Iran and the U.N.: human rights or drug war

On March 13th and 14th, at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna organised by the United Nations high level officials from around the world were asked to agree on an approach to the global drugs problem.

The countries are divided in two sides. On one side, countries like Iran, Pakistan and China believe there is only one solution to the drugs trade: harsh punishment and execution. On the other side there are countries that believe drug policies should focus more on public health and the prevention of drug dependency.

Yuri Fedotov, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and host of the meeting, said that the Iran's approach is better than legalization. In fact in 2012, Iran seized 388 tonnes of opium, almost 70 per cent of all such seizures around the world. That result is very impressive given that Iran shares a 900 kilometre common border with Afghanistan, which supplies about 90 per cent of the world opium, from which heroin is made.

The war on the drug trade has cost Iran millions of dollars to seal its borders and attempt to prevent the transit of narcotics destined for European, Arab and Central Asian countries, and has also claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 Iranian police officers.

On the same day the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran attacked the Islamic Republic for the number of executions carried out in the country. “It has been estimated that some 1,539 individuals have been executed, including at least between 955 and 962 for drug trafficking, since the establishment of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur in 2011,” the report says. In fact in Iran possession or transport of drugs, even in relatively small amounts, frequently leads to execution.

Can a successful battle on drugs be implemented alongside adequate promotion of human rights in Iran? The U.N. and the West are still debating this problem.
Recent data indicates that Iran is still a key country in major drug trafficking routes, so there is little correlation between the imposition of harsh punishment and reductions in the supply of drugs.
Is this the only way to fight drug trafficking? If Iran fails, could drugs flow freely to Europe?
For some countries this is a crucial problem, because human rights still come first, so countries like Denmark and UK stopped providing funding for UNODC drug control programs in Iran.

Catherine Ashton, E.U. foreign affairs chief, has offered to work more closely with Iran on human rights and drugs trafficking. Iran and E.U. both know how intertwined these two issue are, especially when it comes to narcotics.
Perhaps one day the United Nations will make up their mind on the choice between promoting human rights and being tough on drugs.