For the first time in its history, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has granted a hearing to analyze the serious impact of drug policies on human rights. The hearing was requested by sixteen regional organizations and will take place on March 25, during the Commission’s 150th Session in Washington. The opening of this debate constitutes an achievement regarding the Commission’s involvement in this issue.
The organizations requesting the hearing, which have a long history of work on human rights issues in the region, have highlighted the fact that the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ that has been waged over the last four decades has had an enormous impact on human rights. This is due to the extreme militarization of state responses, the high levels of violence, the rise in incarceration rates, and the criminalization of home-growers and users who have to face disproportionate sentences, the feminization of the drug related crimes, and a lack of adequate sanitary policies for persons in need of health care. The current emphasis on using criminal penalties and military and police actions to fight drug-trafficking has had a negative impact on many communities which have been affected by an escalation of violence that in some cases rivals that of a civil war. The lives taken in recent years have numbered in the tens of thousands.
The need to adjust drug policy to meet human rights standards has already been brought up in several regional discussions during 2013, and will be raised again at an Extraordinary Session of the Organization of American States (OAS) to be held in Guatemala. Internationally, this issue will also be debated next week during the 57th Session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), where a high-level review of drug policies that have been implemented worldwide will be carried out and certain discussion lines for the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) 2016 will be established.
For these reasons, human rights organizations cite the need for a reconsideration of the focus of current drug policy, emphasizing that it must have human rights and violence reduction as its main objective.
The organizations requesting the hearing are:
- American Civil Liberties Union, United States (ACLU)
- Association for Human Rights in Peru (APRODEH)
- Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA)
- Center for Legal and Social Studies, Argentina (CELS)
- Center for Research on Drugs and Human Rights, Peru (CIDDH)
- Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH)
- Medical College of Chile
- Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH)
- Conectas Direitos Humanos, Brazil
- Collective to an Integrated Policy to Drugs A. C., Mexico (CUPIDH)
- Humanas Corportation, Chile
- Center for the Study of Law, Justice and Society (DeJusticia), Colombia
- Institute for Legal and Social Studies (IELSUR), Uruguay
- Latin American Institute for Security and Democracy (ILSED)
- Intercambios (Civil Association for the Study and Assistance of Drug Related Problems), Argentina
- Myrna Mack Foundation, Guatemala
- Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
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