There are at least 32 states around that world that prescribe the death penalty for drug offences. While many of these states do not actually implement the executions provided for in law, in some countries drug offenders comprise a significant proportion – or even a majority – of those killed each year. Harm Reduction International estimates that at least hundreds, and possibly more than one thousand, are executed globally for drug offences on an annual basis.
The weight of international legal opinion finds that the death penalty for drug offences is in violation of international human rights law. In many ways, capital punishment for drugs is the ultimate example of drug enforcement policies and practices undermining human rights protections.
Harm Reduction International’s death penalty project monitors the status of the death penalty for drugs worldwide, and advocates for its abolition. It focuses specifically on the development and implementation of practical human rights tools to assist donor countries and international organisations that provide drug enforcement assistance in death penalty states, with the goal of ensuring such aid does not lead to death sentences or executions. Once implemented, the tools will be applicable not just to the death penalty, but may also be used to highlight other human rights concerns including HIV prevention, crop eradication/alternative development, drug dependence treatment and other key areas of drug policy.