Australia’s human rights obligations with respect to drug policies, laws, and their implementation

Every five years, the human rights record of each UN Member State is considered through a peer-review process led by the UN Human Rights Council, as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). As part of each UPR cycle, Member States submit a national report, and appear at the UN in Geneva for an interactive dialogue with other Member States.

Australia’s third-cycle UPR will take place in January-February 2021 (dates tentative due to COVID-19 restrictions), with the submission of its third UPR national report due in October 2020. The draft National Report has been released, with an opportunity for civil society members to provide feedback.

A collective of civil society representatives that have attended recent drug-related UN sessions such as annual Commission on Narcotic Drugs sessions and the 2019 CND High Level Ministerial Segment came together and submitted a response to the draft National Report, focusing on Australia’s human rights obligations with respect to drug policies, laws and their implementation. The submission brings forward the lack of specific reference to Australia’s Commonwealth, state and territory drug policies in the report, lack of reference to the importance of human rights within Australia’s National Drug Strategy 2017-2026 document, and considers the breaches of international law through Australia’s Commonwealth, state and territory drug policies.

The submission calls on the Commonwealth Government Attorney-General’s Department to undertake a systematic audit of drug policies in Australia to more fully document the extent to which these policies do, or do not, accord with our nation’s human rights obligations, and to include a commitment to doing so in its National Report to the UPR. Download the submission here.