Drug Control and Human Rights in International Law
This is the first detailed examination of compulsory detention for ‘drug treatment’ through the lens of a rapidly evolving international legal framework. It is estimated that as many as half a million people worldwide are detained for the purpose of ‘drug treatment’, many held for months or years at a time without being charged criminally or being able to challenge the legality of their detention. This is therefore a key issue sitting at the intersection of human rights, drug policy and medical ethics. The article explores arbitrary detention and involuntary committal on medical grounds within international human rights law, as well as the historical-legal evolution of drug ‘treatment’ as the term is understood within international drug control law. It assesses whether drug use or drug dependency constitute a reasonable limitation of the right to liberty, and concludes that this type of detention represents a violation of international law.
This chapter examines the engagement and progress on human rights by the United Nations drug control regime from 2008-2018 through a comparative qualitative assessment of the official work of four principle political and normative institutions: the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the International Narcotics Control Board, the Human Rights Council and the UN human rights treaty bodies. Breaking this ten year period into three distinct stages, and using the 2016 UNGASS as a benchmark, this chapter demonstrates how human rights and drug policy has achieved significant attention within these institutions, and provides a summary interpretation of these official records that can enable scholars, policymakers, and other students to better understand how this issue has evolved across each fora.
This Health and Human Rights Viewpoint explores the challenges of addressing drug control through a human rights lens, and dicusses the new Internatiojnal Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy. https://www.hhrjournal.org/2020/01/what-does-it-mean-to-adopt-a-human-rights-based-approach-to-drug-policy/
Human dignity is a fundamental principle within international human rights law, and is a status described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as one 'inherent' to 'all members of the human family'. However, since the 1980s, dignity (or more specifically the protection or restoration of dignity) it is also a concept increasingly found in drug control discourse as a justification for drug suppression and punitive drug laws. However, rather than being a universal status based on personhood, within drug control discourse dignity is a conditional status based upon the presence or absence of drug use. In this context, a person who uses drugs by definition lacks dignity (or has had dignity taken away), a person who does not use has dignity maintained or protected and a person who stops using drugs may have dignity restored or rescued. The protection or restoration of dignity therefore becomes a rationale for States to pursue repressive drug suppression measures, measures that often violate the dignity and rights of both people who use drugs, and others caught up in the drug war. This presentation will review these competing concepts of dignity, and explore what this divergence tells us about the nature of the modern drug control regime and the inherent human rights risk the regime creates.