New report connects international aid for drug enforcement to gross human rights violations

LONDON, June 21, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Millions of dollars in international aid for drug enforcement is spent in countries with extremely poor human rights records resulting in serious abuses, according to a new report by the non-governmental organisation, Harm Reduction International.

Launched in advance of the UN day against drugs, on June 26, the report Partners in Crime: International Funding for Drug Control and Gross Violations of Human Rights tracks drug enforcement funding from donor states, often via the United Nations, to countries where executions, arbitrary detention, physical abuse and slave labour are weapons in the war on drugs.

"There are no safeguards, and when the UN acts as a conduit for these funds, a further layer of bureaucracy separates the money from the abuses. Instead of the UN being a guardian of human rights it becomes more like a laundry mechanism, washing the funds of any form of accountability," said Damon Barrett, Deputy Director of Harm Reduction International.

Thirty-two states or territories retain the death penalty for drug offences. Among those, China, Iran and Vietnam apply capital punishment prolifically for drug offences and all are in receipt of international funding and UN assistance for drug enforcement. Harm Reduction International estimates as many as 1,000 people are executed every year for drugs.

Partners in Crime illustrates the very recent case of a UK woman Khadija Shah, now facing the death penalty in Pakistan, who was captured through a programme paid for by Canadian government money aimed at strengthening the Pakistan government's capacity at international transit points, including airports.

The report also documents the involvement of the Australian Federal Police in the capture in Indonesia of the 'Bali Nine,' a group which included Australian citizens, some of whom are now on death row as a result.

"In some cases donor states have effectively paid for the capture of their own citizens only for them to be later sentenced to death," said Barrett.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been held in drug detention centres in Asian countries, in particular China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao PDR, supposedly for the purpose of treatment. They are held without trial for months or even years.

Despite the fact that serious concerns have been raised about the absence of due process guarantees and forced labour, psychological and physical abuse within the centres, European donors, Australia and the US have supplied funding, including via the United Nations, for capacity building and even infrastructure.

"In the name of drug control, donors are supporting practices in other countries that they themselves regard as morally reprehensible and illegal," concluded Barrett.