Thousands of drug users and alcohol consumers – and people found in possession of small amounts of drugs and alcohol – are subjected to judicially-sanctioned caning, flogging, lashing or whipping each year, says a new report.

In the landmark study, Harm Reduction International finds that over forty states apply some type of judicial corporal punishment for drug and alcohol offences.  The vast majority of these sentences are handed down in countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Iran and Saudi Arabia. According to the report, such state-sanctioned violence is in clear violation of international law. The report will be launched today in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The use of caning, flogging, lashing and whipping is in direct violation of international law that prohibits the use of corporal punishment. UN human rights monitors have expressed their concern number of times about the legislation in various countries that allow law enforcement to inflict these types of cruel, inhumane and degrading punishments. Judicial corporal punishment is practiced in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Libya, Brunei, Darussalam, Maldives, Indonesia (Aceh) and Nigeria (northern states) and many more.

'The use of caning, whipping, lashing and flogging as a sentence for drug or alcohol offences is a clear violation of international human rights law, amounting to cruel inhumane degrading treatment or punishment,‘ said Rick Lines, Executive Director of Harm Reduction International.

'Effective drug policies are those that respect human rights, international standards and scientific evidence of effectiveness,’ said Lines ‘Corporal punishment for drug and alcohol offences fails all three of these tests. It amounts to little more that a government trying to brutalise its way out of a drug problem.'

Said Eka Iakobishvili, Human Rights Analyst for Harm Reduction International and author of the report, ‘There is a need for much more analysis on the impact of practices such as flogging and caning on the lives of the people who are subjected to them. These sentences leave lifelong marks not only people’s physical bodies, but on their psychology as well, that is impossible to cure.’

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