On 10 December 2020, the President of the INCB issued its first-ever statement on International Human Rights Day.

This statement is a welcome step that illustrates the INCB’s growing attention to human rights violations committed in connection to drug policies. A closer exploration of this trend, as well as of its limitations, can be found in the recent IDPC/GDPO publication ‘The International Narcotics Control Board on Human Rights: A critique of the reports for 2019’.

The statement also contrasts starkly with the silence of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on the human rights abuses committed in the name of drugs control, even though over 100 NGOs had asked Executive Director Ghada Waly to speak clear and strong against them on this International Human Rights Day.

This is the statement issued by the President of the INCB:

VIENNA, 10 December (United Nations Information Service) - The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has repeatedly expressed its concern over reports of grave human rights violations purportedly in furtherance of national drug control policies.

The Board reminds all States that the primary objective of the international drug control conventions is to safeguard the health and welfare of humankind, including respect for human rights.

INCB calls on States to adopt and pursue drug control policies that respect and protect human rights and that are consistent with international human rights instruments. Human rights are inherent and inalienable. The world drug problem cannot be lawfully addressed without ensuring the protection of human rights.

In addressing drug-related criminality, States must apply the principle of proportionality as a guiding principle in determining and applying criminal sanctions. The drug control conventions require governments to give special attention to the possibility of applying alternative measures to conviction, punishment and incarceration for drug-related offences, in appropriate cases of a minor nature, including education, rehabilitation or social reintegration, as well as, when the offender is affected by a drug disorder, treatment and aftercare.

Human Rights Day 2020 focuses on the need to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring that human rights are central to recovery efforts.

The pandemic has affected patterns of drug use and drug trafficking, and also affected access to services for the treatment of people with drug use disorders. State parties to the drug control conventions are required to give special attention to and take all practicable measures for the prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration of persons affected by drug use disorders. Such services should be accessible, evidence-based, free from discrimination and stigma and respect the human rights and dignity of clients.

International trade in controlled medicines has also been challenged by the pandemic and measures to stem the transmission of COVID-19. INCB is working with governments to ensure availability of internationally controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes.

Sustainable Development Goal 3 - to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages - entails, among other things, access to high-quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, high-quality and affordable essential medicines, including those medicines under international control, and strengthening the prevention and treatment of drug use disorders.