This year, the theme for World Day Against Death Penalty focuses on drug offences, and ADPAN denounces the continued – and in some jurisdictions – the increased use of the death penalty for drugs, a measure which is unwarranted, violates human rights, disproportionately targets low level couriers and has zero evidence as to deterrence of drug use.
Based on record by the World Coalition Against Death Penalty, 33 countries carry death penalty for drug related offences, with the majority of those Asian and MENA-region nations. The application of the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking, however, are all Asian, namely Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and China. The mandatory death penalty removes discretionary powers from judges for the consideration of mitigating factors, including socioeconomic deprivation among others, and completely removes mercy from the calculation.
The 2015 United Nations World Drug Report indicates that out of all drug use, only 11.14% is problematic. Yet throughout the world, punitive and ineffective regimes, including the death penalty for drugs continue to be implemented. The literature as we know it suggests that the likelihood of detection is a far better indicator of prevention of drug trafficking as opposed to the harshness of the punishment.
Not only it does not have any discernible effect on reducing drug harms , its implementation has caused grave injustice. In reality, the majority of persons sentenced to death for drugs are low-level couriers i.e. persons that are more than easily replaceable by drug kingpins and criminal organisations.
The 2014 UNODC World Drug Report states that during the period of 2003-2012, while the number of persons arrested/suspected for drug trafficking and for possession for personal use increased, the number of users of illicit drugs saw no decrease.
In this regard, we wish to also highlight that International Narcotics Control Board, the UN body in charge of the monitoring State implementation of the three drug conventions have consistently called for the abolishment of death penalty on drug crimes, as has the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
In any event, drug offences do not fall under the “most serious crimes” specification under which death penalty may lawfully be applied. The application of death penalty and the mandatory death penalty on persons convicted of drug offences therefore is an undeniable violation of international human rights law. Indonesia, whom had rectified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has clearly violated its obligation by executing 13 prisoners for drug offences early this year.
In conjunction with the 2015 World Day Against Death Penalty, ADPAN strongly condemns the use of death penalty in all cases, but in particular on drug related offences and calls for its immediate abolition.
1 UNODC (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime), World Drug Report (2015)
2 Edwards, Griffith., Tom Babor., Shane Darke., Wayne Hall., John Marsden., Peter Miller., and Robert West. “Drug Trafficking: Time to Abolish the Death Penalty.” Addiction 104(8) (2009): 1267
3 UNODC (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime), World Drug Report (2014)