Drugs and Human Rights

  • For decades, governments have criminalized the use of drugs, as well as their possession, production, and distribution. They have poured billions of dollars into pursuing, killing, prosecuting, extraditing, and imprisoning kingpins, dealers, and people who use drugs. 

    Yet, as Human Rights Watch has repeatedly documented, this approach to drug policy has had devastating human rights consequences: undermining the rights to health and privacy; serving as an excuse for grossly disproportionate punishment, torture, and extrajudicial killings; and fueling the operations of organized criminal groups that commit abuses, corrupt authorities, and undermine the rule of law.

    Human Rights Watch calls on governments to decriminalize all personal use and possession of drugs. We also urge governments to adopt alternative policies concerning the drug trade to reduce the enormous human rights costs of current approaches, including by reducing the use of the criminal law to regulate drug production and distribution. And we call for reform to global drug treaties and policies that impede exploration of these alternatives.