In concluding its 117th Session, the INCB reiterated the importance of the principle of proportionality in the field of drug control.

Its analysis of government policy and action in the field of drug control saw the Board reaffirming its rejection of extrajudicial or disproportionate state responses to drug-related crime. INCB President Mr Werner Sipp emphasized that: ‘States should be guided by the principle of proportionality in the determination of penalties’. He further stated that ‘the flexibility provided for by the conventions to offer alternatives to conviction or punishment for drug-related crimes of a minor nature remains underutilized’.

This issue will be the focus of a special topic in the 2016 Annual Report.

Meanwhile, despite the Board’s emphasis on proportionality and the flexibility of the conventions, President in Waiting Donald Trump has been alleged to be a staunch supporter of Philippines’ President  Rodrigo Duterte, the political driver of the country’ brutal and bloody campaign against people who use drugs. This allegation regarding Trump’s support comes from Duterte’s own administration, while Trump has remained silent on the claim.

Either way, the Philippines has continued its war on drugs in the face of the Board’s expression of concern at Duterte’s project of violence and murder. Werner Sipp called on the Government of the Philippines to ‘issue an immediate and unequivocal condemnation and denunciation of extrajudicial actions against individuals suspected of involvement in the illicit drug trade or of drug use, to put an immediate stop to such actions, and to ensure that the perpetrators of such acts are brought to justice in full observance of due process and the rule of law.’ At the time, there were believed to have been some 700 killings, while the figures has now climbed to 2,004 according to Philippines police sources. Amnesty International states that the killings have reached ‘well over 3,500’. The government is now trying to fast-track a bill that would reinstate the death penalty for a number of offences, including those related to drugs, while seeking to reduce criminal responsibility from 15 to 9 years old. This has led to an uproar among civil society while UN drug control agencies have so far remained silent on this blatant violation of international human rights law.

IDPC wonders for how long the principle of proportionality will be subservient to the practice of violence. 

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