Saturday, March 10, 2007

UN is Closed to Reason, gives govt ammunition

**"Closed to Reason" document link is in the sidebar**

Narcotics board looks to be 'closed to reason'

WAR ON DRUGS. International panel is dead set against supervised injection sites, even if it can't cogently argue why

Peter McKnight, Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, March 10, 2007

Given how the federal Conservatives feel about harm reduction measures, they didn't really need an excuse to shut down Insite, Vancouver's supervised injection facility. But the International Narcotics Control Board recently provided them with one nonetheless.

In its annual report, released last week, the United Nations panel stated that Insite facilitates "the illicit use of internationally controlled substances and violate[s] the provisions of international drug control treaties." Consequently, the board plans to advise Health Minister Tony Clement to shut down the site, possibly at the board's annual meeting next week.

This is certainly not the first time the board has spoken out about supervised injection sites -- SIFs. As the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the Open Society Institute document in an excellent expose of the board titled Closed to Reason, the sites, which now exist in Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, Spain, Norway, Luxembourg and Canada, have received significant attention from the board's annual reports for at least six years.

Each year the board has condemned countries that operate SIFs, concluding, without argument, that the sites amount to a violation of international law. A typical example comes from the board's 2002 report, where it said:



"By permitting injection rooms, a government could be considered to be in contravention of the international drug control treaties by facilitating, aiding and/or abetting the commission of crimes involving illegal drug possession and use, as well as other criminal offences, including drug trafficking."


As Closed to Reason documents, board members have been even less accommodating in public speeches. In a 2000 address to the UN, former board president Lourenco Martins described SIFs as "shooting galleries," and said they are places where "drug abusers are allowed to abuse illicit drugs obtained from the illicit market under supervision and under, supposedly, hygienic conditions."

This skepticism about the hygiene of SIFs seems a recurring motif, as the board said last week that it opposed "poorly supervised" injection rooms, which would seem to suggest that hygienic, well supervised rooms are A-OK.

But apparently not, since current president Philip Emafo maintained recently that SIFs violate "the most fundamental principal" of drug control treaties. Exactly how Emafo and the board came to this conclusion is a mystery since the annual report provides no explanation of why SIFs contravene the treaties.

Nevertheless, despite -- or perhaps because of -- the board's apparent inability to construct an argument to support its conclusions, it has engaged in attempts to silence anyone who speaks in favour of SIFs.

Stephen Lewis, former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, visited Insite in 2006, spoke about how it could help reduce the transmission of blood-borne diseases, and advised other Canadian cities to consider following Vancouver's lead.

For his trouble, Lewis received a call from board secretary Koli Kouame, who equated SIFs with "opium dens," and threatened to inform then-UN secretary-general Kofi Annan of Lewis's heresy. Kouame made good on his threat, with Emafo demanding in the letter to Annan that Lewis retract his statements. To his credit, Lewis refused to do so.

After all, there is good reason to believe the board is simply wrong in holding that SIFs violate drug control treaties. According to Article 4 of the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, parties must "limit exclusively to medical and scientific purposes the ... distribution of, trade in, use and possession of drugs."

The board concluded that Insite violates this article since, in the board's erroneous view, Insite's purpose is to get "public nuisances off the streets." Yet while studies suggest Insite has helped to improve public order, this was never the purpose of the site.

On the contrary, Insite was opened to test the efficacy of such medical interventions in improving the health of addicts and their communities, which suggests that it has both scientific and medical purposes. It's hard to imagine any intervention that would be more in keeping with Article 4.

But don't take my word for it. Lawyers advising Health Canada came to a similar conclusion about the legal status of Insite before its opening, and lawyers in Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Switzerland have all concluded that SIFs don't violate drug control treaties.
But you don't have to take their word for it either, since the UN itself has concluded that SIFs comply with the treaties. In 2002, the board, which apparently doesn't take anyone's word for it, asked lawyers with the UN International Drug Control Program for advice on the legality of SIFs.

Contrary to statements made by board members before -- and since -- 2002, the lawyers said:
"It would be difficult to assert that, in establishing drug-injection rooms, it is the intent of parties to actually incite or induce the illicit use of drugs, or even more so, to associate with, aid, abet or facilitate the possession of drugs." Obviously it's not difficult for board members to make those assertions, but notice how this quote seems a direct rejoinder to the comments board members continue to make.

The lawyers' report continued: "It seems clear that in such cases the intention of governments is to provide healthier conditions for IV drug abusers, thereby reducing their risk of infection with grave transmittable diseases and, at least in some cases, reaching out to them with counselling and other therapeutic options."

The report concludes by saying that permitting SIFs falls "far from the intent of committing an offence" under the treaties. Nevertheless, shortly after receiving the lawyers' report, Emafo said SIFs incite people to use drugs. And every year since receiving the lawyers' advice, the board has maintained that SIFs violate the treaties. All of which makes one wonder why the board asked for the advice in the first place.

Perhaps the board thought the lawyers' report would be more to its liking, more in keeping with its ideology. And make no mistake about it, the board has proven time and again that its positions are the products of its ideology rather than of legal or scientific arguments.

The ideology is, simply put, one of drug prohibitionism, of maintaining the war on drugs at any cost and responding with hostility to any suggestion that harm reduction might play a role in reducing the health and societal costs of drug addiction.

For example, Closed to Reason notes that the board has repeatedly praised countries that have engaged in draconian drug crackdowns, including Bulgaria, Russia, China and Thailand, which recently addressed its drug problems by arresting thousands of people and murdering many others.

In contrast, while the board claims to support harm reduction measures such as opiate substitution treatment and needle exchanges, members have attempted to discredit such interventions, with the board president, as recently as 2002, wrongly claiming that needle exhanges contravene drug treaties.

The board is, of course, free to continue promoting the failed war on drugs, however counterproductive it may be, provided it makes its agenda explicit.

But as a body charged with monitoring countries' compliance with drug control treaties, it should not be free to tell falsehoods about the legal status of harm reduction measures to advance its agenda. And it should certainly not be free to use those falsehoods to try to pressure governments into complying with that agenda.

pmcknight@png.canwest.com

5 comments:

Kerry Dale Hancock Jr said...

Death By Meth

today I have met my match
piece by piece I was broken down
now I am tormented by failure and wrath
and my will power is no where to be found

the wounds have forever scarred my soul
with the bitter taste of death
because everything I cherished most
fell victim to my addiction to meth

in complete ignorance I made the awful choice
to smoke that demonic pipe regardless of the voice

that so strongly told me not too
but I thought I had the power to overcome
realize once this drug has got you
a slave to misery is what you become

i write every word in agony
i am scared to sleep or rest
because then I must face reality
i chose death by doing meth

family has become memories
just pictures of my past
i am now my worst enemy
my reflection is broken glass

clouds shadow my every breath of life
i cannot find the words to describe
the aches and pains I endure inside
and all I can say is why

oh, how sad it really is
to watch a Godly man be destroyed
Lord have mercy on my kids
three beautiful girls and a handsome boy

to all that I love I leave you with this
please forgive me for my weakness
that real love I will always miss
I give you these words with a hug and a kiss

By: Kerry Dale Hancock Jr

I don't think I will ever forget the very night I wrote this poem. It was my fourth or fifth day being up without sleep. This was not out of the ordinary for me now it was my routine. Stay up for endless days then sleep then start over. Like other nights this was going to be the night I took my life and ended the horror I created. Right before I wrote this I was in a room with two other people and I was looking at before and after pictures on the Internet of people that have been on meth for awhile. I remember sitting in the chair in front of the computer crouched over the desk with a meth pipe in my hand taking hits. The other two people I was with wanted to inject meth from a needle so I left the room and sat in the next room. It was then on the recliner next to the front door that I wrote this poem and reflected on the demon called meth.

Every word in this poem had so much emotion behind it. I will explain a couple lines that some may not get at first. When I say "my reflection is broken glass" I am referring to another name for meth. Meth holds many names such as speed, glass, go fast and there is more. So what I am really saying is I have become meth. The next line is "clouds shadow my every breath of life." When you smoke meth it is called blowing clouds and when you are addicted to meth then all you do is snort, smoke, inject or eat meth. Sad but true. What this really means is all I do is smoke meth which means I was addicted.

I could write so much more but this is what I want you to know. If you are addicted to meth or know someone who is then never give up hope and I will tell you why. If you will just find a reason or help that person find a reason then the fight against addiction has started. Here is the trick to making it really easy to do. If you make Jesus Christ your reason one day at a time then I promise it will be a piece of cake. Do not think about being clean and drug free for a year or two or three. Only think about today if you want to make it anywhere. Let God give you His strength each day if you want guaranteed results. If you do it your way you may get somewhere but you will end up nowhere. Become an addict for Jesus so that when you do stumble you will just start over and get back on track doing what you were doing right just like the addict for meth will start their routine over and over.

Lord Jesus thank you for loving us all enough to deliver us from this demon called meth. Give us the wisdom and knowledge to surrender all and allow you to put us in peace and fulfilment in Christ. Lord I ask that you will give us mercy and grace against meth and all its evil doings. I know it is destroying men, woman, children and families across the world. May this distraction be cast aside so that our eyes will focus only on You Lord in the name of Jesus Christ. AMEN.

Glory to GOD,

Kerry Dale Hancock Jr
messenger in CHRIST

Mar 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

Jen (the moderator) said...

Well, thanks I guess.

Your response is only loosely relevent to the topic and promotes a way out of addiction that while an important consideration (spirituality in general I mean and not just Christianity) is not the sole option.

Also, harm reduction, while supporting addiction in the short term seeks to end addiction for individuals in the long term.

Jen

DoneZone said...

Hi Jen

Please keep this blog active!

I imagine you must live in Vancouver or somehow be well-acquainted with the inSITE in an active manner. By that, I think you really know what's happening day by day.

As such, please, please, please keep posting and filling us in on the details of the ongoing battle to protect inSITE.

An informed public can be an activated public, so please keep informing us.

I've sent off my letter of support to the Prime Minister. God, I hope he listens to us.

All the best!
Lots of solidarity and well wishes.

Jen said...

Thanks for the kick in the pants DoneZone! I'm away for the summer and only have dial up, but I"m going home this weekend. Have stuff to update.

Thanks so much for writing a letter. They really can be a powerful tool.

Jen, the (sometimes and sometime soon) blogger

harrahsahara said...

Hey I was trying to find an online petition or e-letter to Stephen Harper is there one? I guess posting his email address on a post regarding contact info and why sending a letter at this time is a good idea. One short and sweet and at the top of the blog if you get my meaning, easy to find, with a link to the current or future online petition site. Anyhow I was trying to find something like that and came across your blog in search. Keep it going it does help and thanks for being a voice of reason.