Pubdate: Tue, 21 Dec 1999
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Author:  Dr Michael Dawson, Annie Madden


Perhaps the faceless and unaccountable bureaucrats of the
International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) could let the Australian
people know the difference between a "sanction" and blackmail (Herald,
December 18).  The provision of medically supervised injection
facilities by various State and Territory governments does not breach
any international treaties to which Australia is a signatory. Yet the
INCB is threatening to apply "sanctions" to Australia's opium poppy
industry if we dare go ahead and attempt to save the lives of people
suffering from heroin addiction by establishing such facilities.

The INCB is a fractious child of the League of Nations' 1931
International Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating
the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs. Two of the INCB's "duties" are to
regulate world opium poppy production and to oversee the "removal of
heroin from the face of the earth". It has failed dismally on both
these fronts and should be disbanded forthwith.

The INCB, like the League of Nations, is an anachronism and has no
place in the modern world. The INCB and its failed policy of heroin
prohibition should be consigned to the rubbish bin of history
alongside the USSR and its failed policy of communism.

Dr Michael Dawson, Senior Lecturer,D epartment of Chemistry, Materials
and Forensic Science, University of Technology, Sydney. December 20

The UN International Narcotics Control Board and the Prime Minister,
John Howard, are short-sighted when they say that the new proposed
shooting gallery in NSW is contrary to Australia's treaty

Australia's international obligations under the Single Convention will
still be fulfilled when a medically supervised injecting room is
opened. The assumption is that this treaty is capable of only one
interpretation: that Australia under this treaty is obligated to
continue the broad criminal prohibition of, and zero-tolerance
approach to, drug use. This assumption, however, is false. Other
interpretations are equally relevant: in particular, these treaties
allow parties to these conventions the scope to adopt measures that
move away from the policy of criminal prohibition towards that of harm

The purpose of the safe injecting room is to save lives, reduce unsafe
public injecting and improve the health of drug users, their families
and the community in general. It is not to encourage drug use. The
operators are not supplying drugs, but a safe place to inject.

The community cannot turn its back on drug users simply because we
have been unable to stop their demand for illicit drugs or prevent
illicit drugs from being so readily available. The International
Covenant on Social, Cultural and Economic Rights, ratified by the
Australian Government, states that governments must recognise the
right of all individuals "to the enjoyment of the highest attainable
standard of physical and mental health", whether a drug user or not.

Research into medically supervised injecting rooms established in
Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands has shown they reduce the
number of drug overdose deaths, the spread of viral infections from
drug users to the general population, the marginalisation and
vilification of drug users and the level of injecting in public
places. This will benefit the whole community.

Annie Madden, Co-ordinator, NSW Users and AIDS Association, Bondi
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