International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy
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II. Obligations arising from human rights standards

5. Right to life

Everyone has the inherent right to life. This right must be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of their life based on actual or perceived drug use or involvement in the illicit drug trade. Drug offences do not meet the internationally recognised threshold of ‘most serious crimes’ for which the death penalty – where it exists – may be imposed.

In accordance with this right, States shall:

i. Take immediate action to halt executions, commute death sentences, and abolish the death penalty for drug offences. States may not transform an offence from a non-capital one to a capital one nor expand penalties for existing offences to include the death penalty.

ii. Take measures to prevent both State-perpetrated and private violence, threats to life, and unnecessary or disproportionate use of potentially lethal force based on actual or perceived drug use or involvement in the illicit drug trade, and investigate, prosecute, and hold accountable those responsible for such acts.

iii. Avoid extraditing or otherwise forcibly returning or transferring a person to another State where that person risks being sentenced to the death penalty for drug offences, unless provided with credible and effective assurances that the death penalty will not be imposed.

iv. Avoid extraditing or otherwise forcibly returning or transferring a person to another State where there are substantial grounds to believe that, based on actual or perceived drug use or involvement in the illicit drug trade, the person risks arbitrary deprivation of their right to life, including by non-State actors over whom the receiving State has no or only partial control or whose acts the receiving State cannot prevent.

In addition, States should:

v. Take steps to ensure that they do not aid or assist in the imposition of the death penalty outside of their jurisdiction and that the supply of equipment, personnel, training, and funding for drug law enforcement activities by or in another State, mutual legal assistance between States, and joint operations with other States do not contribute, directly or indirectly, to the imposition of the death penalty.

vi. Take positive measures to increase the life expectancy of people who use drugs, including adequate steps to provide scientific, evidence-based information, facilities, goods, and services on drug use prevention, overdose prevention and response, and harm reduction, including to reduce such harms as overdose, HIV, viral hepatitis, and other infections and injuries sometimes associated with drug use.

Commentary:

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