500 legal experts launch bid to reform drug policies
Mario Juliano and Mariano Fusero (members of APP) chaired the event at the Senate’s Blue Room yesterday.
Senate presentation calls for end of criminalization
Demanding wholesale reform of Argentine narcotics legislation yesterday, over 500 respected legal voices commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark “Bazterrica” ruling and called for an end to the so-called “War on Drugs.”
The experts, who spoke in a room at the National Congress, said the landmark ruling by the land’s top court — which in 1986 declared the unconstitutionality of prosecuting individuals for possessing narcotics intended for personal consumption — had paved the way for change.
“The current law prosecutes the most vulnerable sectors of our society. There must be a sincere answer from the Argentine system, so as to judge what needs to be judged and to give users the healthcare and assistance they need,” said Judge Ángela Ledesma.
Introducing a declaration endorsed by 250 magistrates and 300 other signatories at the National Congress’ Blue Room, the Association of Penal Thinking (APP) — an NGO dealing with criminal law — filed a petition asking for a modification to National Drugs Law 23,737, which criminalizes the possession of narcotics for personal consumption.
Ledesma argued that the “War on Drugs” was failing and said that decriminalization is the only way forward.
“Instead of reducing consumption, it has increased,” Ledesma claimed.
MORE HARM THAN GOOD
The campaigners argued that the country’s drugs policies showed how criminalizing drug use can cause more harm than good.
“Argentine drug policy does not fulfill any of its goals. It does not preserve consumers’ health, it does not reduce the level of consumption in the country, and it does not affect drug-trafficking at all,” stated Judge Guillermo Scheibler.
According to Scheibler, the government’s current policy on narcotics is devoted to “annihilating rights” as he argued the preservation of consumers’ health must come first. The impact is also worse the lower down the social ladder a drug user is, he added.
This policy “has unequal effects on the population, as the primary victims are the most vulnerable sectors,” producing collateral damages such as illegal dealing, daily violence and corruption in the society, the judge declared.
Three decades on from the noted Bazterica ruling, legal experts noted the number of those jailed for narcotics possession has increased significantly.
“The Bazterrica ruling was liberal in terms of respect to individual rights,” public defender and expert in criminal law Gabriel Ignacio Anitua said.
The ruling dealt with the raid of Bazterrica’s home, which took place in 1981, and in which the police seized a few grams of illicit substances. For that reason, the musician was sentenced to prison and fined by the lower courts.
“The Bazterrica ruling committed us toward changing the law, but nothing has yet happened. Meanwhile the current policy has an impact on the most vulnerable people, women and their children,” said Interamerican public defender Silvia Martínez yesterday, explaining that the number of individuals in prison due to drug cases has increased during the last 20 years. “The alternative is freedom and a more respectful law,” Martínez concluded.
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