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Callamard: ‘War on drugs’ doesn’t work, only worsens problem

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United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions Agnes Callamard on Friday stressed that waging a "war on drugs" like the one employed by the Duterte administration only makes the problem on illegal substance worse, instead of solving it.

"In April 2016, the general assembly of the world’s government recognized explicitly that the 'war on drugs' – be it community-based, national or global – does not work," Callamard said in a policy forum on drugs issue held at University of the Philippines-Diliman, Quezon City.

"And further, that many harms associated with drugs are not caused by drugs, but by the negative impacts of badly though-out drug policies," she added.

Callamard emphasized that this way of combating drug abuse and trafficking makes the situation worse.

"The joint commitment to effectively addressing and countering the world drug problem is a call for action, but not to any action: according to the world’s leaders there are other ways, better ways; evidence-based, scientific ways, of combating drug abuse and trafficking – ways that do not make matters worse," she said.

"Badly thought-out, ill-conceived drug policies not only fail to address substantively drug dependency, drug-related criminality, and the drug trade, they add more problems, as has been well documented, around the world, including by United Nations bodies and Special Rapporteurs," she added.

Callamard then cited the following problems that arise when a "war on drugs" approach is used:

  • killings, extra-judicial or by criminal gangs; the breakdown of the rule of law;
  • vigilante crimes,
  • torture, ill-treatment and sexual violence;
  • prolonged pre-trial detention, mandatory sentencing and disproportionately long sentences for drug possession, etc.
  • detention in drug rehabilitation centres without trial or a proper evaluation of drug dependency;
  • non-consensual experimental treatment.

She added that such "badly thought out, ill-conceived policies" only "foster a regime of impunity."

"[These can] infect the whole justice sector and reaching into whole societies, invigorating the rule of violence rather than of law; eroding public trust in public institutions, breeding fear and leading people to despair," she said.

Callamard cited the 2016 joint commitment of the United Nations General Assembly on how to effectively address the world drug problem, noting that their comprehensive approach is focused on social development, public health, justice and human rights.

"It calls for more effective approaches than the punishment/punitive model that some governments have adopted," she added.

Callamard said that UN's comprehensive approach "urges governments to uphold the inherent dignity of all individuals, to respect, protect and promote all human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law and in the development and implementation of drug policies."

"The Joint Commitment also recognizes that drug dependence is a complex health disorder of a chronic and relapsing nature, whose social causes and consequences can be prevented and treated through, inter alia, effective scientific evidence-based drug treatment, care and rehabilitaiton programmes, including community-based programmes," she added.

Callamard said that this also recognized the role of civil society organizations through its drug-related treatment services that they provide.

"Throughout the joint commitment document, governments affirm the importance of systematic data collection, evidence gathering, scientific research and the sharing of information including the exchange of best practices related to preventing and countering drug-related crime," she noted.

Callamard is in the Philippines for an "academic visit" upon the invitation by the Free Legal Asssitance Group's (FLAG) "Anti-Death Penalty Task Force" for a two-day policy forum on the anti-illegal drugs campaign of the Duterte administration.

She said that she would be in the country until Monday, May 8.

The policy forum was organized in collaboration with the University of the Philippines-Diliman Office of the Chancellor and the College of Law's Institute of Human Rights. The two-day forum is held at GT-Toyota Asian Center Auditorium in Diliman, Quezon City. — Text and Photo by Marlly Rome Bondoc/MDM/NB, GMA News

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