International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy
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Thematic reference guide - Criminal Justice

Foundational human rights principles

Universal human dignity is a fundamental principle of human rights. It is from the inherent dignity of the human person that our rights derive. No drug law, policy, or practice should have the effect of undermining or violating the dignity of any person or group of persons.

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Human rights are universal, inalienable, indivisible, interdependent, and interrelated, including in the contexts of drug policy, development assistance, health care, and criminal justice.

A person’s involvement in drug-related criminality affects the enjoyment of some rights and specifically engages others. In no case are human rights entirely forfeited.

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Policing/Investigation

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.

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Everyone has the right to privacy, including people who use drugs.

In accordance with this right, States should:

i. Adopt legislative, administrative, and other measures to prevent arbitrary and unlawful interference with the privacy, family life, home, and correspondence of people who use drugs.

ii. Ensure the protection of the right to privacy in relation to criminal investigations for drug-related offences.

iii. Adopt legislative and other measures to prevent the disclosure of individuals’ personal health data, including drug test results and drug dependence treatment histories, without their free and informed consent.

iv. Ensure that welfare conditionalities and administrative requirements to access rights and benefits do not unlawfully, unnecessarily, or disproportionately infringe the privacy of those who use drugs.

In addition, States may:

v. Utilise the available flexibilities in the UN drug control conventions to decriminalise the possession, purchase, or cultivation of controlled substances for personal consumption.

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Arrest and interrogation

Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment are absolutely prohibited, in all circumstances. This includes during the arrest, questioning, and detention of persons alleged to have committed drug-related crimes or otherwise implicated during an investigation. The withholding of drugs from those who need them for medical purposes, including for drug dependence treatment and pain relief, is considered a form of torture.

In accordance with this right, States shall:

i. Take effective legislative, administrative, judicial, and other measures to prohibit, prevent, and redress all acts of torture and ill-treatment in their jurisdiction and in all settings under their custody or control, including in the context of drug dependence treatment, whether administered in public or private facilities.

ii. Promptly investigate allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by State agents, as well as acts that occur in their territory or under their jurisdiction (whether carried out by State or non-State actors), and prosecute and punish those responsible, including when victims are persons alleged to have committed drug-related offences or who are dependent on drugs.

iii. Avoid extraditing or otherwise forcibly returning or transferring individuals to another State where there are substantial grounds to believe that they are at risk of subjection to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, including by non-State actors over which the receiving State has no or only partial control or whose acts the receiving State cannot prevent, or because they risk expulsion to a third State where they may be in danger of subjection to torture or other prohibited ill-treatment.

iv. Abolish corporal punishment for drug offences where it is in place.

In addition, States should:

v. Ensure access to essential medicines, including for drug dependence, pain treatment, and palliative care.

vi. Ensure that access to health care for people who use or are dependent on drugs and are in places of detention is equivalent to that available in the community.

vii. Establish a national system to effectively monitor drug dependence treatment practices and to inspect drug dependence treatment centres, as well as places of detention, including migrant detention centres, police stations, and prisons.

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Everyone has the right to liberty and security of the person and therefore to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention. No one shall be deprived of liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as are established by law. Such rights apply equally to any person known to have used drugs or suspected of drug use, as well as to anyone suspected of a drug-related offence.

In accordance with this right, States shall:

i. Ensure that people are not detained solely on the basis of drug use or drug dependence.

ii. Ensure that pre-trial detention is never mandatory for drug-related charges and is imposed only in exceptional circumstances where such detention is deemed reasonable, necessary, and proportional.

In addition, States should:

iii. Guarantee that people arrested, detained, or convicted for drug-related offences can benefit from the application of non- custodial measures – such as bail or other alternatives to pre-trial detention; sentence reduction or suspension; parole; and pardon or amnesty – enjoyed by those who are arrested, detained, or convicted of other crimes.

iv. Prioritise diversion from prosecution for persons arrested for drug offences or drug-related offences of a minor nature.

v. Prioritise non-custodial measures at the sentencing and post-sentencing stages for persons charged with or convicted of drug offences or drug-related offences of a minor nature.

vi. Ensure that, where treatment is court mandated, no penalties attach to a failure to complete such treatment.

vii. Ensure that treatment for drug dependence as an alternative to incarceration is undertaken only with informed consent and where medically indicated, and under no circumstances extends beyond the period of the applicable criminal sentence.

viii. Take immediate measures to close compulsory drug detention centres where they exist, release people detained in such centres, and replace such facilities with voluntary, evidence-based care and support in the community.

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Everyone has the right to equality before the law and before courts and tribunals, to defend oneself against criminal charges, and to determine one’s rights and obligations in a suit at law. These and other components of the right to a fair trial should not be infringed or limited simply because an individual is accused of illicitly using, cultivating, or trading drugs.

In accordance with this right, States shall:

i. Guarantee to all persons accused of drug-related offences the right to a fair and public hearing, without undue delay, by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal established by law, and further guarantee that all such persons will be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to the law.

ii. Ensure that such persons have access to prompt, detailed information and free, good-quality legal assistance where needed, in a language and format that is accessible. This includes access to interpreters, consular assistance (where applicable), and legal counsel to defend against criminal charges.

iii. Make provision for those convicted of such offences to have their conviction and sentence reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law.

iv. Avoid extraditing or otherwise forcibly returning or transferring a person to another State to face trial for drug-related offences where that person risks serious violations of the right to a fair trial, unless provided with credible and effective assurances regarding minimum guarantees during criminal proceedings.

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Children have the right to receive accurate and objective information about drugs and drug-related harm, the right to protection from harmful misinformation, and the right to privacy.

In accordance with this right, States should:

i. Undertake evidence-based and human rights-compliant prevention measures, including in schools.

ii. Avoid excluding children from school due to risk-taking behaviours and take measures to ensure their access to education.

iii. Avoid random drug testing, sniffer dogs, and strip searches in schools.

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Trial and due process

Everyone has the right to equality before the law and before courts and tribunals, to defend oneself against criminal charges, and to determine one’s rights and obligations in a suit at law. These and other components of the right to a fair trial should not be infringed or limited simply because an individual is accused of illicitly using, cultivating, or trading drugs.

In accordance with this right, States shall:

i. Guarantee to all persons accused of drug-related offences the right to a fair and public hearing, without undue delay, by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal established by law, and further guarantee that all such persons will be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to the law.

ii. Ensure that such persons have access to prompt, detailed information and free, good-quality legal assistance where needed, in a language and format that is accessible. This includes access to interpreters, consular assistance (where applicable), and legal counsel to defend against criminal charges.

iii. Make provision for those convicted of such offences to have their conviction and sentence reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law.

iv. Avoid extraditing or otherwise forcibly returning or transferring a person to another State to face trial for drug-related offences where that person risks serious violations of the right to a fair trial, unless provided with credible and effective assurances regarding minimum guarantees during criminal proceedings.

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Women have the equal right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food, clothing, and housing. This applies to women involved in the drug trade and dependent on illicit drug economies.

In accordance with this right, States should:

i. Develop specific, viable, and sustainable economic alternatives for women who are particularly at risk of exploitation in the illicit drug economy, including women who use drugs, poor women (whether urban or rural), and women from indigenous and ethnic minority communities.

ii. Take all necessary legislative, administrative, and policy measures to ensure that women’s specific needs and circumstances are taken into account in efforts to address involvement in the drug trade and dependence on illicit drug economies.

iii. Adhere to international standards in all efforts to address and respond to drug-related criminality among women.

iv. Make available gender-specific interventions that aim primarily at diversion from the criminal justice system, and address the underlying factors leading to women coming into contact with the criminal justice system.

With regard to sentencing for drug-related offences, States should:

v. Legislate for and prioritise non-custodial sentences for pregnant women where possible and appropriate.

vi. Ensure that courts have the power to consider mitigating factors in light of women’s caretaking responsibilities, such as lack of criminal history and relative non-severity and nature of the criminal conduct.

vii. Ensure the earliest possible transfer of non-resident foreign-national women prisoners, following the request or informed consent of the woman concerned.

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Children have the rights to health, to be heard in matters related to their own health care, and to decisions based on clinical need in the best interests of the child, including decisions related to interventions for children who use drugs.

In accordance with these rights, States should:

i. Develop accessible, child-sensitive prevention, drug dependence treatment, and harm reduction services.

ii. Ensure that decisions regarding access to drug-related health services are taken in the best interests of the child, with due regard to their evolving capacities.

iii. Remove legal age restrictions on existing drug-related health services.

iv. Ensure that young people who use drugs have access to drug-related health information, and counselling without parental or guardian consent, and that treatment or harm reduction service provision without parental or guardian consent is possible when in the best interests of the individual.

Where these interventions concern drug-related criminality, States should:

v. Target efforts primarily at diversion from the criminal justice system and promote rehabilitation over punishment.

vi. Refrain from criminalising children because of their drug use or possession of drugs for personal use.

vii. Adhere to international juvenile justice standards in all efforts to address and respond to drug-related criminality among children and young people.

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Sentencing

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.

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Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment are absolutely prohibited, in all circumstances. This includes during the arrest, questioning, and detention of persons alleged to have committed drug-related crimes or otherwise implicated during an investigation. The withholding of drugs from those who need them for medical purposes, including for drug dependence treatment and pain relief, is considered a form of torture.

In accordance with this right, States shall:

i. Take effective legislative, administrative, judicial, and other measures to prohibit, prevent, and redress all acts of torture and ill-treatment in their jurisdiction and in all settings under their custody or control, including in the context of drug dependence treatment, whether administered in public or private facilities.

ii. Promptly investigate allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by State agents, as well as acts that occur in their territory or under their jurisdiction (whether carried out by State or non-State actors), and prosecute and punish those responsible, including when victims are persons alleged to have committed drug-related offences or who are dependent on drugs.

iii. Avoid extraditing or otherwise forcibly returning or transferring individuals to another State where there are substantial grounds to believe that they are at risk of subjection to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, including by non-State actors over which the receiving State has no or only partial control or whose acts the receiving State cannot prevent, or because they risk expulsion to a third State where they may be in danger of subjection to torture or other prohibited ill-treatment.

iv. Abolish corporal punishment for drug offences where it is in place.

In addition, States should:

v. Ensure access to essential medicines, including for drug dependence, pain treatment, and palliative care.

vi. Ensure that access to health care for people who use or are dependent on drugs and are in places of detention is equivalent to that available in the community.

vii. Establish a national system to effectively monitor drug dependence treatment practices and to inspect drug dependence treatment centres, as well as places of detention, including migrant detention centres, police stations, and prisons.

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Everyone has the right to liberty and security of the person and therefore to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention. No one shall be deprived of liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as are established by law. Such rights apply equally to any person known to have used drugs or suspected of drug use, as well as to anyone suspected of a drug-related offence.

In accordance with this right, States shall:

i. Ensure that people are not detained solely on the basis of drug use or drug dependence.

ii. Ensure that pre-trial detention is never mandatory for drug-related charges and is imposed only in exceptional circumstances where such detention is deemed reasonable, necessary, and proportional.

In addition, States should:

iii. Guarantee that people arrested, detained, or convicted for drug-related offences can benefit from the application of non- custodial measures – such as bail or other alternatives to pre-trial detention; sentence reduction or suspension; parole; and pardon or amnesty – enjoyed by those who are arrested, detained, or convicted of other crimes.

iv. Prioritise diversion from prosecution for persons arrested for drug offences or drug-related offences of a minor nature.

v. Prioritise non-custodial measures at the sentencing and post-sentencing stages for persons charged with or convicted of drug offences or drug-related offences of a minor nature.

vi. Ensure that, where treatment is court mandated, no penalties attach to a failure to complete such treatment.

vii. Ensure that treatment for drug dependence as an alternative to incarceration is undertaken only with informed consent and where medically indicated, and under no circumstances extends beyond the period of the applicable criminal sentence.

viii. Take immediate measures to close compulsory drug detention centres where they exist, release people detained in such centres, and replace such facilities with voluntary, evidence-based care and support in the community.

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Women have the equal right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food, clothing, and housing. This applies to women involved in the drug trade and dependent on illicit drug economies.

In accordance with this right, States should:

i. Develop specific, viable, and sustainable economic alternatives for women who are particularly at risk of exploitation in the illicit drug economy, including women who use drugs, poor women (whether urban or rural), and women from indigenous and ethnic minority communities.

ii. Take all necessary legislative, administrative, and policy measures to ensure that women’s specific needs and circumstances are taken into account in efforts to address involvement in the drug trade and dependence on illicit drug economies.

iii. Adhere to international standards in all efforts to address and respond to drug-related criminality among women.

iv. Make available gender-specific interventions that aim primarily at diversion from the criminal justice system, and address the underlying factors leading to women coming into contact with the criminal justice system.

With regard to sentencing for drug-related offences, States should:

v. Legislate for and prioritise non-custodial sentences for pregnant women where possible and appropriate.

vi. Ensure that courts have the power to consider mitigating factors in light of women’s caretaking responsibilities, such as lack of criminal history and relative non-severity and nature of the criminal conduct.

vii. Ensure the earliest possible transfer of non-resident foreign-national women prisoners, following the request or informed consent of the woman concerned.

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Children have the rights to health, to be heard in matters related to their own health care, and to decisions based on clinical need in the best interests of the child, including decisions related to interventions for children who use drugs.

In accordance with these rights, States should:

i. Develop accessible, child-sensitive prevention, drug dependence treatment, and harm reduction services.

ii. Ensure that decisions regarding access to drug-related health services are taken in the best interests of the child, with due regard to their evolving capacities.

iii. Remove legal age restrictions on existing drug-related health services.

iv. Ensure that young people who use drugs have access to drug-related health information, and counselling without parental or guardian consent, and that treatment or harm reduction service provision without parental or guardian consent is possible when in the best interests of the individual.

Where these interventions concern drug-related criminality, States should:

v. Target efforts primarily at diversion from the criminal justice system and promote rehabilitation over punishment.

vi. Refrain from criminalising children because of their drug use or possession of drugs for personal use.

vii. Adhere to international juvenile justice standards in all efforts to address and respond to drug-related criminality among children and young people.

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Prison conditions

Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment are absolutely prohibited, in all circumstances. This includes during the arrest, questioning, and detention of persons alleged to have committed drug-related crimes or otherwise implicated during an investigation. The withholding of drugs from those who need them for medical purposes, including for drug dependence treatment and pain relief, is considered a form of torture.

In accordance with this right, States shall:

i. Take effective legislative, administrative, judicial, and other measures to prohibit, prevent, and redress all acts of torture and ill-treatment in their jurisdiction and in all settings under their custody or control, including in the context of drug dependence treatment, whether administered in public or private facilities.

ii. Promptly investigate allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by State agents, as well as acts that occur in their territory or under their jurisdiction (whether carried out by State or non-State actors), and prosecute and punish those responsible, including when victims are persons alleged to have committed drug-related offences or who are dependent on drugs.

iii. Avoid extraditing or otherwise forcibly returning or transferring individuals to another State where there are substantial grounds to believe that they are at risk of subjection to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, including by non-State actors over which the receiving State has no or only partial control or whose acts the receiving State cannot prevent, or because they risk expulsion to a third State where they may be in danger of subjection to torture or other prohibited ill-treatment.

iv. Abolish corporal punishment for drug offences where it is in place.

In addition, States should:

v. Ensure access to essential medicines, including for drug dependence, pain treatment, and palliative care.

vi. Ensure that access to health care for people who use or are dependent on drugs and are in places of detention is equivalent to that available in the community.

vii. Establish a national system to effectively monitor drug dependence treatment practices and to inspect drug dependence treatment centres, as well as places of detention, including migrant detention centres, police stations, and prisons.

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All persons deprived of their liberty must be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the person. This includes those held in prisons and other closed settings and places of detention for drug-related reasons. Such persons have the right to a standard of health care equivalent to that available to the general population.

In accordance with these rights, States should:

i. Adhere at all times to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules).

ii. Adhere at all times to international standards relating to specific groups deprived of their liberty, including women (the Bangkok Rules) and children (the Beijing Rules).

iii. Ensure that all persons deprived of their liberty have access to voluntary and evidence-based health services, including harm reduction and drug treatment services, as well as essential medicines, including HIV and hepatitis C services, at a standard that is equivalent to that in the community.

iv. Organise such drug-related and other health care services in close parallel with general public health administration, taking into account the specific nature of individuals’ detention, and design services to ensure the continuity of harm reduction, drug treatment, and access to essential medicines through transitions of entering and exiting the detention facility, as well as transfer between institutions.

v. Ensure that drug-related and other health care services for these populations are provided by qualified medical personnel able to make independent, evidence-based decisions for their patients.

vi. Ensure the provision of training for health care professionals and other staff working in prisons and other closed settings and places of detention on drug treatment, harm reduction, and palliative care and pain management, as well as other medical conditions that require the use of controlled substances for medical purposes.

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Women have the equal right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food, clothing, and housing. This applies to women involved in the drug trade and dependent on illicit drug economies.

In accordance with this right, States should:

i. Develop specific, viable, and sustainable economic alternatives for women who are particularly at risk of exploitation in the illicit drug economy, including women who use drugs, poor women (whether urban or rural), and women from indigenous and ethnic minority communities.

ii. Take all necessary legislative, administrative, and policy measures to ensure that women’s specific needs and circumstances are taken into account in efforts to address involvement in the drug trade and dependence on illicit drug economies.

iii. Adhere to international standards in all efforts to address and respond to drug-related criminality among women.

iv. Make available gender-specific interventions that aim primarily at diversion from the criminal justice system, and address the underlying factors leading to women coming into contact with the criminal justice system.

With regard to sentencing for drug-related offences, States should:

v. Legislate for and prioritise non-custodial sentences for pregnant women where possible and appropriate.

vi. Ensure that courts have the power to consider mitigating factors in light of women’s caretaking responsibilities, such as lack of criminal history and relative non-severity and nature of the criminal conduct.

vii. Ensure the earliest possible transfer of non-resident foreign-national women prisoners, following the request or informed consent of the woman concerned.

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Post-prison/transition

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.

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All persons deprived of their liberty must be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the person. This includes those held in prisons and other closed settings and places of detention for drug-related reasons. Such persons have the right to a standard of health care equivalent to that available to the general population.

In accordance with these rights, States should:

i. Adhere at all times to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules).

ii. Adhere at all times to international standards relating to specific groups deprived of their liberty, including women (the Bangkok Rules) and children (the Beijing Rules).

iii. Ensure that all persons deprived of their liberty have access to voluntary and evidence-based health services, including harm reduction and drug treatment services, as well as essential medicines, including HIV and hepatitis C services, at a standard that is equivalent to that in the community.

iv. Organise such drug-related and other health care services in close parallel with general public health administration, taking into account the specific nature of individuals’ detention, and design services to ensure the continuity of harm reduction, drug treatment, and access to essential medicines through transitions of entering and exiting the detention facility, as well as transfer between institutions.

v. Ensure that drug-related and other health care services for these populations are provided by qualified medical personnel able to make independent, evidence-based decisions for their patients.

vi. Ensure the provision of training for health care professionals and other staff working in prisons and other closed settings and places of detention on drug treatment, harm reduction, and palliative care and pain management, as well as other medical conditions that require the use of controlled substances for medical purposes.

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Extradition

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.

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Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment are absolutely prohibited, in all circumstances. This includes during the arrest, questioning, and detention of persons alleged to have committed drug-related crimes or otherwise implicated during an investigation. The withholding of drugs from those who need them for medical purposes, including for drug dependence treatment and pain relief, is considered a form of torture.

In accordance with this right, States shall:

i. Take effective legislative, administrative, judicial, and other measures to prohibit, prevent, and redress all acts of torture and ill-treatment in their jurisdiction and in all settings under their custody or control, including in the context of drug dependence treatment, whether administered in public or private facilities.

ii. Promptly investigate allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by State agents, as well as acts that occur in their territory or under their jurisdiction (whether carried out by State or non-State actors), and prosecute and punish those responsible, including when victims are persons alleged to have committed drug-related offences or who are dependent on drugs.

iii. Avoid extraditing or otherwise forcibly returning or transferring individuals to another State where there are substantial grounds to believe that they are at risk of subjection to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, including by non-State actors over which the receiving State has no or only partial control or whose acts the receiving State cannot prevent, or because they risk expulsion to a third State where they may be in danger of subjection to torture or other prohibited ill-treatment.

iv. Abolish corporal punishment for drug offences where it is in place.

In addition, States should:

v. Ensure access to essential medicines, including for drug dependence, pain treatment, and palliative care.

vi. Ensure that access to health care for people who use or are dependent on drugs and are in places of detention is equivalent to that available in the community.

vii. Establish a national system to effectively monitor drug dependence treatment practices and to inspect drug dependence treatment centres, as well as places of detention, including migrant detention centres, police stations, and prisons.

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Everyone has the right to equality before the law and before courts and tribunals, to defend oneself against criminal charges, and to determine one’s rights and obligations in a suit at law. These and other components of the right to a fair trial should not be infringed or limited simply because an individual is accused of illicitly using, cultivating, or trading drugs.

In accordance with this right, States shall:

i. Guarantee to all persons accused of drug-related offences the right to a fair and public hearing, without undue delay, by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal established by law, and further guarantee that all such persons will be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to the law.

ii. Ensure that such persons have access to prompt, detailed information and free, good-quality legal assistance where needed, in a language and format that is accessible. This includes access to interpreters, consular assistance (where applicable), and legal counsel to defend against criminal charges.

iii. Make provision for those convicted of such offences to have their conviction and sentence reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law.

iv. Avoid extraditing or otherwise forcibly returning or transferring a person to another State to face trial for drug-related offences where that person risks serious violations of the right to a fair trial, unless provided with credible and effective assurances regarding minimum guarantees during criminal proceedings.

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Legal and policy frameworks

Everyone has the right to privacy, including people who use drugs.

In accordance with this right, States should:

i. Adopt legislative, administrative, and other measures to prevent arbitrary and unlawful interference with the privacy, family life, home, and correspondence of people who use drugs.

ii. Ensure the protection of the right to privacy in relation to criminal investigations for drug-related offences.

iii. Adopt legislative and other measures to prevent the disclosure of individuals’ personal health data, including drug test results and drug dependence treatment histories, without their free and informed consent.

iv. Ensure that welfare conditionalities and administrative requirements to access rights and benefits do not unlawfully, unnecessarily, or disproportionately infringe the privacy of those who use drugs.

In addition, States may:

v. Utilise the available flexibilities in the UN drug control conventions to decriminalise the possession, purchase, or cultivation of controlled substances for personal consumption.

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Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, which includes the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief, either individually or in community with others, in public or private. This right applies to those for whom such manifestations may involve the use of drugs for religious or spiritual purposes.

In accordance with this right, States may:

i. Utilise the available flexibilities in the UN drug control conventions to decriminalise the possession, purchase, or cultivation of controlled substances for personal consumption.

In addition, States should:

ii. Consider exemptions within drug legislation allowing the cultivation and use of controlled substances for religious purposes, including in rituals and ceremonies.

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Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, which includes the right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds through any media of choice. It also includes the right to hold opinions, express ideas, and seek, receive, and impart information about drugs and drug policy.

In accordance with this right, States should:

i. Take all necessary legislative, administrative, and other measures to ensure full enjoyment of the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, and information about matters related to drug laws, policies, and practices, including information and opinions regarding health services for people who use drugs (such as harm reduction interventions); the composition of controlled drugs; the value, meaning, and benefits of traditional, cultural, and religious uses of substances; the human rights of people who use drugs or are otherwise involved in drug-related activities; and reforms to such laws, policies, and practices.

ii. Provide accurate and objective information about drug laws, policies, and regulations; drug-related harms; and drug-related health goods, services, and facilities.

iii. Refrain from censoring or restricting access, including through the application of criminal or other sanctions, to scientific and health-related information about drugs, drug use, drug-related harms, and goods, services, and facilities aimed at preventing or reducing such harms, and refrain from otherwise withholding or intentionally misrepresenting such information.

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Everyone has the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly. This includes the right to plan, organise, promote, and advertise peaceful marches, protests, and other types of gatherings to express views and advocate for or against changes in drug laws, policies, and practices, and the right to form and join organisations that advocate on matters related to drug laws, policies, and practices or are dedicated to working with individuals or groups affected by drugs and drug control efforts.

In accordance with this right, States should:

i. Take all necessary legislative, administrative, and other measures to ensure full enjoyment of the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly with respect to drug laws, policies, and practices.

ii. Refrain from requiring prior authorisation to hold a peaceful assembly regarding drug laws, policies, and practices, and exempt such spontaneous assemblies from prior notification procedures.

iii. Permit associations that advocate on matters related to drug laws, policies, and practices and that work with individuals and groups affected by drugs and drug control efforts, including unregistered associations, to receive and utilise financial contributions from domestic, foreign, and international sources.

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Everyone has the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. This right applies equally in the context of drug laws, policies, and practices.

In accordance with this right, States should:

i. Take deliberate, concrete, and targeted steps to ensure that drug-related and other health care goods, services, and facilities are available on a non-discriminatory basis in sufficient quantity; financially and geographically accessible; acceptable in the sense of being respectful of medical ethics, cultural norms, age, gender, and the communities being served; and of good quality (that is, with a solid evidence base).

ii. Address the social and economic determinants that support or hinder positive health outcomes related to drug use, including stigma and discrimination of various kinds, such as against people who use drugs.

iii. Ensure that demand reduction measures implemented to prevent drug use are based on evidence and compliant with human rights.

iv. Repeal, amend, or discontinue laws, policies, and practices that inhibit access to controlled substances for medical purposes and to health goods, services, and facilities for the prevention of harmful drug use, harm reduction among those who use drugs, and drug dependence treatment.

In addition, States may:

v. Utilise the available flexibilities in the UN drug control conventions to decriminalise the possession, purchase, or cultivation of controlled substances for personal consumption.

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In accordance with these obligations, States in a position to assist should:

i. Consider providing resources for harm reduction, essential controlled medicines, and other health and social services for people who use drugs and who need controlled drugs for pain relief.

ii. Consider providing resources to develop specific viable and sustainable economic alternatives for individuals and communities particularly vulnerable to exploitation in the illicit drug economy.

iii. Adopt clear policy guidelines incorporating human rights standards for the provision of financial and technical aid, for international judicial and law enforcement cooperation in drug-related criminal matters, and for demand reduction and related projects in recipient States.

iv. Exercise due diligence to ensure that international cooperation and assistance provided or received for drug-related enforcement and for demand reduction and related projects is carried out in full compliance with international law and human rights standards and does not contribute, directly or indirectly, to the use of the death penalty for drug-related crimes, to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, or to fostering or perpetuating unlawful discrimination.

States that do not have sufficient capacity or resources to meet all of their human rights obligations should:

i. Seek assistance, including financial and technical assistance, from the international community for harm reduction services, access to essential controlled medicines, and other health and social services for people who use drugs and who need controlled drugs for pain relief.

ii. Seek assistance, including financial and technical assistance, from the international community to develop specific viable and sustainable economic alternatives for individuals and communities particularly vulnerable to exploitation in the illicit drug economy.

iii. Seek assistance, including financial and technical assistance, from the international community for criminal justice system diversion projects and other alternatives to coercive sanctions for drug offences and drug-related offences.

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Indigenous peoples have the right to their traditional medicines and to maintain their traditional health practices, including those related to their spiritual health. This necessitates the conservation of their vital medicinal plants, some of which have psychoactive properties.

In accordance with these obligations, States should:

i. Refrain from depriving indigenous peoples of the right to cultivate and use psychoactive plants that are essential to the overall health and well-being of their communities.

ii. Repeal, amend, or discontinue laws, policies, and practices that inhibit indigenous peoples’ access to controlled psychoactive substances for the purposes of maintaining or increasing the overall health and well-being of their communities, and consider adopting appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures to guarantee the exercise of the right to traditional medicines and health practices.

In addition, States may:

iii. Utilise the available flexibilities in the UN drug control conventions to decriminalise indigenous peoples’ possession, purchase, or cultivation of controlled psychoactive substances for personal consumption.

iv. Consider taking specific measures to protect the right of indigenous peoples to use psychoactive substances for specially defined purposes, including those related to their right to health.

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Children have the rights to health, to be heard in matters related to their own health care, and to decisions based on clinical need in the best interests of the child, including decisions related to interventions for children who use drugs.

In accordance with these rights, States should:

i. Develop accessible, child-sensitive prevention, drug dependence treatment, and harm reduction services.

ii. Ensure that decisions regarding access to drug-related health services are taken in the best interests of the child, with due regard to their evolving capacities.

iii. Remove legal age restrictions on existing drug-related health services.

iv. Ensure that young people who use drugs have access to drug-related health information, and counselling without parental or guardian consent, and that treatment or harm reduction service provision without parental or guardian consent is possible when in the best interests of the individual.

Where these interventions concern drug-related criminality, States should:

v. Target efforts primarily at diversion from the criminal justice system and promote rehabilitation over punishment.

vi. Refrain from criminalising children because of their drug use or possession of drugs for personal use.

vii. Adhere to international juvenile justice standards in all efforts to address and respond to drug-related criminality among children and young people.

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Implementation

States should:

i. Collect and disseminate appropriate information to enable the formulation and implementation of human rights-compliant drug control laws and policies. These data should be disaggregated by relevant factors, including health status (such as drug dependence), age, sex, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, and economic status (including involvement in sex work).

ii. Ensure that data collection for the purpose of drug law and policy formulation, implementation, or other analysis complies with relevant international standards for data protection.

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States should:

i. Consider undertaking a transparent review of drug laws and policies to assess human rights compliance.

ii. Subject all proposed drug control legislation and policies to transparent human rights risk and impact assessments.

iii. Under take a budgetary review to ensure the progressive realisation of the right to health in relation to drug use and dependence.

iv. Carefully consider and justify any cuts in the allocation of resources for drug treatment, harm reduction, and other health services for people who use drugs where such cuts entail retrogressive measures.

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In accordance with these obligations, States in a position to assist should:

i. Consider providing resources for harm reduction, essential controlled medicines, and other health and social services for people who use drugs and who need controlled drugs for pain relief.

ii. Consider providing resources to develop specific viable and sustainable economic alternatives for individuals and communities particularly vulnerable to exploitation in the illicit drug economy.

iii. Adopt clear policy guidelines incorporating human rights standards for the provision of financial and technical aid, for international judicial and law enforcement cooperation in drug-related criminal matters, and for demand reduction and related projects in recipient States.

iv. Exercise due diligence to ensure that international cooperation and assistance provided or received for drug-related enforcement and for demand reduction and related projects is carried out in full compliance with international law and human rights standards and does not contribute, directly or indirectly, to the use of the death penalty for drug-related crimes, to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, or to fostering or perpetuating unlawful discrimination.

States that do not have sufficient capacity or resources to meet all of their human rights obligations should:

i. Seek assistance, including financial and technical assistance, from the international community for harm reduction services, access to essential controlled medicines, and other health and social services for people who use drugs and who need controlled drugs for pain relief.

ii. Seek assistance, including financial and technical assistance, from the international community to develop specific viable and sustainable economic alternatives for individuals and communities particularly vulnerable to exploitation in the illicit drug economy.

iii. Seek assistance, including financial and technical assistance, from the international community for criminal justice system diversion projects and other alternatives to coercive sanctions for drug offences and drug-related offences.

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