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Johannesburg - Amnesty International on Thursday said it will be debating proposals to tackle the devastating human rights consequences of misguided attempts by countries to criminalise and restrict abortion and to punish people for using drugs.

Delegates from around the world will be gathering in Warsaw, Poland, from Friday to Sunday to hold crucial votes on the organisation’s positions on safe and legal abortion and how States control the production, sale and use of drugs. 

“We want to make sure we are well placed to fight for the human rights of millions of people whose lives are impacted by how governments criminalise or restrict access to abortion and by the prohibition of drugs,” said Tawanda Mutasah, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Law and Policy.

Both issues require a much more compassionate approach from governments to protect the rights of the people who are most at risk."

Representatives will be asked to vote on adopting an updated position on abortion that will call on states not just to decriminalise abortion, but to guarantee "access to safe and legal abortion" in a broad way that fully respects the rights of all women and girls. 

Amnesty International’s position on abortion, which calls for the decriminalisation, and access in a limited set of cases, was adopted in 2007. 

Unsafe abortions continue to be one of the leading causes of maternal death worldwide, with an estimated 25 million unsafe abortions estimated to take place each year.

Representatives will also be voting on what would be the organisation’s first-ever position on how States should address the challenges posed by drugs from a human rights perspective. 

The proposed policy would call for a shift away from the current “scorched-earth” approach of heavy-handed criminalisation, to an approach where protection of people’s health and rights are at the centre. 

Amnesty International said it has already conducted research in many countries that have been torn apart by drug prohibition, from Brazil to the Philippines and the US, that shows the devastating human rights cost of current drug control methods.

The key points of what will form the policy positions will be voted on at Amnesty International’s governance and decision-making forum, the Global Assembly. 

Held annually, the meeting is an opportunity for Amnesty representatives from around the world to meet and democratically vote on the direction of the rights body's work.

"The meeting will take place against the backdrop of ongoing efforts by the Polish government to undermine the independence of the judiciary and to further restrict access to abortion. Both have been met with overwhelming public opposition and protest," said Amnesty International in a statement released ahead of the poll.  

African News Agency (ANA)