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VI. Rights of indigenous peoples

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VI. Rights of indigenous peoples

58. The 1961 Convention imposes restrictions on the cultivation of coca bush, opium poppy and cannabis plant for indigenous, traditional and religious uses, and requires that opium smoking be abolished within 15 years, that coca leaf chewing be abolished within 25 years and that cannabis use be abolished within 25 years at the latest (art. 49 (2)). The 1988 Convention requires States to criminalize the possession, purchase and cultivation of coca for personal consumption and to take measures to prevent the cultivation of and to eradicate illicit crops. In doing so, States must “take due account of traditional licit uses, where there is historic evidence of such use” (art. 14 (2)).

59. In 2009, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues called for the amendment or repeal of those portions of the 1961 Convention regarding coca leaf chewing that are inconsistent with the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain their traditional health and cultural practices, as recognized in articles 11, 24 and 31 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (see E/2009/43-E/C.19/2009/14, para. 89).71 In 2011, the Plurinational State of Bolivia withdrew from the 1961 Convention, subsequently re-acceding to it with a reservation concerning the traditional practices associated with the coca leaf.72

60. Some States have recognized exceptions to the application of the drug control treaties, including on grounds of religious belief. In the United States, the Native American Church is exempted from the prohibition on consuming peyote, a controlled substance, in religious ceremonies.73 In Italy, a drug conviction was reversed on appeal because a lower court had not considered the arguments made by the Rastafarian defendant based on his religious convictions.74 In Jamaica, the Government in 2015 changed its legislation to allow Rastafarians the right to use cannabis in their religious ceremonies.75 Previous jurisprudence has tended not to permit the use of controlled drugs in religious ceremonies as a manifestation of religious beliefs, although sometimes with sharply divided views.76

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