By Cara Anna and Dave Bryan
The first U.N. special session to address global drug policy in nearly 20 years bristled with tension Tuesday over the use of the death penalty for drug-related offenses, as countries wrestled over whether to emphasize criminalization and punishment or health and human rights.
The outcome document adopted by member states included no criticism of the death penalty, saying only that countries should ensure that punishments are "proportionate" with the crimes.
"Disproportional penalties ... create vicious cycles of marginalization and further crime," Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto told the gathering. He also called for the decriminalization of marijuana for medical and scientific purposes and said the international community's responses to drug issues is "frankly, insufficient."
He said Mexico in the coming days would announce specific drug policies with an emphasis on health and human rights.
At least 685 people around the world were executed on drug-related offenses in 2015, said Chiara Sangiorgio, a death penalty expert with Amnesty International. The rights group says 30 countries have laws that punish drug-related offenses with the death penalty.
Indonesia, which last year executed 14 people, mostly foreigners, convicted of drug-related crimes amid an international outcry, defended its stance Tuesday, saying the death penalty is not prohibited under international law.
China, which along with countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran carries out executions for drug offenses, signaled little flexibility on its approach.
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Thumbnail: Flickr CC Stu Rapley