Harm Reduction International (HRI) has monitored the use of the death penalty for drug offences worldwide since our first ground-breaking publication on this issue in 2007. This report, our ninth on the subject, continues our work of providing regular updates on legislative, policy and practical developments related to the use of capital punishment for drug offences, a practice which is a clear violation of international law.
The 2019 Global Overview highlights some of the most common violations of fair trial standards reported in capital drug cases across a range of jurisdictions, revealing systemic flaws and a particularly grave impact on vulnerable defendants. Indeed, many if not most individuals charged and sentenced to death for a drug offence have limited economic resources, and are from ethnic or racial minorities or are foreign nationals; they mostly occupy low-level positions in the drug trade and may have been deceived or coerced into taking part in drug-related activities. The legal analysis reflects the principle in international law that the imposition of a death sentence following conviction for a drug offence (not involving intentional killing) in proceedings which fail to meet international standards of fairness compounds the violations of the rights of the individual to life, to a fair trial, and to be free from torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Harm Reduction International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the person accused and their guilt, the nature of the crime and the method of execution.