An ugly truth in the war on drugs

Fernando Henrique Cardoso , Ruth Dreifuss – The New York Times, 03/10/2013

This week, representatives from many nations will gather at the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna to determine the appropriate course of the international response to illicit drugs. Delegates will debate multiple resolutions while ignoring a truth that goes to the core of current drug policy: human rights abuses in the war on drugs are widespread and systematic.

Consider these numbers: Hundreds of thousands of people locked in detention centers and subject to violent punishments. Millions imprisoned. Hundreds hanged, shot or beheaded. Tens of thousands killed by government forces and non-state actors. Thousands beaten and abused to extract information, and abused in government or private “treatment” centers. Millions denied life-saving medicines. These are alarming figures, but campaigns to address them have been slow and drug control has received little attention from the mainstream human rights movement.

This is a perfect storm for people who use drugs, especially those experiencing dependency, and those involved in the drug trade, whether growers, couriers or sellers. When people are dehumanized we know from experience that abuses against them are more likely. We know also that those abuses are less likely to be addressed because fewer people care.

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What’s Killing Brazil’s Police?

Graham Denyer Willis – The New York Times, 12/01/2012

Brazilian mounted military police officers patrolled the streets in a shantytown in São Paulo, Brazil, last month.

On the evening of Saturday, Nov. 3, Marta Umbelina da Silva, a military police officer here and a single mother of three, was shot in front of her 11-year-old daughter outside their house in Brasilândia, a poor community on the north side of the city. Records show that Ms. da Silva, 44, had never arrested anyone in her 15-year career. Instead, she was one of hundreds of low-level staffers, who mostly handled internal paperwork.

São Paulo, Latin America’s largest city, continues to descend into a violent blood feud between the police and an organized crime group, the First Command of the Capital, known by its Portuguese initials P.C.C. In 2012, 94 police officers have been killed in the city — twice as many as in all of 2011. Between July and September, on-duty police officers killed 119 people in the metropolitan area. In the first three days of November, 31 people were murdered in the city. These statistics conceal a deeper story about Latin American cities, their police forces and the war on drugs.

Ms. da Silva’s only mistake was that she lived in a poor community. And as a police officer, she was not alone. Almost all killings of São Paulo police officers in 2012 happened while they were off duty. The killings have been concentrated in poorer parts of the city, often occurring on officers’ doorsteps. The dead tended to be known in their communities and lived in neighborhoods controlled by organized crime, far from the protection afforded in wealthy parts of the city.

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In Brazil, only 10% of murders lead to trials

Latin American Herald Tribune, 11/19/2010

Ninety percent of the murders committed in Brazil are not prosecuted due to difficulties in carrying out the investigations, Justice Minister Luiz Paulo Barreto said Thursday.

“Slow justice is a synonym for injustice,” said Barreto during an interview on EBC radio.

He said difficulties in collecting evidence and in the investigations contribute to the pervasive impunity.

With the aim of improving efficiency, the Justice Ministry invested 100,000 reais ($58,000) to purchase 1,100 kits equipped with a computer and microscopes for judicial system specialists.

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