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Striving for a Liberal Policy

by Marloes Elings, Amnesty International

The following is a translation of an interview published in volume 11 1997 of the "Wordt Vervolgd" magazine of Amnesty International. The theme of this volume was drugs and human rights. The interview was conducted with Mario Lap, reflecting upon five years of struggle for compliance of international drug policy with human rights. Mario Lap is a teacher at the Dutch Police Academy for Criminal Investigation, runs an IT company in the health field and advises the Social Democrat Party. Mario is author and compiler for DrugText, an important drug policy reform website that can be found at:

Is it not horrible that the land of poor farmers in Latin America is being poisoned with chemicals just because they might grow coca?

How can we accept the fact that the "street children" of Brazil are being killed by drug pushers when they refuse to work for them and by militia death squads when they do?

Isn't it bizarre that black Americans get much heavier prison sentences just because they use a different variety of the same drug?

Question after question is fired when Mario Lap is talking about drug policy and human rights.

In his Amsterdam residence, beautiful Japanese drawings on the walls, where both his cats and dog show their friendly curiosity, Lap is clenching his fists when he discusses American drug policy.

"It is so unbelievably racist. A black person arrested for drug use gets a much heavier sentence than a white person. The Americans have made a law that the use of powder cocaine is punished by ten months of imprisonment and of crack cocaine by thirty months. It can't be a coincidence that powder cocaine is mostly used by white users and crack mainly by black users. This is pure racism!"

"Racist and unjust. Do you know that when you are arrested three times for smoking a marijuana cigarette you will go to prison? Three times that's it. I call it baseball law. They now even have death penalty for cannabis production."

Drugtext maintains a large website on the Internet centered around drug policy, risk reduction and human rights. It contains various libraries, magazines and amongst others a section on law and human rights.

"Drugtext does not necessarily support the legalization or even liberalization of drugs but we call for compliance of drug policy with human rights. We would like to see regular evaluations of the drug treaties and legislation in respect of the human rights and individual freedom questions."

"Current international drug policy is based on a UN treaty from 1961 that simply states that all drugs are prohibited except for their medical application and scientific research."

"But people all through the history of mankind have used drugs"

"Do people have a right to use tobacco and alcohol because their governments allow them and tax them and don't they have a right to use other drugs?"

"Drug prohibition violates the individuals' human right of free choice and many others"

"This policy has enormous consequences for privacy and individual liberties" "People that were locked up for drug use are really political prisoners for it is only politics that makes their drug use a crime while the leaders of the worlds are toasting with champagne"

"But many totally innocent people become victims of this policy as well. Did you ever see one of these American TV shows in which they show real police raids on houses of drug dealers. It makes me sick to think of the children living in those places."

Lap is already in anger and he has not even talked about the death penalty yet.

"I find it a disgrace to humanity to give government the right to kill a human being for the smuggling of drugs but at least some voices can be heard against this phenomenon"

"You never hear a word about the numerous other victims such as an American patient suffering from multiple sclerosis that was sentenced to ten years of prison for cannabis possession. He died in prison after two years. And there are tons of these examples"

It is about time that Amnesty International takes a stance concerning drug policy and human rights just like Human Rights Watch has done through its research and publications

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