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International Experts’ Damning Indictment: SA’s Drug Policies Harshly Affect the Poor; Drug Users Frequently Tortured

South Africa has some of the unfairest drug policies in the world. This is the finding of the Global Drug Policy Index which released its first annual ranking of 30 different countries. 

 

The report shows that although South Africa is one of the least punitive countries in terms of drug laws, these laws harshly affected the poor as well as women and other vulnerable groups.  

 

The absence of the death penalty for drug offences bumped up South Africa’s overall score to 47/100 in the Global Index, but in terms of proportionality and criminal justice, the country only ranked 37/100. The report said suspects in drug-related cases were “frequently” tortured and arbitrary arrest and detention of drug suspects occurred to a “very large extent”. 

 

SA scored 8/100 for “the equity of impact of criminal justice response”, saying that it impacted to a “very large extent” on ethnic groups and the poor, while women were impacted to a “large extent” by drug policies.

 

Read the Detailed Q&A’s below:

PROPORTIONALITY & CRIMINAL JUSTICE 39/100

Human Rights Violations 32/100

 

1 How often are suspects in drug cases subject to violence or torture by the police? Frequently

source: Survey of Experts in States’ Drug Policy 

 

2 To what extent does arbitrary arrest and detention for drug offences exist? To a very large extent

source: Survey of Experts in States’ Drug Policy 

 

3 What is the country’s score on the World Bank Fair Trial Indicator? Moderately Restricted

source: World Bank Data Repository: https://tcdata360.worldbank.org/indicators/hd45eb4d6?country=BRA&indicator=41895&viz=line_chart&years=1975,2019 

 

Equity of Impact of Criminal Justice Response 8/100

 

4 To what extent does enforcement of drug policy disproportionately impact certain ethnic groups?  To a very large extent

source: Survey of Experts in States’ Drug Policy 

 

5 To what extent does enforcement of drug policy disproportionately impact women?  To a large extent

source: Survey of Experts in States’ Drug Policy 

 

6 To what extent does enforcement of drug policy disproportionately impact low-income groups? To a very large extent

source: Survey of Experts in States’ Drug Policy 

 

Mandatory minumum sentencing and pre-trial detention 100/100

 

Do the state’s drug laws or legal frameworks include mandatory minimum sentences for any drug offences? No

source: GDPI Coding Team. 

 

8 For states whose drug laws or legal frameworks include mandatory minimum sentences for any drug offences, does this relate to first offences or multiple offences? N/A

source: GDPI Coding Team. 

 

9 Do the state’s laws include mandatory pre-trial detention for drug offences? No

source: GDPI Coding Team. 

 

Alternatives to arrest/prosecution/conviction/punishment 44/100

 

10 Is there any provision in state criminal justice policy for alternatives to arrest, prosecution, conviction and/or punishment for drug-related offences? Yes

source: GDPI Coding Team. 

 

11 Do alternatives exist at the point of initial contact with law enforcement (i.e., the police or other law enforcement officers) – before arrest and/or prosecution? No

source: GDPI Coding Team. 

 

12 Do alternatives exist after the point of arrest, but before conviction or formal criminal court proceedings? No

source: GDPI Coding Team. 

 

13 Where individuals are convicted with a final sentence (courts), are there alternatives to incarceration for drug offences? Yes

source: GDPI Coding Team. 

 

14 Do alternatives to arrest, prosecution, conviction and/or punishment for drug-related offences include treatment or care elements?  Yes

source: Survey of Experts in States’ Drug Policy 

 

15 Where alternatives to arrest, prosecution, conviction and/or punishment for drug-related offences include treatment or care elements, is relapse / non-attendance / treatment “failure” associated with subsequent imprisonment or punishment? Yes

source: Survey of Experts in States’ Drug Policy 

 

16 Where alternatives to arrest, prosecution, conviction and/or punishment for drug-related offences include treatment or care elements, are a range of treatment options and modalities made available to people based on their clinically assessed need or preferences? No

source: Survey of Experts in States’ Drug Policy 

 

Extent of imprisonment of individuals involved in non-violent drug-related offences 0

 

17 To what extent does the pursuit of state drug policy result in the imprisonment of non-violent offenders? To a very large extent

source: Survey of Experts in States’ Drug Policy 

 

Decriminalisation Policy 57/100

 

18 Is there a provision in national legislation or in official national policy documents for the decriminalisation of drug use and the possession of drugs for personal use?  Yes

source: GDPI Coding Team. 

 

19 What % of the population live in a state/territory with decriminalisation provisions? 100%

source: GDPI Coding Team. 

 

20 For states or sub-national units with decriminalisation, what substances are decriminalised? Cannabis Only

source: GDPI Coding Team. 

 

21 Where there are administrative (non-criminal) sanctions for drug use and possession for personal use, what is the severity of these sanctions? Moderate

source: Survey of Experts in States’ Drug Policy 

 

22 To what extent has decriminalisation in this state been effective in diverting people who use drugs away from the criminal justice system? Not at all

source: Survey of Experts in States’ Drug Policy

 


 

 

ABSENCE OF EXTREME RESPONSES 80/100

 

Death Penalty 100/100

 

1 Does the country retain the death penalty for drug offences? No

source: Harm Reduction International (2021), THE DEATH PENALTY FOR DRUG OFFENCES: GLOBAL OVERVIEW, Available online at: https://www.hri.global/death-penalty-2020 

 

2 What is the extent of death penalty application for drug offences in the country? N/A

source: Harm Reduction International (2021), THE DEATH PENALTY FOR DRUG OFFENCES: GLOBAL OVERVIEW, Available online at: https://www.hri.global/death-penalty-2020 

 

Extra-Judicial Killing 75/100

 

3 To what extent is the practice of extra-judicial killing prevalent in the course of military and police anti-drug activity? To a small extent

source: Survey of Experts in States’ Drug Policy 

 

Militarised Policing 50/100

 

4 To what extent are military or special security forces are involved in drug operations? To a moderate extent

source: Survey of Experts in States’ Drug Policy 

 

Life Sentencing 100/100

 

5 Is there provision in legislation or sentencing frameworks for the imposition of life imprisonment for drug offences? No

source: GDPI Coding Team. 

 

6 Where there is provision in legislation or sentencing frameworks for the imposition of life imprisonment for drug offences, what is the nature of such sentences? N/A

source: GDPI Coding Team. 

 

7 How frequently are formal life sentences imposed for drug use and personal possession offences? N/A

source: Survey of Experts in States’ Drug Policy 

 

8 How frequently are formal life sentences imposed for drug supply offences (production, dealing, or trafficking)?  N/A

source: Survey of Experts in States’ Drug Policy 

 

Non-consensual confinement 75/100

 

9 To what extent is there a practice of non-consensual confinement in compulsory drug treatment centres? To a small extent

source: Survey of Experts in States’ Drug Policy

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