Damon Barrett
Damon Barrett is a co-founder and Director of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy and a Visiting Fellow at the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex. He is researching a PhD on international law and drug control at Stockholm University. Views expressed here are his own.

Entries by Damon Barrett

Why I Oppose the Criminalisation of Drug Use in the Name of Protecting Children

(2) Comments | Posted 14 April 2016 | (00:00)

The UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs begins next week. It's the most significant international drugs summit in twenty years, and as it has drawn nearer I have been thinking a lot about what it means to protect children from drugs. It seems to me that a...

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Indonesia's Executions: Drugs Diplomacy in a Diplomatic Crisis?

(42) Comments | Posted 25 February 2015 | (10:24)

All diplomatic efforts earlier this month to save Brazilian and Dutch citizens from execution in Indonesia failed. Both were executed by firing squad. The harrowing final hours of Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira have since been revealed. Australia has been told that two of its citizens face imminent execution...

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Fatal Attraction: Brownfield's Flexibility Doctrine and Global Drug Policy Reform

(1) Comments | Posted 18 November 2014 | (13:59)

A joint contribution by:

Professor Dave Bewley-Taylor
Director, Global Drug Policy Observatory, Swansea University

Martin Jelsma
Coordinator, Transnational Institute Drugs and Democracy Programme

Damon Barrett
Director, International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy


State-level cannabis reforms, which...

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On the International Day Against Drugs, Let's Look Again at Sweden's 'Successful' Drug Policies

(1) Comments | Posted 25 June 2014 | (11:22)

Sweden is often portrayed as a success story in relation to drugs policy, not least by its own diplomats on the international stage and by the UN. But the evidence warns of urgent public health problems that Swedish politicians are currently failing to address. On the UN international...

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Drug Use Is Not a Sustainable Development Issue - The War on Drugs Certainly Is

(0) Comments | Posted 26 May 2014 | (09:57)

This month negotiators met at the UN in New York to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs); government targets that will heavily influence policies through to 2030 and that will affect the lives of billions in the coming years. The SDGs are intended to address global challenges relating to...

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War in Reverse: Drugs, Consensus and Killing

(0) Comments | Posted 14 March 2014 | (13:00)

In Slaughterhouse Five Kurt Vonnegut imagines war in reverse. Bomber planes flying backwards over burning towns, the fires shrinking, the bombs being pulled into the bellies of the planes...the dismantling of weapons...the healing of wounds.

'The war on drugs' is a pejorative metaphor. But the metaphor is apt and...

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Time to Face Up to One of the Key Human Rights Challenges of Our Time

(1) Comments | Posted 9 December 2013 | (11:57)

In 2010 an article appeared in an Irish newspaper referring to a group of people as 'vermin'. 'Worthless', 'feral', 'useless scumbags', who, if they all died tomorrow, would cause the author to cheer. In the meantime he called for them to be sterilised.

Can you guess which group?...

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Drug Testing University Students Would Be a Bad Move

(0) Comments | Posted 4 July 2013 | (17:42)

Neuroscientist Professor Barbara Sahakian is concerned about university students using Ritalin and other 'smart drugs' (a daft label) to improve concentration. Many, myself included, share that concern. It clearly shows the stresses and pressures students are under, likely made worse by the knowledge that the job sector is worse than...

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International Money and Torture in the Name of Drug Treatment

(1) Comments | Posted 5 March 2013 | (08:41)

The extent of torture and ill-treatment in the war on terror is well known. It has been the subject of campaigns, court cases, news features, enormous public attention, and, rightly, prosecutions.

Torture and ill-treatment in the war on drugs is also widespread, but is often invisible, hidden behind a...

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Coca and Snus: Sweden's Self-defeating Hypocrisy on Drugs

(8) Comments | Posted 15 January 2013 | (13:02)

Tradition is disposable. Evidence is marginal. Economic arguments are not important. This, in a nutshell, is what Sweden said to the UN to oppose traditional uses of coca in Bolivia. It is opposite of what it says to the EU to defend the use and sales of snus at home....

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To Look Tough on Drugs, and Please the US, the UK is Willing to Trample on Indigenous Rights

(4) Comments | Posted 6 January 2013 | (19:12)

In 1961 the United Kingdom signed a treaty that included provisions designed to strip indigenous people in the Andean region of aspects of their traditions and cultures. The treaty was the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and the traditions related to sacramental and medicinal uses of the

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Marijuana legalisation: Sometimes Violations of International Law Are Cause for Celebration

(1) Comments | Posted 7 November 2012 | (15:24)

The United States is again in violation of international law. That is a strong statement and one that reminds us of the invasion of Iraq, Guantanamo bay, water-boarding, rendition, and the strong international legal arguments made about these situations.

But in this case the violation will be hailed by...

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When the UN Won't Condemn Torture You Know Something's Very Wrong

(20) Comments | Posted 4 April 2012 | (00:00)

Torture. The Home Office can't deport Abu Qatada because of the very spectre of it. There is an entire international treaty on it. It is a crime no matter who you are or where you live. Torture is so reviled, and rightly so, that its prohibition has a status in...

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Why a New UN Resolution on 'Legal Highs' Matters

(4) Comments | Posted 18 March 2012 | (20:45)

The Guardian/Mixmag drugs survey, published this week, highlighted the fact that there are many people out there using drugs without significant health harms. Among them are 'legal highs' or, more accurately, 'new psychoactive substances'.

But the risks associated with such substances are very real. Not least of which is that...

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Executing Arrest Warrants: Interpol, the UN and the Death Penalty

(0) Comments | Posted 15 February 2012 | (13:53)

Last Friday, Malaysian Police confirmed the arrest of Hamza Kashgari, a journalist wanted by Saudi Arabia for insulting the Prophet Mohamed on Twitter. The arrest reportedly came after Interpol issued a 'Red Notice' on the request of Saudi Arabia (an 'international alert allowing police in member countries to...

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'Operation Audacious' Shows We Need to Count the Costs of Drug Law Enforcement

(2) Comments | Posted 7 December 2011 | (12:09)

Yesterday, hundreds of police officers carried out dawn drugs raids, serving one hundred warrants in three districts in Manchester, and addresses in Bolton, Stockport and Salford.

'Operation Audacious' was a success, according to the Greater Manchester Police and others. A success in that arrests have been made,...

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Harm Reduction International: Questions for leaders on World AIDS Day

(3) Comments | Posted 30 November 2011 | (15:54)

This 1 December, as with every other year, will see political speeches and statements from high level UN officials and others in positions of power and influence reaffirming their commitment to stopping HIV in its tracks, and sending out messages of hope and how much we've achieved.

This year...

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Blaming Cocaine Users Dodges Policy Responses

(5) Comments | Posted 22 November 2011 | (11:59)

In an interview this week with London's Metro, President Santos of Colombia said "every time somebody in London sniffs coke he destroys the environment here in the tropical forests...and probably kills a couple of people"

There are two solutions to this. One of them has a chance.


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How a Small Programme for Injecting Drug Users in Canada Exposes Tensions in the United Nations

(0) Comments | Posted 5 October 2011 | (17:48)

Last Friday the Canadian Supreme Court issued a ruling ordering the Government to permit 'Insite', Canada's only safe injection facility, to remain open. Insite is a place where people can inject drugs they've bought on the street with sterile equipment and under medical supervision. The site...

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Children of the Drug War

(2) Comments | Posted 3 September 2011 | (23:59)

One of the greatest myths of drug prohibition is that it protects children.

Launching the US war on drugs in 1971 President Nixon talked about addiction coming quietly into homes and destroying children. Mexican authorities continue to justify a costly military assault on drug cartels in the name of...

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