The Transnational Institute condemns the decision by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) in their 2007 annual report released today, which calls on countries to ‘abolish or prohibit coca leaf chewing and the manufacture of coca tea’.
The United Nations should overhaul the operations of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the quasi judicial body that monitors states’ implementation of their obligations under the UN drug conventions. The Board ignores UN policies and conventions which recognize the need to provide humane treatment to people addicted to injection drugs, according to a recent commentary in medical journal The Lancet.
Recent years have seen a growing unwillingness among increasing numbers of States parties to fully adhere to a strictly prohibitionist reading of the UN drug control conventions; the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (as amended by the 1972 Protocol), the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances; and the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
Damon Barrett (Deputy Director at Harm Reduction International)
04 April 2012
When the UN's drugs watchdog, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), was asked recently about its official position on torture carried out in the name of drug enforcement, one would have expected an unequivocal denunciation. Instead, what was given was an unequivocal refusal to do so. In the light of documented cases of torture to extract information from suspects and to punish drug users and those convicted of drug offences, this refusal to condemn the most egregious of human rights abuses is cause for serious concern and highlights clear tensions between the UN human rights and drug control regimes.
On several recent occasions, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has refused to offer an opinion on sanctions that violate international law – even if those sanctions are imposed in order to comply with the drug control treaties. This struck many as odd. As a quasi-judicial entity, one would have expected the INCB to know that the death penalty for drug offences is not permitted in international law. Or that the UN Human Rights Committee, another UN quasi-judicial mechanism which oversees the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, had already called for its abolition in Thailand. Apparently not. In response to emails and letters of concern, the INCB said that criminal sanctions are the 'exclusive prerogative' of States.
A report published in March 2007 by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the Open Society Institute Public Health Program, strongly criticises the INCB. It accuses the Board of becoming 'an obstacle to effective programs to prevent and treat HIV and chemical dependence'. “Nearly one in three HIV infections outside Africa is among people who inject drugs. The International Narcotics Control Board could and should be playing a key role in stopping this injection-driven HIV epidemic — but it’s not,” said Joanne Csete, Executive Director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and co-author of the report.
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) remains one of the least transparent and most secretive of UN bodies. It meets in secret, and while agendas can now be found on the INCB’s website, no minutes of its meetings are published, nor are the analyses by which it arrives at its positions on policy issues.
On 5 March 2008 the INCB releases its Annual Report for 2007, containing highly controversial statements on the coca leaf. The report is under embargo until 00.01 hrs GMT, please revisit this site then to find the relevant sections from the report and the responses to it from TNI and the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC).
Ann Fordham of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) delivered the NGO Statement to CND Plenary under Item 8: Preparations for the high-level review of the implementation by Member States of the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an integrated and balanced strategy to counter the world drug problem.
Yesterday, President Evo Morales of Bolivia sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon rejecting the recommendations of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) to "abolish or prohibit coca leaf chewing and the manufacture of coca tea." Morales qualified the attitude of the INCB as colonial and accused the Board members of lacking the necessary scientific background.
Cocaleros in Bolivia threathen to occupy the installations of the United Nations in the country as well as those of Coca Cola in El Alto in protest against the decision by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) to "abolish or prohibit coca leaf chewing and the manufacture of coca tea," according to the newspaper La Razón.
Despite its unprecedented nature within the history of the international drug control regime, and regardless of warnings to the contrary, the Plurinational State of Bolivia’s withdrawal from the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs on 1 January 2012 did not result in a collapse of the United Nations (UN) based control system. That said, there is a strong case that, although marking the centenary of the regime, 2012 will be seen as the beginning of the end of the treaty system in its present form and the re-structuring of a policy world apparently so cherished by many members of the International Narcotics Control Board.
TNI's Prof. Dave Bewley-Taylor recently delivered a statement on how states can reconcile treaty obligations with democratically mandated policy shifts at the national level to a legally regulated cannabis market, with due regard for international law, and what role the International Narcotics Control Board can play in this process.
The INCB, rather than making harsh judgements based on a selective choice of outdated treaty articles, should use its mandate more constructively and help draw attention to the inherent contradictions in the current treaty system with regard to how plants, plant-based raw materials and traditional uses are treated.