ANPUD calls on Bangladesh government to immediately stop the war on drugs

To Hon. Prime Minister Her Excellency Mrs. Sheikh Hasina, Government of Bangladesh;
To Hon. Home Minister Mr. Asaduzzaman Khan, Government of Bangladesh.

Please direct your queries to:

Bikas Gurung at bikas@anpud.org

#StopTheKillings #Bangladesh

Download the Full Statement:

Statement: ANPUD calls on Bangladesh government to immediately stop the war on drugs

Stop the extra-judicial killings of people suspected of using or selling drugs in Bangladesh immediately.

The Asian Network of People who Use Drugs (ANPUD) urgently calls on Hon. Prime Minister Mrs. Sheikh Hasina and Hon. Home Minister Mr. Asaduzzaman Khan of the government of Bangladesh to immediately stop the extra-judicial killings of people suspected of using or selling drugs. We express our grave concerns over the war on drugs approach opted by the Bangladesh government that has already resulted in over 100 lives and over 12000 arrests since its launch in mid-May 2018.[1]

As a network of people who use drugs who has been committed towards advocating for equal rights and opportunities for our constituency, we would like to underscore the fact that the war on drugs approach to the drug problem is a serious violation of international human rights and drug control treaties. We would also like to urgently remind you both that inflicting such inhumane approach on the people of Bangladesh is also a violation of the constitutional rights of the people – where article 35(3) of the constitution reads “Every person accused of a criminal offence shall have the right to speedy and public trial by an independent and impartial court or tribunal established by law.”

Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque has urged Home Minister to ensure that the rights of accused and suspected drug peddlers are protected and to take step to arrest and put them on trial.[2] International news media have been likening your response as Philippines-style approach. For your information, in February 2018, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened a preliminary examination into the war on drugs in the Philippines.[3]

As someone who has been recognized internationally as one of the most influencing women leaders, you do not want bloodstains of your own citizens in your 40 years of political reputation that could soon lead to ICC investigations for your crimes against humanity.

Stop beating around the bush – Understand the real problem

Madam Prime Minister and Sir Home Minister, the drugs problem that Bangladesh as well as every neighboring country in the Asian region is facing has multifaceted factors. It is important to understand that we no longer live in the era when drugs were mostly consumed by a group of hippies, but this is the era where drugs are consumed by various populations to get various effects on their life. For instance, young generations consume drugs to have fun with friends or just out of curiosity; students consume drugs to stay awake for longer hours and study harder before their exams; workers/labors consume drugs to be able to work for prolonged hours and get paid for their increased productivity; patients/adults may be consuming drugs to heal their physiological or psychological pain.

As eminent leaders of a country, we understand that you are concerned about the rapidly growing drugs problem in your country. However, please be mindful of the fact that the social and economic problems like poverty, lack of employment opportunities, unskilled population and poor health, education and criminal justice systems create undesirable situations that force people into the drug trade. The influx of stimulant drugs indicated by the ongoing huge quantities of seizures in our region prospers, as our socio-economic, education and health systems of a country get weaker. There are many unintended consequences of the war on drugs approach to the people and society of a nation and to date there is not a single country where this approach has led to solving their drug problem. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the governments to prioritize to solve the underlying causes of the drug problem and provide alternative opportunities to the people rather than beating around the bush.

People who use drugs are not the problem but your allies in solving the drugs problem

The Bangladesh government and the supporters of this inhumane approach (war on drugs) may have been avoiding the scientific evidences published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) – that only 1 in 10 people who use drugs have problem with their drug use.[4] This statistics does not significantly change when we talk about those who use stimulant drugs – as only 11% of Amphetamine Type Stimulants (ATS) users are estimated to develop problem regarding their use.[5] In fact, United Nations agencies, including UNODC, World Health Organizations (WHO), Joint United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) have repeatedly called member states for decriminalization of people who use drugs.

People who use drugs and those who sell drugs to maintain their drug use are not inherently bad. They are our friends and families in need of love, care and support. More importantly they are people, they are human beings and they have the same right to life as every other citizens do. They are equally valuable members of a society who have a lot to contribute to the development of a nation, if treated with respect and given the opportunity to access social and health benefits.

As someone who have had lived experiences of drug use and violations of rights by the law enforcers and justice system, they can offer you their honest feedback and inputs in developing rights and evidence-based systems and interventions of health, education, justice and others. There are many alternative approaches to punishment, incarceration and extrajudicial killings.

We urge you to immediately take the necessary steps to uphold the rule of law and human rights of all your citizens.

We sincerely hope that you will invite and engage communities of people who use drugs residing in your country to develop rights and evidence-based programs for them, thereby promoting reduction of drugs-related harm, equal rights and opportunities and a just system.

Endnotes:

[1] More than 100 dead as Bangladesh drug war escalates. Read: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/more-than-100-dead-as-bangladesh-drug-war-escalates

[2] ENSURE ACCOUNTABILITY: What they think of ongoing drives. https://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/what-they-think-1582501

[3] ICC investigation in the Philippines: Asian drug users hope for justice. http://www.anpud.org/icc-investigation-philippines-asian-drug-users-hope-justice/

[4] Executive Summary: Conclusions and policy implications – World Drug Report 2017 (UNODC). http://www.unodc.org/wdr2017/field/Booklet_1_EXSUM.pdf

[5] Anthony, J. C. 2002. “Epidemiology of Drug Dependence” in Addiction, 1557-1574. (https://www.scribd.com/document/270053895/James-C-Anthony-2002-C109-1557-1574-pdf)

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