UNODC Chief: disproportionate responses to drug related offences do not serve justice, or uphold rule of law

Photo: UNIS Vienna15 March 2016 - Alternatives to conviction or punishment, where appropriate, can be pursued by countries under the international drug control conventions, the head of UNODC, Yury Fedotov, stressed today at a side event on the margins of the 59th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND).

Mr. Fedotov highlighted the need to consider alternatives to imprisonment as a means of "helping to address prison overcrowding, and potentially prevent the recruitment of vulnerable individuals in detention by criminals and terrorists."

The discussions ahead of the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS 2016), to be held in April this year, he said, showed that the three international drug control conventions are driven by a concern for the health and welfare of humankind. He noted that a balanced approach necessitated applying the principle of proportionality to drug-related offences and offenders.

"Disproportionate responses do not serve the cause of justice, nor help to uphold the rule of law. In this regard, the application of the death penalty to drug-related offences has never been in the letter or the spirit of the conventions," underscored Mr. Fedotov.

People suffering from drug use disorders also need comprehensive health and social services that are voluntary, rights-based, accessible, effective and affordable. This required, Mr. Fedotov said, justice, health and social service actors to work together in close coordination.

He said that UNODC's mandate on justice, health and the rule of law made full use of international standards such as the UN Standard Minimum Rules for Non-custodial Measures, the Mandela Rules, which includes treatment of prisoners for drug dependence and HIV, and the Bangkok Rules that safeguards women in prison.

The special event was titled "Alternatives to Imprisonment and Proportionate Responses to Drug Offences" and highlighted alternatives to imprisonment under the international drug control conventions, as well as UN standards in crime prevention and criminal justice.

Other speakers included: William R. Brownfield, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Werner Sipp, President of the International Narcotics Control Board, Marie-Paule Kieny, Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation at the World Health Organization, Oliver Robertson, Civil Society Task Force and the representatives of Colombia, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

Join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtags #CND2016, #UNGASS2016 and follow @UNODC and @YuryFedotov for updates.

Further information:

Executive Director's speech at the event

Information on the CND, including programme of side events

UNGASS 2016

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