WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
19 Aug 2015 | Publication

The Impact of Drug Policy on Human Rights

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Joint Report

WOLA has joined with 16 other organizations from 11 countries to unveil a joint report on “The Impact of Drug Policy on Human Rights: The Experience in the Americas.” It analyzes how the implementation of the “War on Drugs” and the international drug control system has overwhelmed criminal justice systems and affected the most vulnerable populations, without managing to ease the problems of consumption or trafficking in the region.

The joint publication addresses the militarization of law enforcement, the criminalization of consumption, the weakening of due process guarantees, mass incarceration, disproportionate penalties, and restrictions on access to health care.

It also features personal testimony about human rights abuses stemming from the prohibitionist drug policies implemented throughout the region. This includes stories like that of Miriam, a Mexican woman who was detained, beaten and raped until she gave a false confession regarding drug possession; Paulino Huamán, who was killed in his home when the Peruvian Armed Forces bombed his village as part of the “War on Drugs”; Anny, a five-year-old Brazilian girl whose parents were forced to buy medication for her on the black market because it contained a derivative of marijuana; and Rocío, a victim of forced displacement in Colombia, who transported small quantities of drugs within the country to feed her three children and ended up imprisoned very far from them, apparently due to an administrative error.

The document emphasizes the increase in the number of women incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses and the implications this has for them, their families and society as a whole. It addresses the impact of forced crop eradication campaigns, which threaten the livelihood and even the health of some rural communities. And it shows how racism drives marijuana arrests in the United States, making it nearly four times more likely for a black person to be arrested on this basis than a white person. In addition, the report highlights the alternative experiences being carried out in Uruguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, and some states of the United States.

The organizations that contributed to this publication present a series of recommendations for states on policies that aim to lessen violence and improve health responses, since prohibitionist measures have failed in their attempts to reduce drug supply and have led to gross human rights violations throughout the Americas. Some recommendations include decriminalizing drug consumption and cultivation for personal use, and developing alternatives to incarceration for people who commit nonviolent drug-related crimes.

These proposals have begun to be explored in different parts of the world and show us that change is possible. Alternatives exist.

To read the report, please click here