International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy
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V. Treaty interpretation principles

1. Harmonisation and simultaneous compliance with human rights obligations

i. Parties to the international drug control treaties are bound to implement their obligations arising from those treaties in full respect for their other obligations under international law, including human rights law. Consistent with international law, these obligations ‘shall be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given in light of the terms of the treaty in their context and in the light of its object and purpose’. Where there appears to be incompatibility, the principles of treaty interpretation emphasise the strong presumption against normative conflict in international law.

ii. States are assumed not to derogate from their previous obligations when they create a new obligation, such as by ratifying a treaty. Where a number of apparently contradictory instruments are simultaneously applicable, international case law and academic opinion endeavour to construe them in such a way as to coordinate their effects and avoid any opposition between them. Two diverging commitments must therefore be harmonised as much as possible so that they produce effects that are fully in accordance with existing law, including human rights law.

iii. Obligations contained within international drug control treaties may not be used as a basis for violating concomitant international human rights obligations. Provisions contained within an international drug control treaty that allow States to ‘adopt more strict or severe measures’ than those provided by the relevant treaty should be interpreted as allowing only for such measures that align with States’ international law obligations, including human rights law.

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