Is this the end of drugs as a crime? We shall know this week

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By Gatonye Gathura

Either head or tails, nobody will win comprehensively as the United Nations today opens a special session on whether to decriminalize the use of narcotics

The global civil society wants nothing short of total decriminalization of drugs while on the other extreme a few countries such as China prescribe to no decriminalization of any shade.

But in between are majority of countries including Kenya in a joint position presented by the African Union.

However a draft resolution prepared by the United Nations for the three day session, the middle of the road countries will most likely take the day.

One; because nations and not civil groups comprise membership of the UN and also because the middle street is diplomatically safe.

But what ever the decision, the war on drugs will have changed for ever with all sides agreeing that drug use is more of a health problem than a crime. Hence users should be treated with compassion and not incarceration.

Majority of Member States want the ministries of health, judiciary and law enforcers in individual countries to be left on their own to work out a system that will look for alternative and more humane ways of punishing drug offenders.

Of certainty is that nobody will be going to jail for possessing drugs for use, using them or carrying drug related paraphernalia. At most, a notorious character may only be required to clean the local chief’s compound or the neighbourhood market.

Notorious users, the UN draft, most Member States and even the civil groups agree would be recommended for medical rehabilitation under competent personnel at public expense.

To protect drug injectors from HIV or hepatitis infections governments through civil organizations will establish programmes for safe needle exchanges.

But the deal is not done yet with civil groups complaining that their position has not been adequately considered in the draft resolutions and accuse the UN of exclusivity.

In a protest note to the UN last month, the civil society said the draft is entirely out of sync with the realities on the ground in many countries.

They want the UN to be categorical on the decriminalization of drugs, recognizing the rights of farmers to grow narcotic crops without harassment and respect for users.

“One of the main priorities of civil society is the need to acknowledge the human rights of people who use drugs and to understand that they deserve to be treated with respect.”

The Kenya delegation at the New York meeting may want to explore further what the new resolutions mean for the ban of khat (miraa) by the UK government.

Recently the Human Rights Consortium and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies both of the University of London said their government had violated the human rights of Kenya farmers.

Their findings in the Journal of Human Rights in the Commonwealth concluded that the UK government had broken international treaties it was party to and grossly trampled on the human rights of the Meru farmers.

“The appropriate redress would be an immediate de-categorization of miraa as an illicit substance. In addition, the farmers should get an appropriate compensation to cover the economic loss they suffered since the prohibition was imposed.”

Rocket Science

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