INCB: Czech drug dealers exploiting Internet, mobile phone boom

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A new report released on Wednesday claims drug dealers in the Czech Republic are making full use of new communications technology such as the Internet and mobile phones to facilitate the supply of illegal drugs in the country. The report was published by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), an independent body which overseas the implementation of United Nations drug conventions. Andreas Nicklisch is the director of the United Nations Information Centre in Prague, and he told my colleague Rob Cameron more about the report's findings.

"The Internet, I think, is instrumental in amateurising the whole scene. You no longer need connections; you no longer need special resources; you no longer need special know-how. You just write 'cannabis', 'ecstasy' and get a multitude of websites which give you recipes, which give you the source of suppliers, which give you the addresses of other like-minded people, and which facilitate tremendously the way in which you can act in this scene. Mobile phones can be a means of rapid communication between dealers. If you use the normal telephone the police would have the possibility of eavesdropping on you and controlling this a little bit better. This is now totally withdrawn from their control because dealers use these pre-paid cards, which are anonymous and therefore untraceable. So, in that way, mobile phones play a large part and, in particular, it seems in the Czech Republic, because the Czech police have made a point of reporting on the situation."

The Czech police, as we know, do not have much access to computers or the Internet. Do you think, really, they can ever catch up with this technology boom that the dealers seem to have?

"They could catch up and the INCB has recommended the creation of certain inter-agency cyber-units, which hopefully would be at least as equipped as the criminals are. And also the Czech Republic, I think, is seeing a boom not only in personal computers and in Internet access on a personal level, but also in the Internet access of the authorities."

I am not sure how far you can comment on the Czech Republic's individual drug legislation, but many people would say that the police's new enhanced powers in prosecuting the possession of "larger than small amounts of drugs" has just not worked at all. It hasn't done anything. It has sent 16-year-olds and 18-year-olds to prison for having a bit of hash on them, which many people say is just plain wrong. Do you think the Czechs are going in the right direction to introduce greater repression?

"I think the fact that narcotic drug use and possession is prohibited is in conjunction with the international drug conventions. That does not mean though that you have to throw these people in prison. There are alternative ways of dealing with them: putting them in classes and warning them there is a whole range of alternative ways of dealing with them, and I think that can be applied. But the legislation as such, I think, is correct to prohibit use, which gives the police an instrument to deal with the situation. Before you just couldn't deal with it."

For more information about the INCB, visit their website: http://www.incb.org