20 March 2024

67th CND Side Event: The Death Penalty for Drug-related Offences

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The side event was co-hosted by Harm Reduction International and Amnesty International. It was part of a programme of CND side events supported by the OHCHR, based on the 2023 report on "Human rights challenges in addressing and countering all aspect of the world drug problem". The side event was co-sponsored by Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Czechia, Mongolia, Mexico, New Zealand, Paraguay, Portugal, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, the European Union, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the World Health Organisation, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, the United Nations Development Programme, Amnesty International and the Open Society Foundations.


  • Opening remarks:   Ambassador Philbert I.K.A Johnson, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Ghana to Austria and United Nations Office in Vienna.
  • Moderator: Zaved Mahmood, Drug Policy and Human Rights Advisor, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  • Panelists:
    • Ajeng Larasati, Human Rights Lead, Harm Reduction International
    • Edmund Bon, Head of Chambers, AmerBON Advocates and former Representative of Malaysia to AICHR
    • Helen Tigroudja, Member of the UN Human Rights Committee.


The death penalty remains a crucial issue in the context of drug policy, as also highlighted during the discussions at the CND Thematic session on “Non-compliance of responses with international drug conventions and human rights obligations” on 25 October 2023. International human rights law requires that application of the death penalty be strictly limited to the “most serious crimes”, and several international human rights and international drug control bodies have concluded that drug-related offences do not fall into this category. Furthermore, in their 2018 Report, the International Narcotic Control Board urged States to abolish the death penalty for drug-related offences. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in its 2023 report on “human rights challenges in addressing and countering all aspects of the world drug problem” identified the protracted use of the death penalty for drug-related offences as one of seven “main areas of concern” impacting the enjoyment of human rights in the context of drug control. Accordingly, the Office recommended the universal abolition of the death penalty, including in the context of drug policy. The death penalty is still applied for drug offences in over 30 countries, with more than 10 of them prescribing death as a mandatory sentence for some offences.

Hundreds of people are believed to have been executed for drug-related offences every year. As several countries have abolished this punishment in recent years, some others have shown notable progresses in restricting its application and strengthening fundamental safeguards. This side event will present the latest data and trends on the death penalty for drug offences, building on Harm Reduction International’s 2023 edition of ‘The Death Penalty for Drug Offences: Global Overview’, which will be launched at the side event. Particular attention will be paid to persisting challenges to overcome support for the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences, and lessons that can be learned from countries that have recently taken steps towards restricting or moving away from the application of the death penalty for drug-related offences.

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