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Drugs and the Death Penalty: Capital Punishment and Global Drug Control

Drugs and the Death Penalty: Capital Punishment and Global Drug Control (October 7, 2015)

There are currently thousands of people on death row for drug-related offenses in Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. The international drug control system must share the blame, as treaties promoting strict and severe punishments for drug offenses have opened the door to such responses. UN human rights and drug control bodies now recognize that the death penalty for drugs violates international law, but a number of states parties to the drug control treaties argue that capital drug laws are a permissible sanction.

In recognition of the 13th World Day against the Death Penalty and ahead of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs, the Open Society Foundations and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty will host an event looking at capital punishment in the context of international law and global drug control. An international panel of experts will discuss the death penalty as it relates to drug offenses in their countries and on a global level as we launch a brief report outlining key recommendations on the topic for UN member states to consider leading up to the UNGASS.

Food and refreshments will be provided.


  • Faraz Sanei is director of the Human Rights in Iran Unit at the City University of New York–Brooklyn College, and a legal advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • Elizabeth Zitrin is president of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.
  • Patrick Gallahue (moderator) is communications director at ACLU Connecticut.
  • Scott Bernstein (introductory remarks) is a program officer for the Open Society Global Drug Policy Program.

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