Pavel Sapelka about the "anti-drug" decree: “Such measures were to have been taken some 15 years - 20 ago”
According to the Decree of the President of №6 "On Urgent Measures to Combat Drug Trafficking" which came into effect on January 1 the government should adopt a comprehensive action plan including effective measures to combat drug trafficking, prevent the use of drugs and provide social rehabilitation of drug addicts.
However, some provisions of the decree cause understandable concern of human rights defenders. First of all it concerns the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility for the sale and consumption of drugs from 16 to 14 years and creationof special therapy centers for drug addicts. An expert of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, lawyer Pavel Sapelka tells spring96.org about it.
- January 1, Presidential Decree №6 "On urgent measures to combat illicit trafficking of drugs" came into legal force. What are the main innovations provided by this legal act?
- It may be considered as two different parts. On the one hand, the Decree lists some organizational norms related to new approaches to the fight against drugs and their distribution, and the changes which will be introduced in the Criminal Code. In the meantime, the authorities will apply directly the norms of the Decree in respect of the citizens who are involved in the distribution of narcotic drugs. In my opinion, some of the innovations regarding organizational measures aimed at a quicker response to the emergence of new drugs, as well as the joint work of all agencies and services designed to combat drug trafficking, the creation of a single database, can be evaluated positively.
However, such measures were to have been taken some 15 years – 20 ago and it is strange that it the authorities started thinking about it only after President drew their attention to the problem, which has long been known to all and is actively being discussed in the society.
What concerns the part which significantly increases criminal liability for distribution of narcotic substances, I have an ambivalent feeling. We can not say that one can fight against drug trafficking only with moral precepts, but a significant increase in terms of punishment will never be a means of suppressing such serious problems as drug addiction. Any criminologist can say that the offender is restrained not by the severity of punishment, but by its inevitability.
- How would you characterize the introduction of responsibility for those citizens who do not distribute or produce drugs, but are only customers?
- Yes, indeed, in the Decree introduces administrative responsibility for the appearance in public in a stateof drug intoxication. What is surprising, earlier people were held liable for appearing in public in the state of alcoholic intoxication, but there was no liability for those in the state of drug intoxication. Moreover, there is criminal liability for those repeatedly detained in the state of drug intoxication in public or at work. However, the Decree doesn't provide liability for the very fact of the use of drugs and if a person stays at home, or far from other people, it is not regarded as crime and doesn't entail any liability.
- Yet, addicts are ill people are sick, and the new Decree also provides for the creation of activity therapy centres, similar to that for alcoholics. Will these institutions be able to return to normal life the people who constantly consuming drugs?
- This subject can be discussed only after these institutions will really start working. However, those suffering from drug addiction can be sent to the existing activity therapy centres even now, there are no obstacles to it. It is necessary to note that human rights activists actively oppose the very existinence of such institution at all, as far as forced medical treatment against alcoholism and drug addiction, accompanied with forced labor, is a violation of the constitutional rights of citizens. In my opinion, preventive measures for the treatment of drug addicts should be quite different. This disease requires a treatment, but not in the way proposed in the Decree №6.
- One of the rules of "anti-drug" Decree provides for decrease of the age of criminal responsibility for distribution of drugs from 16 to 14 years. Willthis measure be effective?
- It seems to me that earlier, when the introducing the norm about liability since the age of 16 years, the legislators probably assessed the ability of the persons under 16 years to assess the illegal nature of their actions and must have come to the conclusion about ther inability to do so. Only the law enforcement practice can show whether such a norm can work in its current form, or penal colonies, whose aim is to isolate real criminals, will get full of 14-year-olds as a result of its use. I am not saying that these children don't commit the crime, but there should be a differentiated approach to penalty.
- Among the range of measures which are provided by the new decree one can note the strengthening of control over drug trafficking on the Internet and blocking websites that promote drugs, or assist their sale. Is there any possibility that the authorities will use it as a disguise for struggle with other websites, undesirable for the authorities?
- It is better to regard every norm which is provided by the Decree as a possible threat. If the case concerns the closure of the websites that advertise directly narcotic or psychotropic substances and smoking blends, earlier they could be put on the list of restricted access, and that they should have been included in the list or closed at all, if possible. Unfortunately, the authorities are concerned more with the restriction of access to the websites which disseminate undesirable information. Of course, if this norm works transparently, this is good, because all of us understand that the criminality and its tools develop with the time. However, if the authorities use combating illegal actions as a disguise of hindering the work of the websites which propote political views, it will be regarded as another violation.
It is worth noting that the Decree establishes the obligation of Internet providers to store information about all websites visited by the Internet users since 2016. In fact, each Internet user will be closely monitored, including by special services, which makes us wonder what will happen next.
Decree No. 6 "On urgent measures to combat drug trafficking" increases criminal responsibility for crimes in this area. In particular, it increases the maximum term of imprisonment: from now on, the sale of drugs by a group of persons, or the sale of particularly dangerous substances, or the sale on a large scale is punished with 13-15 years of imprisonment.
Sale of drugs to minors is punished with 8-15 years of imprisonment. Actions related to the sale of drugs by a group of persons are punished with 15-20 years of imprisonment, production or processing of drugs in laboratories – with 8-20 years of imprisonment.
Criminal liability is also introduced for actions related to the sale of drugs which entailed the death of the user by negligence – 12-25 years of imprisonment. Illegal trafficking of drugs across the border in the absence of smuggling is punished with up to 12 years of imprisonment.
Drug users will be also drawn not only to administrative, but also to criminal liability – repeated appearance in public or at work in the state of drug intoxication is punished with restriction of freedom for up to 2 years.