The governments of Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Switzerland, as well as the Global Commission on Drug Policy, organised a side-event at the 26th session of the Human Rights Council titled "The impact of the world drug problem on human rights." During this side-event, Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, made a speech on the human rights violations which continue to occur in the implementation of States' drug control policies.

In regards to violations of the right to life, Ms. Pillay asserted that the use of the death penalty for drug offences is inappropriate, as such offences do not constitute the "most serious crimes."

Concerning the right to health, Ms. Pillay criticized criminalization as it limits the accessibility of health services to drug users. Moreover, she stressed the importance of harm reduction measures and ensuring access to essential medicines.

Ms. Pillay proceeded to discuss violations of the prohibition of arbitrary detention and the prohibition of torture and other forms of ill treatment in drug policies, which include lengthy pre-trail detention for minor drug offences, use of corporal punishment, and drug detention and rehabilitation centres, among other examples.

Ms. Pillay encouraged States to respect the rights of indigenous peoples when creating laws and policies for substances used in traditional practices by interpreting the UN drug conventions with flexibility, by making appropriate reservations to the treaties, and if needed, by withdrawing and re-ratifying the treaties with the appropriate reservations.

Lastly, Ms. Pillay spoke about the rights of children. She stated that children who use drugs should not be subject to criminal proceedings, and that accurate and objective information on drugs should be available to them, along with appropriate harm reduction and treatment services.

Ms. Pillay concluded by urging all States to reconsider the decades-old approach to drug control from a human rights perspective, and suggested decriminalisation as a solution to reflect upon.

Click here to read the full speech.

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