AGCC for curbs on drug menace

ABU DHABI - Chiefs of anti-drug agencies in the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (AGCC) began a three-day meeting here on Monday to discuss joint action to combat drug trafficking and prevent international gangs from using the region to route their stuff to other parts of the world.

By Muawia E. Ibrahim

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Published: Tue 11 May 2004, 9:52 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 2:24 PM

In the opening speech, Colonel Ali Yousef Alsaoud Al Sabbah of the Kuwaiti General Department of Criminal Investigation who chaired the meeting, said drug trafficking, smuggling and possession had become more organised in view of the technological revolution. "These criminals are adopting latest technologies therefore this enormous evolution had brought in new forms of these crimes," he said.

Col. Sabbah said this makes it inevitable for officials in the Gulf region to pay more attention to criminal sciences and to try to develop themselves through using the same technologies and means to fight this crime. "We must endeavour to keep abreast with this enormous evolution in criminal sciences," he remarked.

He said the agenda of the 18th Meeting of the Directors of AGCC Anti-Narcotics Departments includes discussing country reports on status of drug abuse in member states, a unified legislation to combat drugs and psychotropic substances in member states, latest developments in drugs issue, in addition to reports and resolutions issued by regional and international meetings on drugs.

The meeting will also discuss the decisions issued by the 22nd Meeting of the AGCC Ministers of Interior on fighting drugs as well as the action taken to implement these decisions.

A UAE paper on involvement of the AGCC citizens in drug trafficking and smuggling will be presented at the meeting.

The UAE delegation is headed by Colonel Abdulla Al Bedaiwi, Director of Anti-Narcotics Department at the Ministry of Interior.

An exhibition displaying samples of drugs seized in attempts foiled by the authorities is being organised on the sidelines of the meeting.

With improving interdiction on the Balkan route and more eastward routes from the cultivation and producing areas in south-west Asia to Europe, the countries of the Arabian peninsula are facing drug control problems mainly with regard to trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs, according to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC). A main transit route through Turkey and the Syria supplies heroin and stimulants to markets in the Gulf states. In addition, illicit drugs are smuggled into the Arabian peninsula from south-west Asia.

At the same time, most countries in the Middle East report data that point to increasing abuse, especially among young people, the main drugs of abuse being cannabis, heroin and stimulants. There is an increasing risk that drug abuse and trafficking will become the norm for a growing number of marginalised young people in the region as a result of the considerable socio-economic disparities within their societies.

Many observers note that cultural and social restrictions may impede addicts from admitting to their abuse. There may thus be a considerable amount of hidden abuse.

The UNDOC says that the countries of the region in general have weak control systems regarding the licit production and distribution of pharmaceutical products.

Sounding the alarm bell, officials say that millions of people had become addict over the past three decades with heroin/cocaine addicts crossing 21 million. Criminal statistics for 2002 had shed light on the tireless efforts being made by the UAE anti-drugs authorities. 'In 2002, anti-drug departments seized 1,005 kg of hashish, 3,75 kg of opium, 20,600 narcotic capsules, 502,2 grams of heroin, and 18 grams of marijuana. The police forces also arrested 275 people in dugs related crimes.

The UAE is working on a draft law on controlling the spread of narcotics and psychotropic substances. The country has already drawn up its own anti-drug strategy, based on intensified security at the country's outlets and patrols along the coastline, reduction of demand through educational campaigns, enforcement of harsh penalties, and rehabilitation of drug addicts.

The UAE has also recently been selected to represent the Asian group in the anti-narcotic panel of the Economic and Social Council (ESC). The 53-member panel is entrusted with drafting international anti-drug agreements, assisting the ESC to exercise surveillance of the enactment of these agreements and giving counsel and recommendation on international narcotic control rules and mechanisms.

At the regional level, the UAE is intensifying joint action with its Gulf neighbours and narcotic producers in Asia to combat drug trafficking and prevent international gangs from using the region to route their stuff to Europe and other areas, security officials say.

The UAE and the five other AGCC states were also seeking to expand cooperation with Asian drug producers, including Pakistan, Iran and India to curb such operations. The six nations have already devised a 'mechanism of coordination' with those countries and they hope it will be cemented in the coming period.

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