Heavy emphasis on enforcing criminal prohibitions on drug production and distribution was also dramatically enhancing the profitability of illicit drug markets and fueling the growth and operations of groups that commit atrocities, corrupt authorities, and undermine democracy and the rule of law in many countries. But most armed groups in Colombia in some way benefitted from the illicit trade.
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Often, they threatened or killed people living on land they wanted to control for coca production or as drug transportation corridors. My later work on US policy towards such countries as Afghanistan and Mexico, and on the US criminal justice system, only strengthened my view—which others at Human Rights Watch shared—that drug criminalization was inherently inconsistent with human rights. After much discussion, the organization in adopted a policy calling on governments to decriminalize all personal use and possession of drugs.
We also urged them to consider—and eventually adopt—alternative policies on the drug trade to reduce the enormous human rights costs of current approaches. So many rejoiced when Colombian security forces, with US backing, killed Escobar in As the world turned its attention elsewhere, others discreetly filled his shoes. As a teenager in a low-income neighborhood, Alex saw his peers get swept into a seemingly endless cycle of brutality and death as Berna and others battled for control over the city.
Former paramilitary leaders received reduced prison sentences. Homicide rates were near their lowest in years. Among those who supposedly demobilized was Berna. Several of his henchmen formed the Democracy Corporation, a group with the ostensible mission of working with the city to help demobilized paramilitaries get education and jobs and reintegrate into society. But Alex told a different story. And he was retaining that control in part through the Democracy Corporation.
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While Alex knew many people in the world of local crime, he had taken a different path. He had become an activist, joined the left-leaning Democratic Pole party, and won a spot on his neighborhood action council. Respected and well-liked, he dreamed of running for higher office.
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Alex would get a car, armed guards, and a stipend if he agreed. He refused.
Instead, he began reporting what he knew to police and prosecutors, recording his calls with coordinators who were being threatened and sharing them with the authorities. He spoke during community meetings with international agencies and the Catholic Church. He brushed off the question.
Two years later, in , it looked like Alex might emerge unscathed. Berna had been extradited to the US, where he pled guilty to cocaine trafficking charges and received a year sentence from a federal court in New York City. He died at the scene. More than Colombian congress members and countless other officials have been investigated in recent years for alleged collusion with paramilitaries.
Violence —often via threats and displacement—is pervasive. These problems extend well beyond Colombia.
In many countries illicit drug profits are an enormous motivator and funding source for groups that commit atrocities, corrupt authorities, and undermine democracy and the rule of law. Indeed, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime UNODC , illicit drugs constitute the largest income source for transnational crime and may account for one-fifth of all crime proceeds.
It also fuels rampant corruption, making efforts to apprehend and prosecute those implicated in these crimes extraordinarily difficult. The US, Russia, and other countries, with UNODC support, have argued the answer to the exploding violence and corruption around illicit drug markets is to vastly expand enforcement.
With varying degrees of lawfulness they have pursued, surveilled, killed, extradited, prosecuted, and imprisoned kingpins and low-level dealers alike. They have fumigated crops, paid farmers to grow other crops, and interdicted shipments. Apparent victories in eliminating one source or trafficking organization are negated almost instantly by the emergence of other sources and traffickers.
Indeed, as pressure increases in one place, the drug trade often shifts accordingly. In Canada , Kazakhstan , Bangladesh , and Ukraine , police have violently mistreated people who use drugs. In Tanzania , police and quasi-official vigilante groups brutally beat people who inject drugs. In countries such as Singapore and Malaysia, drug offenders face the death penalty.
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Iran imposes a mandatory death sentence for various drug offenses. Other countries impose grossly disproportionate punishment in drug cases. Nearly a quarter of all prisoners—, in —including nearly half of federal inmates, were serving time for mostly low-level drug offenses. Some of those convicted, and many of those arrested, have done nothing more than use drugs, yet they will suffer the consequences of their conviction or arrest record for the rest of their lives. For immigrants, convictions, even for nonviolent offenses, can mean deportation and separation from their families.
US drug law enforcement is also marred by deep, discriminatory racial disparities. Although whites and blacks use and sell drugs at comparable rates in the US, blacks are arrested on drug charges at more than three times the rate of whites and are imprisoned for drug convictions at ten times the white rate. It is legitimate for governments to address societal harms that may result from drug abuse. But policymakers too easily attribute social problems—domestic abuse, unemployment, or violence—to illicit drug use, when causes are more complex.
Imprisoning people who use drugs does little to protect their health: prisoners often find that drug treatment—as we found in New York —is not available. They will only randomly select and check some containers. If the containers do not fit the profile, they will not be checked. Some shipments go to Asian countries, some from South America directly to Europe.
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Sundramoorthy said it was hard to put a stop on the trade due to the constraints in terms of logistics and enforcement. Therefore, syndicates will continue to take advantage of this.
They are organised, creative and innovative in distributing drugs due to the lucrative returns. Sundramoorthy also said some syndicates were working with terror groups, adding that this was a trend which had emerged only in the past decade or so. Skip to main content. War on drugs: 'Malaysia escape route for cartels'. Share this story.
The drugs were estimated to be worth some RM million. He said it was unlikely that the drugs were meant for the local market.