Pubdate: Wed, 22 Aug 2001
Source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Germany Wire)
Copyright: 2001 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH
Note: The petition - actually an open letter - is at where there are also 
versions in Spanish, French and Portugese
Also: We can not help but note that a rather substantial number of the 
folks who signed the letter are DrugNews readers and/or participate in 
various DrugSense supported email discussion lists See


New York -- A petition signed by more than 100 U.S. civil rights and
religious leaders on Wednesday asked the United Nations to take up what they
called the biased implementation of the U.S. "war on drugs" at the upcoming
U.N. World Conference Against Racism.

The petition was sent to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, asking him to
make the issue a top priority at the conference, set August 31 to September
7 in Durban, South Africa.

The petition charged that the U.S. government unfairly targets blacks and
Latinos for prosecution in its fight against drugs and treats whites with
leniency although the rate of drug use in the United States is equal among
the races.

The group cited statistics showing that black men are sent to prison for
drug offences at 13 times the rate of white men and that half of those
arrested for using marijuana are Latinos although whites make up a much
larger percentage of the U.S. population.

"The drug war is one of the most serious obstacles to achieving racial
justice both in the U.S. and internationally," said Deborah Small, the
public policy director at the New York-based Lindesmith Centre's Drug Policy
Foundation, which drew up the petition sent to Annan.

"It is racially unequal in its implementation," the petition said. "And it
is racist in its disproportionate impact."

It said drug wars carried out in some other countries also target
minorities, who receive unequal treatment once they enter into the criminal
justice system.

"The link between racial discrimination and the 'war on drugs' exists not
only in the United States but throughout much of the world," the petition

"In most countries, racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately
targeted, arrested, prosecuted and punished for drug offences," it said.

In the United States, blacks, Latinos and native Americans are more likely
to be stopped and searched by police, the petition said.

There are today an estimated 500,000 people jailed in the United States on
drug violations, compared to 50,000 in 1980, the petition said).

The petition said blacks constitute 57 per cent of the drug offenders in
U.S. prisons and Latinos account for 22 per cent.

In New York state, 94 per cent of people imprisoned on drug charges are
blacks and Latinos. The petition said California's prisons also have a high
rate of black and Latino prisoners.

It said the U.S. government violates the International Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in implementing its
drug policies. The United States is a signatory of the convention.

The petitioners include actor and human rights activist Harry Belafonte,
actor Danny Glover, New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and dozens legislators,
church leaders, scholars and scientists.
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