The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) staged, on March 25, its first ever thematic hearing on drug policies in Latin America. The meeting was requested by 17 human rights organizations from the region, including Conectas, and took pace against a backdrop of significant progress in the international debate on the topic.
Last week, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) admitted, in a report, that “decriminalization may be an effective way to reduce ‘congestion’ in prisons, to redistribute funds for use in treatment and to facilitate rehabilitation”.
The OAS, in a similar move, organized the signing last year of the Declaration of Antigua, which commits to a comprehensive policy for tackling the drug problem in the Americas, with a focus on the reduction of violence and an emphasis on the protection of human rights.
“The context is conducive to discussing the failure and anachronism of prohibitionist policies and blocking attempts to backslide, like we have seen in Brazil with Bill 37,” said Rafael Custódio, coordinator of Justice at Conectas, referring to the bill penned by Congressman Osmar Terra that proposes to increase prison sentences for drug consumption.
“Since it does not establish a clear distinction between who is a dealer and who is a user, this type of approach only exacerbates the inequalities that are the root of the drug problem, victimizing the black population from poor neighborhoods,” he added.
According to a report delivered to the IACHR by the organizations, the number of people in prison in Brazil for drug-related offences has risen 62% in the years since the Drug Law was passed, in 2006. Among women, the increase has been 600% between 2005 and 2010.
Similar problems have been identified in other countries in the region. In Mexico, for example, the so-called “war on drugs” has cost the lives of 100,000 people and the disappearance of another 25,000. Cases of torture in the country, according to local organizations, have increased 500%.
“We are mimetically repeating policies with proven ineffectiveness, and we are doing so without understanding the full dimension of the drug phenomenon or the elements that have led its evolution over the past 20 years,” reads the report.
“The implicit imbalance in the anti-drug strategy has shown to be increasingly more unsustainable. More funds for combating supply, bigger budgets for federal and subnational agencies with punitive enforcement powers, insufficient comprehensiveness of policies, poor inter-institutional coordination, and inadequate inter-state cooperation have only led to more frustration with the drug phenomenon.”