Bangladesh sets death penalty for drug offences in draft law
DHAKA (Reuters) – Bangladesh’s cabinet on Monday approved a draft law prescribing the death penalty for drug offences, despite widespread criticism over a narcotics crackdown in which police have shot dead more than 200 people since May.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has launched a campaign to toughen punishments for drug crimes ahead of a general election due by December. But the police killings have prompted fears among rights groups of a bloody Philippines-style campaign to wipe out drugs offenders.
The proposed amendment to the 1990 Narcotics Control Act for the first time defines methamphetamine pills, also known as ‘yaba’, as narcotics, Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam told reporters after a meeting chaired by Hasina.
The current maximum punishment for possession of yaba is a prison term of 15 years.
The draft law “proposes the death sentence as maximum punishment for producing, smuggling, distributing and using more than 5 grams of ‘yaba’,” Alam said, adding possession of less than 5 grams (0.18 oz) would attract a maximum jail term of five years.
The amendment also targets the smoking of cannabis in shisha water pipes.
Tougher punishment was needed to curb the spread of yaba, a highly potent stimulant smuggled in from neighboring Myanmar, Alam said, adding that the bill had been prepared in line with other international legislation on drugs.
Bangladesh has said an influx last year of Rohingya fleeing Buddhist-majority Myanmar is partly to blame for soaring methamphetamine use.
But many Rohingya say their young people are being pushed into crime because they cannot legally work or, in many cases, even receive aid.
Hasina has vowed to continue the campaign until Bangladesh is freed of the drug menace, but critics say it as a sign of her increasingly authoritarian rule ahead of the election.
In more than a third of the killings recorded by Dhaka-based human rights group Odhikar since mid-May, the suspects were arrested before they were killed.
The government has dismissed accusations of extrajudicial killings, saying the crackdown has popular support.
Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, William Maclean
Bangladesh's cabinet on Monday approved a draft law prescribing the death penalty for drug offences, despite widespread criticism over a narcotics crackdown in which police have shot dead more than 200 people since May.
This week Your Advocate is Barrister Omar Khan Joy, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh. He is the head of the chambers of a renowned law firm, namely, ‘Legal Counsel’, which has expertise mainly in commercial law, corporate law, family law, employment and labor law, land law, banking law, constitutional law, criminal law, IPR and in conducting litigations before courts of different hierarchies.
I am Aniket, currently pursuing my A-Levels. I have a query related to marijuana. I have read in many articles that in many countries smoking marijuana is legal. However, so far I know in Bangladesh it is still illegal. Even then I see many of my friends smoking it freely. I am not being judgmental but it is surprising how widely available this drug is in Bangladesh. The law enforcement agencies also seem indifferent to such scenario. Hence I would like to know the law in relation to the usage of drugs like marijuana in Bangladesh?
Dear Aniket, Thank you for your query. This is very unfortunate that narcotics like marijuana have become widely available in Bangladesh. You are correct as to the fact that in many countries around the world marijuana is being made legal for various reasons and up to a certain limit. In some countries possessing marijuana is legal, but smoking it is illegal; whereas in some countries growing marijuana is legal, but selling it is illegal. For instance, in the United States it has been declared legal in few States and still illegal in others. In eight States such as New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania marijuana has been made legal for medical purposes with doctor’s recommendation and in seventeen others it has been made legal as long as it is extremely low in Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is the intoxicating ingredient.
On the other hand, in countries like Belgium and Colombia possessing marijuana up to a certain amount is legal whereas in some countries like Bhutan and Brazil any kind of dealing with marijuana is illegal. One of the fundamental reasons for legalising marijuana in many countries is the latest finding that marijuana possesses many health benefits. Based on the same reasoning very recently an act to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes was passed by German parliamentarians.
However, marijuana was and is illegal in Bangladesh. Any kind of narcotics including marijuana has been declared illegal in Bangladesh as stated in the Narcotics Control Act, 1990 (hereinafter referred to as “Act”). As per Schedule I of the Act marijuana is a B-Class Narcotics. According to section 9 of the Act cultivation, production, processing, carrying, transportation, import, export, supply, purchase, sale, possession, preservation, warehousing, exhibition or use of any kind of narcotics including marijuana is prohibited and hence, illegal. However, the Act has given permission to manufacture, process, import, export, supply, purchase, sell etc. of narcotics for any approved medicine or for undertaking any scientific research provided the same is being done under proper license, being used with proper permit and being carried or transported with proper pass. In other words, without proper medical or scientific reasons and proper license or pass any kind of dealing with marijuana is illegal in Bangladesh.
To ensure the enforcement of the law regarding marijuana or any other narcotic substance a National Narcotics Control Board is established under the Act. The said Board is to act with a view to preventing the manufacture, supply, use of narcotics in Bangladesh, introducing treatment and rehabilitation for narcotics addicts, etc. You will be surprised to know that the Act also provides that the said Board may constitute a separate fund which shall only be used to create public awareness about the ill effects of narcotics and for the treatment and rehabilitation of the narcotics addicts. Moreover, the treatment and rehabilitation of any narcotic addict has also been covered by the said Act. Therefore, you can see that the law relating to narcotics in Bangladesh covers almost everything starting from illegalizing it to creating awareness and treatment. But unfortunately due to the lack of the relevant law enforcing authorities the same are not being implemented properly.
Like your friends many of the young youth are freely selling, buying or smoking marijuana or any other kind of narcotics out in the open. It is regrettable that despite being aware of the situation the law enforcing authorities are not taking any proper action. I believe that you will make your friends aware of the fact that marijuana is illegal and they may have to face imprisonment if they get caught in the future.
This week Your Advocate is Barrister Omar Khan Joy, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh. He is the head of the chambers of a renowned law firm, namely, 'Legal Counsel', which has expertise mainly in commercial law, corporate law, family law, employment and labor law, land law, banking law, constitutional law, criminal law, IPR and in conducting litigations before courts of