The case of Roar Mikalsen
In April of 2011, the Norwegian author Roar Mikalsen was imprisoned for 8,5 years for cannabis-related offences. Due to consistent serious legal misconduct preceding and following Mikalsen’s imprisonment, his case now holds potential transformational implications for the drug laws internationally.
Prior to his imprisonment, Roar Mikalsen has repeatedly been denied his right to a fair trial, which is a violation of the European Convention of Human Rights (Article 6 and 13.) On his way through the judicial system Mikalsen stated that he did not recognise the drug laws, as he claimed they were the result of a corrupt political process and that they, in fact, are a grave violation of basic Human Rights Law.
These claims automatically gave Mikalsen (according to the Rule of Law as articulated in ECHR Article 6 & 13) the right to defend himself on Human Rights grounds and, hence, the opportunity to prove his case in an independent, impartial and competent court. The judges, however, denied him this right and would not allow Mikalsen submit evidence that proved his case.
Mikalsen has written a 560p. book called Human Rising that proves the violation in detail. He wanted the courts to use this book as his argument for legalization of all drugs and in addition to his book he had its claims backed up by several international drug reports, experts and declarations.
However, the courts were not interested. Throughout all levels of the justice system they denied Mikalsen his right to a Human Rights – based defence, by which revealing a disturbing fact, that the Norwegian authorities do not recognise Human Rights Law in the area of drug policy.
Human Rights Court
Following his unlawful imprisonment (a violation of ECHR Article 5), Mikalsen took his case to the European Court of Human Rights. His plea was accepted by the court on the 16th of March 2011, (case no. 67078/10) along with all of his evidence. This in addition to Mikalsen’s book includes also approximately 200 additional pages of case material, which shows in detail how the drug laws are a violation of the Human Rights Law and how the Norwegian authorities have not only denied Mikalsen but also all users and sellers of the illegal drugs (nearly 50% of the prison population), the defence against the drug laws.
When this evidence is translated into English and French (the courts working language) the documents, according to ECHR Article 40, will be available to the public, unless the President of the Court decides otherwise.
So far the Norwegian media had chosen not to report on any of this. But the fact remains, that the drug laws have an obvious explanatory problem when compared to the Human Rights Law.
It is hard to say just how (and when) the proceedings will commence, but the Court in Strasbourg accepted his evidence and the judges at the Court shall now have to review the submitted documents.
Argument for legalisation
Mikalsen’s argument for legalisation of the illegal drugs is to substantial to be explained in detail here, but the fundamentals of his case rest upon two basic Human Right principles – the Equality Principle and the Proportionality Principle:
He argues that the drug laws violate the Equality Principle being that:
We have divided drugs into legal and illegal categories; there are no scientific or rational reasons that can explain why the drugs are divided this way (the illegal drugs are no worse a threat to the individual and society than the legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco);
It is also provable fact that in all cases a health-based approach towards users of drugs in either category is the most suitable and reasonable approach. This being so, the state’s irrational persecution of people who use illegal drugs equals a clear violation of ECHR Article 14, which prohibits discrimination of all kind.
Mikalsen argues that the drug laws violate the Proportionality Principle since they have not had any positive effect on the supply and demand of illegal drugs, but instead have caused many unintended and harmful consequences worldwide.
In short, he argues, the “cure” (drug laws) is worse than the “disease” (drug use) and this being so we have a clear violation of the proportionality principle, articulated in ECHR Articles 2.2, 8.2, 9.2, 10.2
Obviously this is a very interesting development in the area of drug policy.
For the first time ever the courts will consider the drug laws’ relation to Human Rights.
It is about high time, as more and more international experts and reports confirm our drug laws’ devastating effect on individuals and society.
It is also interesting that the state of Norway is the defendant in this case, being that the country has one of Europe’s most backward and least successful drug policies. Norway is one of the very few countries left who builds its policy on the idea of a totally drug-free society.
To pursue this irrational goal the state has enacted one of Europe’s most repressive drug laws; it has built up Europe’s biggest law enforcement apparatus (per citizen), harsh sentences, a huge police force, and high conviction rates (often based on no direct evidence) all of which has done nothing to help eradicate the drug problem.
Instead, the result of Norway’s war on drugs (or let’s call it by its correct term; war on drug users) has been a steadily increasing prison population, a steady increase in drug-related crime, and for 20 years now we have been at the top of Europe’s drug-death statistics.
The Norwegian authorities have pursued this policy for many decades now without regard for its consequences, and, as much as Mikalsen’s case proves, have gone so far as to actually repress the rule of law in order to keep these repressive and inhumane laws in place.
There has been an increasing trend globally in the direction of a more humane and sensible approach in the area of drug policy, but Norway’s politicians have not been willing to reconsider their their zero-tolerance approach.
This being so it is certainly interesting to see this lawsuit coming out of Norway. A verdict in Mikalsen’s favour will off course not only be a big problem for prohibitionists in this country. It will be the beginning of a wave of legalisation that soon will spread beyond Europe and the sooner drug policy professionals and activists become aware of this issue – the drug laws incompatibility with Human Rights Law – the sooner it will happen.
For too long the states have been able to defend the drug laws with moralistic portrayals that demonise and dehumanise drug users, even though it’s been clear for a long time that these laws are both counterproductive and harmful. These laws have not only corrupted society and given birth to the largest criminal network in the world, they also affect most severely the most vulnerable part of the population – the people that the Human Rights Law especially intend to protect.
This blog has been created in order to publicly release information about Roar Mikalsen’s case and keep you updated on its developments. Here you will also find copies of various documents and correspondence related to the case.
How can I help?
There are various ways in which you can help Roar and many others by helping to bring on a significant change of drug laws worldwide. The more attention this case gets and the more people get involved in pushing their human rights aspect of the drug laws on their respective governments, the faster change will happen.
You can contact Norwegian government officials and express your concerns about Roar Mikalsen’s unlawful imprisonment and being denied his basic Human Rights by being imprisoned without a fair trial. You can demand that he is freed until the case is taken up again by an independent, impartial and competent court. Here are some of the people you can contact:
The Norwegian Justice Minister:
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Contact your government representatives and let them know about the case. Ask about their position on drug policy and demand a radical change. Needless to say, they are paid with your tax money and are there to represent you.
The Norwegian King:
Det Kongelige Hoff
The head of Halden prison where Roar is being held:
Kriminalomsorgen Halden Fengsel