Is the death penalty for drugs offences illegal?

Under international law that is? The Guardian seems to think so:

Nearly half of death row prisoners were sentenced for drugs trafficking – a punishment that violates international law

That might be wishful thinking on their part.

While ‘limitation to the most serious crimes’ is an established principle of international law, the term lacks overall definition and agreement. The UN General Assembly has endorsed a set of Safeguards guaranteeing the protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty which stipulates that ‘the most serious crimes’ only applies to international crimes with lethal or other extremely grave consequences. The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions has similarly stated that the death penalty should be eliminated for economic crimes, drug-related offences, victimless offences and actions relating to moral values including adultery, prostitution and sexual orientation. This interpretation is contested by a number of countries.

A pronunciamento from a UN bureaucrat does not international law make.

22 thoughts on “Is the death penalty for drugs offences illegal?”

  1. “A pronunciamento from a UN bureaucrat does not international law make.”

    Indeed.

    You can understand the Guardianistas’ confusion, though. Not obeying the will of an unelected body? Unthinkable!

  2. only applies to international crimes with lethal or other extremely grave consequences.

    What, like smuggling drugs? Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty much in favour of drug legalisation, but it is difficult not to describe drug smuggling as an “international crime” with, quite often, “extremely grave consequences”. Even without the health effects (and the adulteration and variable purity of smuggled drugs definitely do have health effects), funding of organised crime and terrorist groups are certainly “grave consequences”.

  3. To be realistic, SE, you won’t see much in the way of adulteration & variable purity with smuggled dope. It’s pretty well all primo. Wouldn’t be economically viable & the quality control at the purchaser end’s vigorous.
    Cutting etc’s all down further down the supply chain..

  4. I agree with SE’S very cogently presented view. I would go further and say the addictive nature of the drugs being smuggled presents financial opportunities for suppliers that will always attract criminality. So it is hard to see how any trade in what we term Class A drugs can be anything other than having lethal or not her extremely grave consequences.

  5. @Ironman
    You’re making a good case for alcohol being a class A drug, then.
    Given the ubiquity of drugs in society, there’s not much evidence use of them causes more harm. Most users are able to control their consumption & function perfectly well. It’s actually the illegality & thus the issues arising from supply chain adulteration & the criminality itself where the problems are.
    Time for a War on Alcohol? Get the casualty figures up?

  6. The Meissen Bison

    This interpretation is contested by a number of countries.

    Consequently of no conceivable interest or value, except to True Believers.

    The Guardian is a latter day Triumph des Willens where fact is trumped by ideology.

  7. If a nation breaks international law, do the international cops come round, arrest it, take it before the international court and bang it up in an international prison?

    Or do they appoint it to the UN commission on human rights?

  8. It’s actually the illegality & thus the issues arising from supply chain adulteration & the criminality itself where the problems are.

    Hence why, apart from the basic liberal principle of “it’s my body and I can do what I want to”, that I am in favour, broadly, of legalisation.

  9. SE

    I would agree. Just as long as you are comfortable with all medical and psychiatric services being withheld from drug users and former drug users where the illness can be related to the use.

  10. It’s not often I agree with Dubya but his contention that the US could safely ignore the UN, as the latter is a collection of tinpot autocracies, was pretty much spot on.

  11. So Much For Subtlety

    bloke in spain – “Given the ubiquity of drugs in society, there’s not much evidence use of them causes more harm. Most users are able to control their consumption & function perfectly well.”

    Most people would argue that it is not the use of drugs that causes the problem. It is the fact that drug users are low life scum who rob the vulnerable. The drugs just make that obvious. Drug users do not function perfectly well. As is clear from anyone who has lived around them.

    “It’s actually the illegality & thus the issues arising from supply chain adulteration & the criminality itself where the problems are.”

    Criminals commit crimes? You don’t say. If they were not criminals they would not be using drugs. Every drug user is someone who has gone out of their way to break the law on numerous occasions in order to acquire a habit. Of course they cause problems. They would cause problems without the drugs.

  12. @Ironman – April 28, 2016 at 11:50 am

    SE

    I would agree. Just as long as you are comfortable with all medical and psychiatric services being withheld from drug users and former drug users where the illness can be related to the use.

    Brilliant idea! Now logically extend that to all alcohol-, smoking- and obesity-related illnesses, sporting and DIY injuries, most RTIs, and you’ll save the NHS a fortune. Well, they’re all similarly self-inflicted.

  13. Brilliant idea! Now logically extend that to all alcohol-, smoking- and obesity-related illnesses, sporting and DIY injuries, most RTIs, and you’ll save the NHS a fortune.

    This is why I am “pretty much” or “broadly” in favour of legalisation. There are some drugs that don’t do that much damage (of themselves, you can still get up to all sorts of catastrophe while you are off your head.) There are some drugs which do of the order the same damage as booze or fags. There are some drugs which are actually quite dangerous.

    I don’t have the medical expertise to distinguish between them but I’d be happy with general legalisation, and possibly other stuff being available (at cost) on prescription. Presumably (again, no expertise, apart from booze) there isn’t a consistent link between medical danger and strength of effect. Whether that would then be enough ways to kick your brain into the next day to mean that demand for those chemicals which remained banned would be minimal, I’ve no idea.

  14. During prohibition we had bathtub gin which had many of the same issues as currently illegal drugs. With no prohibition we have Coors Light which is safer. It makes sense for businesses to want to keep their customers alive longer. I expect that within a few years of the end of the war on cocaine business will give us Crack Light.

  15. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Bloke I used to know lived in Golden, CO. He used to make a point when hiking in the local hills to take a piss in the the stream that fed the Coors brewery on the principle that it needed all the flavour it could get.

  16. Criminals are involved with drugs because there is money to be made. There is money to be made because government makes the drugs illegal. Marijuana/cocaine/opioids would be cheap as okra without government intervention in the marketplace.

    BWTM. Government (U.S.) banned the purchase of syringes without a prescription, because drug users could use them. So drug users re-used syringes, which spread disease. Government, in its infinite wisdom, decided to give syringes away, proudly claiming they were helping reduce the spread of disease. You couldn’t make this shit up. Not a peep about repealing the law making the purchase of syringes illegal in the first place.

    “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” – Ronald Reagan

  17. @SMfS (in rant mode)
    The only criminal act most drug users commit is possession of the drug itself. If you have kids, it’s a high likelihood that’ll include them. You certainly associate with drug using criminals..

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