nobody wants to live in a drug-free world&quot;: an interview with Carl Hart</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/opendemocracy-dawn-paley/is-capitalism-fuelling-war-on-drugs">Is capitalism fuelling the war on drugs?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Civil society Democracy and government drugpolicy Paula Litvachky Manuel Tufró Fri, 18 Mar 2016 01:25:21 +0000 Manuel Tufró and Paula Litvachky 100704 at https://www.opendemocracy.net This is how Singapore teaches children to stay away from drugs https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/opendemocracy/this-is-how-singapore-teaches-children-to-stay-away-from-drugs <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The city-state has been distributing morbid anti-drug propaganda in its schools. So we asked an expert what Singapore’s harsh anti-drug policies actually achieve in reality.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" alt="wfd" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/mRrgUVQNl8g" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This video is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/unravelling-human-cost-of-global-drug-policy">Unravelling the human cost of global drug policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/carl-hart/nobody-wants-to-live-in-drug-free-world-interview-with-carl-hart">&quot;Nobody wants to live in a drug-free world&quot;: an interview with Carl Hart</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/johann-hari/degree-of-racism-is-insane-johann-hari-on-war-on-drugs">“The degree of the racism is insane”: Johann Hari on the ‘war on drugs’</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Civil society Democracy and government Ideas International politics drugpolicy openDemocracy Fri, 18 Mar 2016 01:22:03 +0000 openDemocracy 100700 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “They were telling pure lies”: a survivor of Mexico’s Tlatlaya massacre shatters the official account https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/center-for-legal-and-social-studies-cels/they-were-telling-pure-lies-survivor-of-mexico-s-tlatlaya-m <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“Everyone in the government, the state, wanted this to go unpunished. They thought I would never talk.” Eyewitness Clara Gómez González speaks out. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/center-for-legal-and-social-studies-cels/era-pura-mentira-lo-que-estaban-diciendo-" target="_blank"><em><strong>Español</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img width="460px" alt="wfd" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/clara_2 (1).JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Clara Gómez González. Centro Prodh. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/clara_2 (1).JPG" alt="Clara Gómez González. Centro Prodh. All rights reserved." title="Clara Gómez González. Centro Prodh. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Clara Gómez González. Centro Prodh. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><blockquote><p><em>When 22 civilians were killed at a warehouse in the town of Tlatlaya, Mexico, the official story was that the military had engaged in ‘clashes’ with a drug trafficking gang. But eyewitness Clara Gómez González, whose daughter was killed in the incident, said it wasn’t that way at all – many of the people in the warehouse were executed. Her decision to speak out sparked numerous investigations, and three members of the army are awaiting trial on charges of homicide. But her fight for justice continues.</em></p></blockquote> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Clara Gómez González’s only daughter, Erika, vanished one day from their hometown of Arcelia, in Guerrero state. It is a region of Mexico where state-sponsored violence often converges with that of organised crime. Such disappearances are not uncommon there; it is known that criminal groups sometimes hold girls against their will or make them victims of human trafficking. Weeks after vanishing, Erika – whom Clara describes as a serene and studious 15-year-old – phoned her mother and said, in a tense voice, that she was in nearby Tlatlaya. Clara went there to try to rescue her. Mother and daughter spoke briefly but the young men who were with Erika cut them short, and forced them both inside a truck. They were taken to a warehouse, where Clara was sent to a corner to sleep.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Some time later, in the early hours of 30 June 2014, an army unit arrived at the warehouse and began shooting. An exchange of fire ensued. Erika was wounded by a bullet to the leg. The soldiers ordered that the people inside the warehouse surrender, which they did. But a number of them were taken aside, one by one, and shot. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) concluded that between 12 and 15 extrajudicial executions were carried out in what became known as the Tlatlaya massacre. Erika was among those killed, and it is still not clear what happened to her. Clara had seen her alive, weak from her leg wound. But Clara was not allowed to tend to her daughter because she herself was accused of being a criminal, a drug trafficker. Only later was she able to see the corpse.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Clara, a teacher who worked in poor rural communities outside Arcelia, was interrogated over the course of one week. Under duress from the threats and cruel treatment of state officials investigating the case, she signed a sworn statement without knowing what it actually said. The only other two survivors of the massacre, also women, were tortured while investigated, a fact confirmed by the CNDH. When a journalist came looking for Clara, to </span><a href="http://www.esquirelat.com/reportajes/14/09/19/Caso-Tlatlaya-posible-ejecucion-ejercito/" style="line-height: 1.5;">hear her eyewitness account</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, she was initially afraid.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“I hid for three days, but then my oldest son told me to do it, he said it was nothing more than an interview, just a simple interview. He encouraged me and so I did it, I spoke out, and that’s how everything was discovered,” Clara says.</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-right" style="line-height: 1.5;">They thought I would never talk.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“I broke my silence because I was very desperate in my house, hearing the lies in the newspapers, in the news, that this was not an extrajudicial execution, that it was a shoot-out. That was not true, that’s what pained me, that the government was saying it had been a shoot-out and was congratulating itself, and they were telling pure lies...they also talked about my daughter and said she was part of organised crime and that was a huge lie, so I also broke the silence in memory of my daughter.”</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“Everyone in the government, the state, wanted this to go unpunished. They thought I would never talk,” Clara says.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">As soon as Clara told her story, initially under the pseudonym ‘Julia’, she was flooded by other journalists, human rights organisations, and state and military officials who finally decided to investigate the killings. She recalls being in a state of shock. She had to move away from her home in Arcelia for a time because of the threats she received. Her case was taken to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which granted precautionary measures urging that Mexico ensure her safety. She has a police escort and security cameras have been installed at her home. Despite all the complications, she does not want to leave her hometown; her three sons live there, and that’s where her job is.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“I can’t go out to work (in other communities) like I did before, I work closer now because of the lack of security ... and when I go out shopping, I don’t feel safe either because I have to go with the escort, and it’s not like before when I would go out alone, and have fun, not any more. Life has taken a turn, it has changed for me,” Clara says.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/clara_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Clara Gómez González. Centro Prodh. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/clara_1.png" alt="Clara Gómez González. Centro Prodh. All rights reserved." title="Clara Gómez González. Centro Prodh. All rights reserved." width="460" height="275" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Clara Gómez González. Centro Prodh. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>She knows that she is not alone in suffering the impact of widespread violence, but most people are too afraid to speak out. “We see what has happened and we don’t say anything, we stay silent because we are afraid that they will threaten us. Because in my town, if you talk or say something, well, they just simply go and take you, they do something to you or disappear you, just for saying the truth. And that’s what the government does too … instead of bringing peace, they bring misfortune to the town.”</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-left" style="line-height: 1.5;">You don’t know who to trust any more.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“You don’t know who to trust any more, because just as the government gets support from organised crime, organised crime gets support from the government. They are the same thing ... and the people end up in the middle. We’re living in a country of insecurity.”</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Clara believes that this violence, this war, could be solved with measures to combat poverty, bolster education and create more jobs, so that the young men drawn to working for organised crime networks have decent alternatives. She also says the state must train its authorities better, so they treat people humanely – and respect the law.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“They treat us badly. If you’re in the street, they grab you and they beat you. These are the corrupt agents of the government,” Clara says in reference to members of the police, the military and the government itself.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Seven members of the army unit that carried out the Tlatlaya massacre were originally investigated, and only three were charged with homicide. Clara wants the other four to be investigated further and she demands that the entire chain of command be held accountable, since it has been shown that </span><a href="http://www.wola.org/sites/default/files/MX/English%20summary_Tlatlaya-%20The%20Order%20was%20to%20Kill.pdf" style="line-height: 1.5;">an “order to kill”</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> was given from above. She also wants access to the case files from related military court proceedings, which are kept from the public and even from victims or interested parties, such as herself.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">As for who took Erika away from Arcelia in the first place, there has been no investigation. The state said initially that the group in the Tlatlaya warehouse was linked to the Michoacan Family cartel, but no inquiries were made regarding its involvement in human trafficking or holding girls against their will. On the contrary, state officials still insist that Clara and Erika were part of the criminal group. They justify the army’s actions, and contend that the three soldiers facing trial may have gone only a little too far.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“I want it to be made clear that neither my daughter nor I are drug traffickers, as they had said before. Because the government hasn’t recognised this,” Clara tells us. “I want justice to be done and I want to know the truth, the whole truth. And the most important thing for me is that the chain of command be investigated. I want to know why they gave the order to kill, to take down those 22 people. And I want them to give me access to my case files to find out what’s in there and see what the government is hiding.”</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Asked if she regrets having spoken out in that first “simple interview” so many months ago, Clara is categorical.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">“I don’t regret having done it now. I do it with pride and so that many people who have cases similar to mine will not stay silent, so they feel the courage to clear their children’s names, or their own … because if not, Mexico won’t ever be able to move forward.”</span></p> <blockquote><p><em>A </em><a href="http://www.centroprodh.org.mx/index.php?option=com_docman&amp;task=doc_details&amp;gid=198&amp;Itemid=28&amp;lang=es" style="line-height: 1.5;"><em>full report on the Tlatlaya case</em></a><em> was released by the </em><em>Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez (Centro Prodh), which provides legal representation to Clara (here is an </em><a href="http://www.wola.org/sites/default/files/MX/English%20summary_Tlatlaya-%20The%20Order%20was%20to%20Kill.pdf" style="line-height: 1.5;"><em>English-language summary</em></a><em> of that report). More information about Clara’s case is available in an interview she gave to </em><a href="https://youtu.be/7gPcNYmU5rk" style="line-height: 1.5;"><em>CNN Español</em></a><em> and in </em><a href="http://www.nexos.com.mx/?p=26152" style="line-height: 1.5;"><em>this article</em></a><em> (both in Spanish).</em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em>CELS gives special thanks to Centro Prodh for its help with this interview.</em></p></blockquote> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/unravelling-human-cost-of-global-drug-policy">Unravelling the human cost of global drug policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/opendemocracy/this-is-how-singapore-teaches-children-to-stay-away-from-drugs">This is how Singapore teaches children to stay away from drugs</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/carl-hart/nobody-wants-to-live-in-drug-free-world-interview-with-carl-hart">&quot;Nobody wants to live in a drug-free world&quot;: an interview with Carl Hart</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/esther-kersley/drones-drugs-and-death">Drones, drugs and death</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/opendemocracy-dawn-paley/is-capitalism-fuelling-war-on-drugs">Is capitalism fuelling the war on drugs?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Civil society Conflict Democracy and government drugpolicy Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) Fri, 18 Mar 2016 01:16:54 +0000 Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) 100702 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Drug control reformers must remember our commitment to human rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/sergio-chaparro-hern-ndez-carlos-juliano-simoes-ferreira/drug-control-reformers-must-remember-our-co <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The prohibitionist approach undertaken by drug policies has created a great deal of unnecessary suffering. With the United Nations General Assembly meeting this April, a paradigm shift is needed in our drug control system. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/sergio-chaparro-hern-ndez-carlos-juliano-simoes-ferreira/pol-ticas-de-drogas-y-der">Español</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" alt="wfd" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/CHAPARRO.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A coca farmer worker speaks with police, Colombia. Flickr / Policia Colombia. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/CHAPARRO.jpg" alt="A coca farmer worker speaks with police, Colombia. Flickr / Policia Colombia. Some rights reserved." title="A coca farmer worker speaks with police, Colombia. Flickr / Policia Colombia. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="296" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A coca farmer worker speaks with police, Colombia. Flickr / Policia Colombia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In certain areas of Colombia, a paradox exists. Many drug users have been killed by ‘social cleansing’ armed groups, funded by drug trafficking and supported by members of the military forces. These victims dramatically reflect two of the critical mistakes of current drug policies: the stigmatisation of drug users, and the strengthening of criminal organisations that control the illegal drug markets and make corrupt alliances with authorities. The war on drugs in the Americas is full of stories in which <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/common/drug%20policy%20impact%20in%20the%20americas.pdf">human rights have been violated</a>, thanks to wrong-headed policies. As Kofi Annan observes, “drugs have harmed many people, but bad government policies have harmed many more”. Now we have the opportunity to prevent this continuing. &nbsp;</p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Prohibitionist approaches have fostered the creation of highly profitable illegal markets dominated by armed groups dedicated to trafficking. This huge illegal market has fueled the armed conflict in countries such as Colombia, becoming a serious obstacle to peace efforts. Repressive policies against the weakest, in order to deal with this problem, has instead created overloaded judicial systems, </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.drogasyderecho.org/publicaciones/pub-priv/Alejandro_v09.pdf">prison overcrowding</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> and an incalculable number of deaths among men, women and children. Regulation of markets and alternative polices are not necessary soft-handed with criminal organisations. In fact, they are smarter approaches to defeat them, if they are combined with criminal prosecution policies focused on drug lords and their allies.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/G09/167/45/PDF/G0916745.pdf?OpenElement">incorporation</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> of human rights in the context of drug policy has been a progressive discussion, with the growing understanding that a repressive approach is detrimental not only to the integral protection of fundamental rights but also for the realisation of the objectives proposed in the Drug Conventions. It is in this context, that the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2016 has a particular importance. It will allow for a paradigm shift in drug control, incorporating the </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.lse.ac.uk/IDEAS/publications/reports/pdf/LSE-IDEAS-After-the-Drug-Wars.pdf">human development approach</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> and tools for the </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/64663568/library/Study-impact-of-the-world-drug-problem-on-human-rights.pdf">protection of human rights</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Indigenous peoples suffer particularly disproportionate impacts from drug policies. The criminalisation of the coca bush, opium and cannabis imposed by the 1961 Drug Convention, when it applies to indigenous, traditional and religious use, is a serious violation of their rights to maintain their culture. The prohibition on indigenous health and cultural practices without their free, prior and informed consent is also contrary to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is vital that their culture be protected, with the amendment of the dispositions of the 1961 Drug Convention that criminalise these practices and customs. Moreover, it is of the utmost importance that indigenous peoples be consulted, in a free, prior and informed manner about the implementation of legislation and policies that directly affect them.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The use of crop eradication methods, particularly through aerial fumigation, generates serious violations to the enjoyment of basic human rights. These methods affect legal crops, forests, herds and water sources, bringing food and water insecurity, environmental damage, health problems and displacement. Additionally, the efforts to eradicate illicit crops are usually executed before the implementation of alternative development policies, which leaves the affected without proper means of subsistence. The support for sustainable livelihoods of small producers, through realistic, participatory and non-discriminatory alternative development policies is an important step for a human rights-based drug regulation policy.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">People who use drugs are at higher risk of contracting infectious diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS, in which case they suffer double discrimination, from both law enforcement and health-care providers. This institutionalised discrimination has been the subject of great concern from the </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/cescr/pages/cescrindex.aspx">Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, as the lack of appropriate policies contribute to the spread of such diseases, and the deterioration of the health and the quality of life of those already afflicted. While disease prevention policies applied to drug use have been developed, they almost exclusively aim at adults, consistently ignoring children who use drugs, in violation of the principle of integral protection, and more specifically, protection from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">If we are to address the precarious situation of these individuals, the adoption of the intervention package proposed by the WHO, UNODC and UNAIDS would greatly enhance the protection of </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/en/media/unaids/contentassets/documents/unaidspublication/2014/UNAIDS_Gap_report_en.pdf">their human rights</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. It is important to develop policies focused on addressing discrimination, particularly in its institutionalised form.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The adoption of harm reduction policies is essential for the treatment of people who use drugs. Nevertheless, there is an impending need for the increase of domestic funding for harm reduction programmes and policies that promote inclusive and effective governance, such as reviewing laws criminalising drug use, and addressing legal, regulatory and policy barriers to accessing narcotic drugs for pain relief and drug treatment. Additionally, particular attention should be paid to detained individuals and pregnant women, since harm reduction programmes aimed at these groups are nearly non-existent.</span></p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-right" style="line-height: 1.5;">The criminalisation of drugs has resulted in the displacement of the drug problem from a health to a law enforcement perspective.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Women who use drugs are constantly faced with institutionalised discrimination, such as, the risk of losing their parental rights, being forcibly submitted to abortion or sterilisation procedures and being subjected to disproportionately harsh punitive responses. Women also have been </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.wola.org/sites/default/files/WOLA%20WOMEN%20FINAL%20ver%2025%2002%201016.pdf">disproportionally affected</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> by drug laws and incarceration. The development of gender-sensitive policies and legislation, including the availability of harm reduction treatments and the provision of drug sensitivity training to law enforcement, health and justice personnel, is imperative with respect for their rights to non-discrimination, self-determination and to access to health under the </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CESCR.aspx">Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The availability of controlled drugs, particularly for pain relief and scientific development, is essential in guaranteeing patients’ rights to health. It is important that governments comply with their obligation to ensure an adequate availability and accessibility of controlled drugs for all medical and scientific purposes, eliminating overly restrictive and discriminatory provisions that affect their delivery.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The criminalisation of drugs has resulted in the displacement of the drug problem from a health to a law enforcement perspective, alongside the criminalisation and marginalisation of people who use drugs and other vulnerable groups. Policies should decriminalise drug use and end any kind of prosecution against drug users. They should focus on a more humane and supportive treatment with the adoption of alternatives to imprisonment for related non-violent offences, which can greatly diminish the risk of drug use and blood-borne disease being spread, while increasing the health and living conditions of those who do use drugs.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres should be eradicated. It has been established that compulsory treatment not only violates numerous rights, such as the right to self-determination, non-discrimination and adequate living standards, but also does not contribute to overcoming the addiction, and in fact helps spread diseases.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The integral protection of human rights is imperative for any international normative body and state parties, even beyond their borders, as it is one of the foundational principles of the United Nations’ Charter. What will need to happen, if human rights are to prevail over the obligations proposed in the Drug Conventions? It will mean promoting the harmonisation of these two international law regimes, </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapter_XVI_of_the_United_Nations_Charter#Article_103">in accordance with article 103</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> of the Charter, and an effort that must be undertaken in order to preserve the spirit of this document and to promote better living conditions for all those affected by drugs and prohibitionist drug policies.&nbsp;</span></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/unravelling-human-cost-of-global-drug-policy">Unravelling the human cost of global drug policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/opendemocracy/9-things-we-ve-learned-from-50-year-war-on-drugs">9 things we’ve learned from a 50-year war on drugs</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/carl-hart/nobody-wants-to-live-in-drug-free-world-interview-with-carl-hart">&quot;Nobody wants to live in a drug-free world&quot;: an interview with Carl Hart</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Civil society Democracy and government International politics drugpolicy Carlos Juliano Simoes-Ferreira Sergio Chaparro Hernández Fri, 18 Mar 2016 01:15:09 +0000 Sergio Chaparro Hernández and Carlos Juliano Simoes-Ferreira 100607 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Meet the Brazilian sociologist fighting back against the 'war on drugs' https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/julita-lemgruber/meet-brazilian-sociologist-fighting-back-against-war-on-drugs <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"We have to stop the war on drugs if we want to live in a safer and more just society". (3:53 minutes)</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" alt="wfd" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/c3zDuWRzFYM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This video is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/unravelling-human-cost-of-global-drug-policy">Unravelling the human cost of global drug policy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Civil society Conflict Democracy and government drugpolicy Julita Lemgruber Fri, 18 Mar 2016 01:05:08 +0000 Julita Lemgruber 100698 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In the Middle East, the prospects of a kinder drug policy remain distant https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/philip-robins/in-middle-east-prospects-of-kinder-drug-policy-remain-distant <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Across the Middle East, the ‘Americanisation’ of global drug policy seems as engrained and as inflexible as ever.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" alt="wfd" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Opium Smoker 1950s Iran Getty Images Three Lions.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Opium Smoker, 1950s Iran. Getty Images / Three Lions. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Opium Smoker 1950s Iran Getty Images Three Lions.jpg" alt="Opium Smoker, 1950s Iran. Getty Images / Three Lions. All rights reserved." title="Opium Smoker, 1950s Iran. Getty Images / Three Lions. All rights reserved." width="460" height="465" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Opium Smoker, 1950s Iran. Getty Images / Three Lions. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Rightly or wrongly, the Middle East enjoys a reputation for being a region that bucks the world trends. Nowhere is this more marked than in relation to illicit drugs. While liberal commentators look forward with some expectation to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) this April, with the possibility that at very least the global proscription regime will soften, in the Middle East the opposite seems to be happening. In countries as diverse as Dubai, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the ‘Americanisation’ of global policy seems as engrained and as inflexible as ever.&nbsp; </p> <p>To some extent this disparity is a reflection of the relative maturity of the public policy process, within which the international drugs sector may be understood. For example, it is no surprise that the most intense debates about liberalising the global drugs regime originate in Latin America. The brutal and extensive loss of life stemming from the criminalisation of drugs trafficking has widely afflicted Mexican society. Meanwhile, the great and the good of south American politics have called for a new page to be turned as far as restricting youth consumption has been concerned. In 2013, Uruguay became the first country to legalise the production, sale and consumption of marijuana. </p> <p>By contrast, the Middle East is a public policy laggard. This makes it a lot more naïve about confronting the issue of illegal drugs. It is less than 12 years ago that Saudi Arabia executed a Turkish truck driver after he was caught smuggling stimulant pills under the commercial name of Captagon across the border into the Kingdom, sparking an international incident. An ‘upper’ drug, Captagon is now a drug of choice among the local youth in the Persian Gulf as a whole.</p> <p>Uncertainty pervades the drugs scene in Dubai. In the past, an automatic four-year prison sentence has followed the possession of the merest quantities, even for drugs such as codeine and ketamine, which are not always believed to be illegal or dangerous. At the very least this would be suggestive of mixed signals, as Dubai has held rock concerts in the desert, while a jazz festival takes place annually in February. In Iran there was the widespread use of harm reduction technique, from free syringes to methadone programmes. These continued even during the hard-line conservative presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, from 2005 to 2013, as he simultaneously attempted to preach the virtues of clean living and godliness.&nbsp; </p> <p>That is not to suggest that illicit drugs are a new phenomenon. Historically, they are as old as the hills. Think of the first Middle Eastern civilisations, in places like northern Mesopotamia. Think too of the wild-eyed <em>hashisheen</em>, who pursued their campaign of political killings while under the influence of hash. Later on, drugs were readily available at the court of the regional dynasties, such as the Qajars in Persia. Neither was this always a blue-blooded pastime. Well-to-do, older men used to while away their retirement by smoking opiates with their friends in the rural villages of Iran. More recently, both Egyptian President Anwar Sadat (1970 to 1981) and Muhammad Reza Shah, the second (and last) of the Pahlavi Shahs, who was expelled by a street revolution in early 1979, were widely rumoured to have been regular imbibers. Clearly, even the USA’s drugs-related opprobrium had its limitations.</p> <p>The production of illicit drugs in the Middle East may not be new, but it does not mean that it is well understood, either at the societal or state levels. With the world’s largest volume of opiates cultivated next door in Afghanistan since the 1950s, it would be surprising if points west did not provide a highly favourable market for the supply of the drug and its ilk. Indeed, the earnings potential has been further magnified by the movement of the location of the region’s heroin laboratories. The criminal groups involved transferred such activity from Turkey at the end of the last century to locations inside the country of Afghanistan itself. The twin advantage of such a shift was to reduce transportation costs, while being able to take a significantly higher margin as a result of the process of vertical integration. &nbsp;</p> <p>From Afghanistan, the heroin and its opiate derivatives now move by one of three favoured routes. The first direction takes the drugs southwards, through Pakistan, and then on to the high seas, from where they can be widely distributed across the world. The second movement of drugs uses the northern route, which sees the drugs penetrate the countries of the former Soviet Union. The third, and perennially most effective direction is the western route. According to this pathway, the drugs make their way westwards out of Afghanistan and into Iran, from where a significant proportion of drugs remain behind for local use, either as heroin wraps in the poorer districts of the cities, notably south Tehran, or as opiates like morphine. Although Iranian law enforcement has tended to make a supreme effort to keep the opiates out of eastern, Iran this has proven to be an ambitious goal, especially in the presence of a well-armed and disciplined border insurgency. </p> <p>Once the opiate smugglers have crossed the international border and unloaded their contraband in the population centres of the country, it is relatively easy to move the remainder of the load to Iran’s western boundary. From here, it can be repackaged and sold on to predominantly Kurdish tribes. They will guide it efficiently and safely, along over the inhospitable route, across the border and into the lawless nature of Turkey’s own Kurdish region in the secluded east and south-east of the country.&nbsp; </p> <p>Law enforcement on the Turkish side of the border is rendered relatively ineffectual for a clutch of different reasons. These range from: extremely inhospitable, mountainous peaks, that traverse the international boundary; predictably commensurate bad winter weather; poorly trained law enforcement, covering both the Gendarmerie (the rural police that enjoys the status of a branch of the military) and the conventional military itself; the direct bribery of state officials, and threats of intimidation against those, like the families of teachers and security personnel, who may well have been posted away from the ethno-Turkish heartlands of the state.</p> <p>From there, the heroin and opiates are transported across Turkey, from the Lake Van area in the east, with its absurdly prosperous levels of income, to the sprawling Greater Istanbul metropolis in the west.&nbsp; With meagre hard drugs consumption in the centre of the Anatolian land mass, the Turkish gangs are able to move such contraband around the country’s interior with relative ease. From Istanbul, the drugs join what is widely known as the ‘Balkans Route’, two complementary centres of criminality.&nbsp; </p> <p>Moving by boat and by road, the drugs either transit northwards, to be wholesaled prior to distribution in eastern and central Europe, or move into southern Europe, from where they are sold on more quickly. Fifteen years or so ago the British authorities were trenchant in their articulated belief that 90% of the opiates reaching the UK’s border originated in Turkey. This focus was eventually altered to emphasise Afghanistan as the origin of such trafficking, and hence to help justify the allocation of new funds to maintain the British security presence. The switching of the focus reflected the resurgence of the Taliban insurgency and Britain’s undertaking to lead on the narcotics ‘dossier’, especially in the extremely violent south, notably in Helmand Province. This in turn allowed Turkey to more easily strive in its objective of pursuing its then goal of full membership of the European Union.&nbsp; </p> <p>Which brings us to the Syrian migration crisis, and the atypical experiences that have afflicted Europe in 2015 and 2016.&nbsp; They will almost certainly have an impact on the illicit drugs supply network, with law enforcement most likely to be distracted by human trafficking gangs.&nbsp; </p> <p>The role of illicit drugs has been all the more egregious because of its use in the war zones of Syria, where psychotropic drugs like Tramadol, are widely suspected of having extended the fighting once they have been issued to militia groups. These dynamics resonate with similar experiences during the Lebanese civil war, from 1975 to 1990. Militia groups also generated income for themselves as they sought to maintain their viability some three decades or so ago. They did so by expanding their production of hashish and opiates. </p><p> With April’s UNGASS looming, drugs, though still largely defined as illicit, are being increasingly pointed in the direction of the licit in the Americas. They are suggestive of a safer, kinder regime than the one that has existed until the recent past, Mexico notwithstanding. In Asia, where the Middle East has largely been lost sight of, whether as a trafficker or as a consumer space, the prognosis is altogether less benign. If the ‘Americanisation’ of drugs policy is a term that has come to be associated with a harsh and punitive approach, in the Middle East it is likely to be but the latest such trend and not the final one.</p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/unravelling-human-cost-of-global-drug-policy">Unravelling the human cost of global drug policy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Civil society Democracy and government International politics drugpolicy Philip Robins Thu, 17 Mar 2016 02:23:17 +0000 Philip Robins 100676 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What’s really behind the ‘failure’ of the US ‘war on drugs’ in Afghanistan? https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/julien-mercille/what-s-really-behind-failure-of-us-war-on-drugs-in-afghanistan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Although drug production has not been reduced, this has not really been a failure. The drug war’s true function lies in reinforcing western support for the war.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" alt="wfd" width="460px" /></a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/460Poppy cultivation Badakhshan Getty Paula Bronstein copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Poppy cultivation, Badakhshan. Getty Images / Paula Bronstein. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/460Poppy cultivation Badakhshan Getty Paula Bronstein copy.jpg" alt="Poppy cultivation, Badakhshan. Getty Images / Paula Bronstein. All rights reserved." title="Poppy cultivation, Badakhshan. Getty Images / Paula Bronstein. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Poppy cultivation, Badakhshan. Getty Images / Paula Bronstein. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Since 2001, the United States has <a href="https://www.nationalpriorities.org/cost-of/war-in-afghanistan/">spent</a> over $700 billion on the war in Afghanistan. In contrast, it has spent only <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/16/world/asia/afghanistan-opium-heroin-taliban-helmand.html">$7 billion</a> on counternarcotics operations there. What should we conclude from the fact that the ‘drug war’ in Afghanistan accounts for a mere 1% of total expenses? We should conclude that drugs are not a priority for US foreign policy, and never have been. The US government has no serious interest in tackling drug problems. In fact, if it did, its strategy would be the exact opposite of what it has been doing for several decades now. </p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">There has not been a real drug war in Afghanistan, and therefore, although drug production has not been reduced, this is not really a failure, as the drug war’s function is more about representing enemies like the Taliban in a negative way to reinforce support for the war in the west.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">It is a </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/drug-policy-and-the-public-good-9780199557127?cc=ie&amp;lang=en&amp;">well established fact</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> that the most effective solutions to reduce drug consumption and its related problems are the provision of treatment services for addicts as well as prevention programmes. Tough solutions like police work and capturing traffickers and narcotics shipments have limited effectiveness because as soon as one drug lord or small dealer is arrested, others will replace them, as long as there is demand for the drugs globally. Moreover, military operations overseas are the least effective approach to drugs. No matter what military officers, politicians and enforcement agents say, it does not work and never has.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">It is therefore no surprise that US counternarcotics operations in Afghanistan over the last 15 years have been a total failure. Nearly everything has been tried, from doing nothing to eradicating poppy fields to arresting traffickers and confiscating their shipments to rural development to provide ‘alternative livelihoods’.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">But nothing has worked. John Sopko, the special inspectors general who assesses American programmes in Afghanistan, recently </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/27/opinion/afghanistans-unending-addiction.html?action=click&amp;contentCollection=Asia%20Pacific&amp;module=RelatedCoverage&amp;region=Marginalia&amp;pgtype=article">summarised</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> it: “By every conceivable metric, we’ve failed. Production and cultivation are up, interdiction and eradication are down, financial support to the insurgency is up, and addiction and abuse are at unprecedented levels in Afghanistan”.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The 2015 </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.unodc.org/documents/wdr2015/World_Drug_Report_2015.pdf">World Drug Report</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> notes that Afghanistan still accounts for about 80% of global opiate and heroin production. Profits from drugs amount to about </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Research/Files/Papers/2015/04/global-drug-policy/FelbabBrown--Afghanistan-final.pdf?la=en">10-15% of the country’s GDP</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">.</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/chart.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Source: World Drug Report 2015 (UNODC)."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/chart.png" alt="Source: World Drug Report 2015 (UNODC)." title="Source: World Drug Report 2015 (UNODC)." width="460" height="491" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Source: World Drug Report 2015 (UNODC).</span></span></span>The chart demonstrates the complete failure of the ‘war on drugs’ and counternarcotics operations in Afghanistan and globally. As the US attacked Afghanistan in 2001, that year’s opium production was a mere <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176106/tomgram%3A_alfred_mccoy%2C_washington%27s_twenty-first-century_opium_wars/#more">180 tons</a> (the result of a production ban implemented by the Taliban regime). Since then, it has reached record harvests of over 7,000 tons in 2007 and over 6,000 tons in 2014 (in 2015, production dropped to 3,300 tons, but this appears to be the result of a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/16/world/asia/afghanistan-opium-heroin-taliban-helmand.html">fungus</a> and <a href="https://www.unodc.org/documents/crop-monitoring/Afghanistan/_Afghan_opium_survey_2015_web.pdf">drought</a> conditions that have nothing to do with policy). The situation is the same globally as production has not shrunk while peaking in 2007 and 2014.&nbsp;</p><p>The fundamental problem is that even if production is reduced in one country, farmers elsewhere will increase production to meet global demand. This phenomenon is known as the ‘balloon effect’, by analogy to a balloon pressed at one end that would automatically increase in size at its other end. In short, it is global demand for drugs that must be reduced in order to address the problem, following the overwhelming consensus among researchers and the scholarly literature on substance abuse.</p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">However, treatment and prevention in Afghanistan have received little support from the United States. As a result, drug consumption in Afghanistan has “increased sharply” in recent years, according to UNODC </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/Studies/Impacts_Study_2014_web.pdf">reports</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. For example, the consumption of heroin and other opiates doubled between 2005 and 2009. The number of heroin users in the country is now estimated at 120,000.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Why do the US government and military refuse to employ effective methods to deal with drugs and continue to prioritise the strategies that are known not to work? The short answer is that reducing drug problems is not a strategic objective of the US establishment. However, the drug war provides a useful tool to arrest or keep on their toes whoever is not considered to be an ally of the United States, or whoever challenges US hegemony. Conversely, in Afghanistan and historically, US allies have repeatedly been involved in drug trafficking in order to support themselves financially. This has been useful to Washington, which has therefore often turned a blind eye to their trafficking activities. To be sure, this interpretation is not a conspiracy view that alleges that the US government, military or the CIA actively support the drug trade as an end in itself – they don’t. But the fact is that US authorities merely look the other way because it provides indirect benefits to some allies. The drug trade fulfills an instrumental function in US foreign policy.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">And this is indeed what has happened in Afghanistan since 2001. Allies of the US, including Afghan government officials, have benefitted from drug trafficking. The Obama administration has even made it somewhat of an </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Research/Files/Papers/2015/04/global-drug-policy/FelbabBrown--Afghanistan-final.pdf?la=en">official policy</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> to target drug production only </span><em>when and where the Taliban are involved in it</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. Obama has sought to target the ‘drug-insurgency nexus’ while remaining soft on the ‘drug-government nexus’. The war on drugs’ double standards could not be clearer.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">According to the latest reports, it appears that government involvement in drugs has gotten even worse than in the years immediately after 2001. An insightful recent New York Times </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/16/world/asia/afghanistan-opium-heroin-taliban-helmand.html">investigation</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> found that “more than ever, Afghan government officials have become directly involved in the opium trade, expanding their competition with the Taliban beyond politics and into a struggle for control of the drug traffic and revenue”. A former police chief in Helmand province, the centre of drug production, </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/16/world/asia/afghanistan-opium-heroin-taliban-helmand.html">described</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> the situation: “over the years, I have seen the central government, the local government and the foreigners all talk very seriously about poppy”. But in “practice, they do nothing,” he said, “and behind the scenes, the government makes secret deals to enrich themselves”.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Impunity and support for drug lords and warlords has been the norm since 2001. NATO’s mission has been to support the Afghan government, but at one point </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://areu.org.af/EditionDetails.aspx?EditionId=59&amp;ContentId=7&amp;ParentId=7&amp;Lang=en-US">17 drug traffickers</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> could be counted in the Afghan parliament. Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of former president Karzai who was assassinated in 2011, had received </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/28/world/asia/28intel.html?pagewanted=all">regular payments from the CIA since 2001</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, even though his involvement in narcotics was widely suspected. A </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://fpif.org/un_report_misleading_on_afghanistans_drug_problem/">New York University report</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> documented the use by NATO and US forces of private security companies and militias that are often run by strongmen responsible for human rights abuses or involved in narcotics. For example, the report noted that in Badakhshan Province, General Nazri Mahmad, a warlord who “control[s] a significant portion of the province’s lucrative opium industry”, held the contract to provide security for the German Provincial Reconstruction Team.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Afghanistan expert Barnett Rubin described the US attitude well when he </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.stopwar.org.uk/index.php/news/229-the-reality-behind-the-war-on-drugs-in-afghanistan">wrote</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> in 2004 that when “he visits Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld meets military commanders whom Afghans know as the godfathers of drug trafficking. The message has been clear: Help fight the Taliban and no one will interfere with your trafficking”.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Similarly, the Taliban have now also </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/17/world/asia/afghanistan-opium-taliban-drug-cartel.html">deepened</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> their involvement in the drug trade. They raise up to $155 million from narcotics annually, more than one quarter of their total funding. Insurgents are taking more direct roles in trafficking and control operations at a higher level. The Taliban have become more reliant financially on drug money, due to decreases in donations from the Persian Gulf which are now directed to other conflicts. Also, their presence in the country is now the </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/12/world/asia/afghanistan-taliban-united-nations.html">most extensive</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> since 2001: the threat level in half the country’s districts is ‘extreme’ or ‘high’, according to the United Nations, the worst situation since 2001. Their increased geographical reach allows the Taliban to control drug networks to a greater extent.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The size of the Afghan drugs trade has not been reduced at all since 2001. And this should not be surprising, given that it was never a priority. On the contrary, key traffickers and power brokers have been supported by the west, with disastrous results.&nbsp;</span></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/unravelling-human-cost-of-global-drug-policy">Unravelling the human cost of global drug policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/carl-hart/nobody-wants-to-live-in-drug-free-world-interview-with-carl-hart">&quot;Nobody wants to live in a drug-free world&quot;: an interview with Carl Hart</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/opendemocracy-dawn-paley/is-capitalism-fuelling-war-on-drugs">Is capitalism fuelling the war on drugs?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Conflict Democracy and government International politics drugpolicy Julien Mercille Thu, 17 Mar 2016 02:12:47 +0000 Julien Mercille 100675 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Drones, drugs and death https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/esther-kersley/drones-drugs-and-death <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">The war on terror’s methods of mass surveillance and remote warfare are not unique. The US is also addicted to covert tools in its ‘war on drugs’, with disastrous consequences.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" alt="wfd" width="460px" /></a></p> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/460.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="MQ-1 Predator Drone. Getty Images / Isaac Brekken. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/460.jpg" alt="MQ-1 Predator Drone. Getty Images / Isaac Brekken. All rights reserved." title="MQ-1 Predator Drone. Getty Images / Isaac Brekken. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>MQ-1 Predator Drone. Getty Images / Isaac Brekken. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In April 2015, <em><a href="http://www.usatoday.com/">USA TODAY</a></em> broke a story with the headline: “<a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/04/07/dea-bulk-telephone-surveillance-operation/70808616/">US secretly tracked billions of calls for decades</a>”. At first glance, it appeared to be yet another Edward Snowden revelation implicating the National Security Agency (NSA), mass surveillance and the ‘war on terror’. But it actually concerned a mass surveillance operation that had taken place a decade earlier, not by the NSA, but by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). It was not aimed at identifying terrorists, but rather the detection of drug traffickers.</p> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">"It's very hard to see [the DEA operation] as anything other than the precursor to the NSA's terrorist surveillance”, former NSA general counsel Stewart Baker said of the similarities between the two operations. The now-discontinued DEA operation that began in 1992, was the government's first known effort to gather data on Americans in bulk, sweeping up records of telephone calls made by millions of US citizens, regardless of whether they were suspected of a crime. For over two decades, the Justice Department and the DEA amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls from the USA to as many as </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/04/07/dea-bulk-telephone-surveillance-operation/70808616/">116 countries</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> linked to drug trafficking in order to track drug cartels' distribution networks in the US.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Like the NSA’s mass surveillance programme, the operation has been criticised for its </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.wired.com/2015/04/want-see-domestic-spyings-future-follow-drug-war/">threat to privacy</a>&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">and its lack of </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/04/07/dea-bulk-telephone-surveillance-operation/70808616/">independent oversight</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. It was halted in September 2013 amid the fallout from the Snowden revelations. The DEA mass surveillance programme, however, serves as a reminder of how methods associated with the ‘war on terror’ are not unique to it. Running almost parallel to it, and at times borrowing from it, the US is increasingly dependent on covert methods of warfare in its other long-standing war, its ‘war on drugs’.</span></p> <h2><strong>A new method of warfare</strong></h2> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">‘</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://remotecontrolproject.org/a-new-way-of-war/">Remote control</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">’ warfare describes the global trend towards countering threats at a distance without the need to deploy large military force. Pervasive, yet largely unseen, it minimises its engagement and risk while extending its reach beyond conflict zones. Remote warfare includes not only mass surveillance techniques, but also the use of drones, ‘special forces’ and private military and security companies (PMSCs).</span></p> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In the long-running ‘war on terror’, remote warfare is the growing and dominant method of choice. Both </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.cfr.org/counterterrorism/targeted-killings/p9627">armed</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> and reconnaissance drones have been used by the US to target terrorists in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq for over a decade. Moreover, the start of the millennium has seen a sharp increase in the use of special forces. In 2015, US special operations forces were deployed to </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.rt.com/usa/316476-us-forces-deployed-worldwide/">135 countries</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, a large amount in counter-terrorism missions across the Middle East, </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://news.vice.com/article/the-us-and-france-are-teaming-up-to-fight-a-sprawling-war-on-terror-in-africa">north and west Africa</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. Added to the mix are private military and security companies (PMSCs), which are playing an increasingly important role in both Afghanistan and Iraq, with over </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304851104579361170141705420">5,000 contractors</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> employed in Iraq in 2014. Finally, Edward Snowden’s mass surveillance </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/the-nsa-files">revelations</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> reveal the extent to which modern warfare is increasingly looking to infer knowledge from ‘phenomena’, rather than through traditional intelligence-gathering techniques.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">These methods, in particular, mass surveillance, PMSCs and drones, have also been increasingly used in the last decade in the global ‘war on drugs’, for similar reasons. The appeal of remote warfare is in its perception as a cost-free form of warfare that plays to the west’s technological strengths, increasingly attractive to a </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://remotecontrolproject.org/a-new-way-of-war/">war-weary</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> general public hostile to ‘boots on the ground’. However, concerns over the transparency and accountability of these methods of warfare, as well as the human cost, long-term impact and their ability to achieve long-term security are being increasingly challenged.</span></p> <h2><strong>Privatising the ‘war on drugs’</strong></h2> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Increasingly militarised since the 1980s, US drug policy has more recently become increasingly privatised. Since the implementation of </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://bogota.usembassy.gov/plancolombia.html">Plan Colombia</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> in 2000, the US state and defence departments have contracted PMSCs to carry out activities related to US military and police aid to Colombia. For example, the 2007 “</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.colectivodeabogados.org/?PRIVATE-SECURITY-TRANSNATIONAL">Report to Congress On Certain Counternarcotics Activities in Colombia</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">” mentions that Telford Aviation provided logistical support for reconnaissance aircraft and ITT and ARINC were responsible for operating radar stations.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Furthermore, in 2006, Chenega Federal Systems was in charge of maintaining an intelligence database, and Oakley Networks was responsible for Internet surveillance. Other </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=_9sXXff8KLQC&amp;pg=PA119&amp;lpg=PA119&amp;dq=peter+singer+Military+Professional+Resources+Incorporated+%28MPRI%29&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=wvFinRu7vI&amp;sig=JUAFMZkcjb8OsDKg1R_5qK8_e7M&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiW3vq02eDKAhXDuBQKHUItAKsQ6AEIJjAB#v=onepage&amp;q=peter%20singer%20Military%20Professional%20Resources%20Incorporated%20(MPRI)&amp;f=false">sources</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> reported that Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.icij.org/project/us-aid-latin-america/outsourcing-war">helped</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> restructure the Colombian armed forces to aid their fight against drugs. Northrop Grumman, under its contract, flew over the Colombian jungle with aircraft equipped with infrared cameras in order to track illegal activities related to drugs or guerrilla movements. And DynCorp has been in charge of the fumigation of coca plants since 2000.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span class="print-no mag-quote-right" style="line-height: 1.5;">Increasingly militarised since the 1980s, US drug policy has more recently become increasingly privatised.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Antoine Perret, a research fellow at Columbia Law School who has written extensively on how the privatisation of the war on drugs is endangering human rights, </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.americanstudents.us/content/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Perret_Proof_8_7_13.pdf">explains</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> how in Colombia, all US personnel working through Plan Colombia, including PMSC employees, have been granted immunity from Colombian jurisdiction by bilateral treaty with the US. This lack of control and supervision has been observed on many occasions, including by US authorities. A </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://narcosphere.narconews.com/userfiles/70/CNReportFINAL.pdf">report</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> on contracting oversight by the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs concluded that the “State Department, which has awarded over $1 billion in counternarcotics contracts in Latin America to one company, DynCorp, has conducted sporadic oversight of that company.” This poses a particular concern for human rights.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">There have been </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.americanstudents.us/content/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Perret_Proof_8_7_13.pdf">numerous allegations</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> of human rights violations at the hands of PMSCs operating under Plan Colombia, but, so far, none of these violations have been brought to justice. For example, in 2004, a pornographic movie </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.eltiempo.com/archivo/documento/CMS-3756858">went public</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> that included US contractors from the Colombian base Tolemaida sexually abusing minors. No investigation took place and no one was ever punished.&nbsp; DynCorp’s activities, particularly the fumigation of coca plants, have also caused concern. In 2008, Ecuador </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/138/14629.pdf">filed suit</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> against Colombia at the International Court of Justice, arguing that “Colombia has violated its obligations under international law by causing or allowing the deposit on the territory of Ecuador of toxic herbicides that have caused damage to human health, property and the environment.” In August 2013, the governments of Colombia and Ecuador announced an agreement ending the dispute, with Colombia </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/politica/colombia-confirma-acuerdo-ecuador-terminar-juicio-fumig-articulo-442341">paying reparations</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> for the damage caused.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In Mexico too, the drugs war is becoming increasingly privatised. The </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.state.gov/j/inl/merida/">Merida Initiative</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> in 2007, cemented a plan between the US and Mexico to cooperate in fighting drug trafficking and increasing security in the region. It established full cooperation between the two countries, with the US providing an anti-crime and counter-drug assistance package to Mexico that included training and equipping Mexican forces.&nbsp; Crucially, the provision of Merida Initiative assistance to Mexico has included contracting PMSCs to train local forces.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">As in Colombia, the ‘war on drugs’ in Mexico has been widely criticised for resulting in human rights abuses. Indeed, Human Rights Watch (HRW) </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/mexico1111webwcover_0.pdf">reported</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> in 2011 “credible evidence of torture in more than 170 cases across the five states surveyed” and documented “39 ‘disappearances’ where evidence strongly suggests the participation of security forces.” HRW concluded that “rather than strengthening public security in Mexico, Calderón’s [and now Peña Nieto’s] ‘war’, has exacerbated a climate of violence, lawlessness, and fear in many parts of the country.” The activities of PMSCs, operating in this environment and hired by the US, raise additional human rights concerns. In fact, contractors have been accused of training Mexican police in torture techniques. “As is the case in Colombia”, Perret </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://remotecontrolprojectblog.org/2016/02/08/privatising-the-war-on-drugs-pmscs-in-colombia-and-mexico/">argues</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, “the use of PMSCs by the US government to perform security tasks in another country tends to adversely affect human rights, when the purpose should be the contrary”.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Privatisation is often resorted to as a strategy when the use of public resources is seen as risky. Indeed, in both Colombia and Mexico, public forces have been involved in massive human rights violations. However, turning to PMSCs is not the solution. According to Perret, “the unrestrained use of PMSCs is not the best strategy for improving security and upholding the rule of law, as instead (of improving security and upholding the rule of law) they become another element endangering human rights in an already complex environment”.&nbsp;</span></p> <h2><strong>Drones: from surveillance to smuggling</strong></h2> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">As well as the increasing privatisation of the ‘war on drugs’, the US and local law enforcement-military actors are also increasingly relying on advanced technologies, in particular drones. Drones have been used in three main ways in the drug wars in Latin America. Firstly, US surveillance drones are being used to detect and track drug trafficking routes across the region. In 2011 an official briefing – obtained via the Freedom of Information Act – revealed that the US Air Force is working to make its RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude long-endurance drones available to its allies in Latin America and the Caribbean in order to help “</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://warisboring.com/articles/here-s-how-u-s-air-force-drones-snoop-on-latin-america/">find drugs fields and helping plan offensives against rebel groups</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">”.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In the same year, a </span><em>New York Times</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> article </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/world/americas/16drug.html?_r=2">reported</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> that, in an effort to step up its involvement in Mexico’s drug war, the Obama administration began sending drones deep into Mexican territory to gather intelligence to help locate major traffickers. Furthermore, US Customs and Border Protection operates </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/28/drones-war-on-drugs_n_3173678.html">10 MQ-1 Predator drones</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, including two based in Cape Canaveral, Florida, that patrol a wide swathe of the Caribbean through the Bahamas and down to south of Puerto Rico, as part of the drugs fight. And in 2013, it was </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/28/drones-war-on-drugs_n_3173678.html">reported</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> that the US navy was testing a new type of drone that can be hand-launched from a ship’s deck to help detect, track and videotape drug smugglers in action across the Caribbean Sea.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span class="print-no mag-quote-left" style="line-height: 1.5;">Latin American law enforcement and military agencies are turning to drones to help fight drug cartels themselves.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Secondly, Latin American law enforcement and military agencies are turning to drones to help fight drug cartels themselves, with </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.rt.com/news/latin-america-drones-unregulated-216/">at least 14</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> Latin American and Caribbean countries having used or purchased drones. In Mexico, the </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.animalpolitico.com/2015/07/los-drones-de-mexico-quien-los-utiliza-y-por-que/">National Defense Secretariat</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, the federal police, the Procuradoría General de la República (the attorney general’s office), as well as the army and air force fly drones to gather intelligence to combat organised crime, mainly drug trafficking. In Brazil, Colombia, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago too, drones are used to </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.rt.com/news/latin-america-drones-unregulated-216/">monitor drug trafficking and find drug smuggling routes</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Finally, drones are being used by drug cartels themselves, to smuggle drugs between countries. In January 2015, a drone crashed in a supermarket parking lot in Tijuana, Mexico – carrying </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://mexico.cnn.com/nacional/2015/01/21/la-policia-de-tijuana-asegura-drone-con-droga-que-cayo-en-supermercado">three kilograms of crystal meth</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> and in August 2015, two Mexican citizens were convicted of utilising a UAV to fly </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/articulo/mundo/2015/08/12/dos-se-declaran-culpables-de-narcotrafico-con-drones">13 kilograms of heroin</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> from Baja California, Mexico, into California. This led US authorities to deem drones an “</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://edition.cnn.com/2015/01/22/world/drug-drone-crashes-us-mexico-border/">emerging trend</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">” employed by transnational criminal organisations to smuggle narcotics into the US. Remote warfare technology is not only being used by drug cartels to smuggle and distribute contraband, but is also being used by cartels to fight each other, dominate the criminal markets, control local populations and deliver lethal action against their enemies.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">What impact is this reliance on increasingly advanced technology, in particular drones, having? According to Brookings Institution senior fellow </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.brookings.edu/experts/felbabbrownv">Vanda Felbab-Brown</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, an expert on illicit economies and organised crime, the proliferation of remote warfare capabilities among criminal groups in Latin America is having a detrimental effect. It is, “</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://remotecontrolprojectblog.org/2016/02/24/drugs-and-drones-the-crime-empire-strikes-back/">undermining deterrence, including deterrence among criminal groups themselves over the division of the criminal market and its turfs</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">”. This is because “remotely delivered hits will complicate the attribution problem – in other words, whoever authorised the lethal action — and hence the certainty of sufficiently painful retaliation against the source and thus a stable equilibrium”.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The reliance on technology by state actors more generally, Felbab-Brown argues, has had damaging effects from a strategic perspective as the “</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://remotecontrolprojectblog.org/2016/02/24/drugs-and-drones-the-crime-empire-strikes-back/">allure of signal intelligence</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">” has led to the discounting of other key intelligence techniques. As well as failing to develop a strategic understanding of criminal groups’ decision-making to anticipate their responses to law enforcement actions, it also fails to cultivate a broad and comprehensive understanding of the motivations and interests of local populations that interact with criminal and insurgent groups and, crucially, to identify the importance of establishing good relationships with local populations to advance anti-crime and counterinsurgency policies. In Colombia, </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2014/05/07-improving-supply-side-policies-felbabbrown">for example</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, drug eradication policy antagonised local populations to national government, and strengthened the bonds between them and rebel </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.brookings.edu/research/books/2010/shootingup">groups</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. Ultimately, the desire to infer knowledge from ‘phenomena’ in modern warfare, has come at the expense of traditional intelligence gathering techniques, in essence “</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://remotecontrolprojectblog.org/2016/02/24/drugs-and-drones-the-crime-empire-strikes-back/">the tactical tool, technology… has trumped strategic analysis</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">”, Felbab-Brown concludes.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The increase in advanced technologies has had other, less predictable impacts too. As organised crime actors have adopted advanced technologies in response to law enforcement agencies, they have also responded in the opposite way, by developing </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://remotecontrolprojectblog.org/2016/02/24/drugs-and-drones-the-crime-empire-strikes-back/">primitive technologies and methods</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> to counter the advanced technologies used by law enforcement, according to Felbab-Brown. At the same time, society has adapted to criminal groups and violence in a similar way, by adopting its own ‘back-to-the-past’ response with, for example, </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/articles/2015/12/09-mexico-militias-citizen-security-felbabbrown/rise-of-militias-mexico.pdf">anti-crime militias</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. The implication of this, Felbab-Brown warns, is deeply worrying as citizens’ militias “fundamentally&nbsp;</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/articles/2015/12/09-mexico-militias-citizen-security-felbabbrown/rise-of-militias-mexico.pdf">weaken the rule of law and the authority and legitimacy of the state</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">”, and is ultimately a “dangerous and slippery slope” to greater breakdown of order.</span></p> <h2><strong>New tactics, old strategy</strong></h2><p><span style="font-size: 13px; font-weight: normal; line-height: 1.5;">The unforeseen consequences of remote warfare in theatres across the globe where the ‘war on terror’ is playing out are starting to emerge. As well as the transparency and accountability vacuums associated with these methods and the&nbsp;</span><a style="font-size: 13px; font-weight: normal; line-height: 1.5;" href="http://chrgj.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Living-Under-Drones.pdf">human costs</a><span style="font-size: 13px; font-weight: normal; line-height: 1.5;"> they incur, remote warfare techniques are also having broader, negative implications in the theatres in which they are being used. From increased </span><a style="font-size: 13px; font-weight: normal; line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?_r=2">radicalisation</a><span style="font-size: 13px; font-weight: normal; line-height: 1.5;"> caused by drone strikes in Pakistan, to </span><a style="font-size: 13px; font-weight: normal; line-height: 1.5;" href="http://remotecontrolproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Sahel-Sahara-report.pdf">instability</a><span style="font-size: 13px; font-weight: normal; line-height: 1.5;"> resulting from special forces and private military companies in Africa, the notion that remote warfare is making us safer in the face of terrorism is being questioned.</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center" style="font-size: 13px; font-weight: normal; line-height: 1.5;">Like the ‘war on terror’, the ‘war on drugs’ can only be solved by addressing the root causes of insecurity.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Unsurprisingly, remote warfare methods are having similar consequences in theatres across Latin America where the ‘war on drugs’ is playing out. As mass surveillance techniques and the use of private military companies raise concerns over human rights violations and a lack of transparency and oversight, the broader strategic shortfalls of remote warfare are also becoming apparent. Indeed, covert warfare techniques and, in turn, the responses they spur, have been found to weaken the rule of law and legitimacy of the state in areas where they’ve been used, rendering these methods ineffective and counterproductive in achieving security in the long-term.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Like the ‘war on terror’, the ‘war on drugs’ can only be solved by addressing the root causes of insecurity. In the case of the ‘war on drugs’, this must be done by addressing the costs and unintended consequences of a militarised and enforcement-led global ‘war on drugs’ strategy and, as the LSE Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.lse.ac.uk/ideas/publications/reports/pdf/lse-ideas-drugs-report-final-web.pdf">report</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> concluded, should ultimately concentrate on the shifting of resources and focus towards effective evidence-based policies that ensure population security, economic development and protecting human rights. Remote warfare does not offer a new approach to the problem of illicit drug trafficking, rather it represents an unchanged strategy, dressed up with new tactics.</span></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/unravelling-human-cost-of-global-drug-policy">Unravelling the human cost of global drug policy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Conflict Democracy and government International politics drugpolicy Esther Kersley Thu, 17 Mar 2016 01:52:47 +0000 Esther Kersley 100674 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “The degree of the racism is insane”: Johann Hari on the ‘war on drugs’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy/johann-hari/degree-of-racism-is-insane-johann-hari-on-war-on-drugs <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“African Americans are no more likely to buy or sell drugs than any other group, but they make up the overwhelming majority of the people who go to prison for it.” (27:42 minutes)</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/drugpolicy"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/banner1new (1).jpg" alt="wfd" width="460px" /></a></p> <p>Johann Hari, journalist and author of “Chasing the Scream”, speaks on video about how he began rethinking drug addiction. He reflects on the hounding of Billie Holiday by the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the heavy toll that the ‘war on drugs’ takes on some groups, and brighter prospects ahead: the shattering of consensus at the United Nations, and the US liberalisation of drug policy. Watch the video and let us know what you think in our comments space, below the line.</p> <p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0WpIt0EgKQY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This video is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and <a href="http://www.cels.org.ar/home/index.php">CELS</a>, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/carl-hart/nobody-wants-to-live-in-drug-free-world-interview-with-carl-hart">&quot;Nobody wants to live in a drug-free world&quot;: an interview with Carl Hart</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/gabriela-kletzel-luciana-pol/unravelling-human-cost-of-global-drug-policy">Unravelling the human cost of global drug policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/drugpolicy/julia-buxton/myths-moralism-and-hypocrisy-drive-international-drug-control-system">Myths, moralism, and hypocrisy drive the international drug control system</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/opendemocracy/9-things-we-ve-learned-from-50-year-war-on-drugs">9 things we’ve learned from a 50-year war on drugs</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Ideas drugpolicy Johann Hari Wed, 16 Mar 2016 00:34:23 +0000 Johann Hari 100600 at https://www.opendemocracy.net