Stop Aid for Executions

Families of those who have faced the death penalty for drug offences speak out against European aid for executions.

The death penalty for drug offences is the ‘sharp end’ of the global war on drugs: a practice that disproportionately harms the vulnerable, sustains entrenched forces of crime and corruption, and entirely fails to change a disastrous status quo.

All states within the EU have made the campaign for worldwide abolition of the death penalty a foreign policy priority, but many of these states actively perpetuate the death penalty for drug offences by aiding and assisting aggressive anti-drug raids in countries which execute alleged drug offenders – including Iran and Pakistan. States in this position include the UK, Italy, Germany, France, Denmark, and Norway.

Reprieve’s European Aid for Executions report recently revealed that European taxpayers’ money has enabled more than 3,000 brutal executions in Iran and at least 112 pending death sentences in Pakistan. These links have been established by comparing the specific counter-narcotics programmes supported by European donors in Iran and Pakistan, the timings of their contributions, and recorded death sentences and executions.

European Governments have provided more than £45 million worth of aid and assistance to aggressive law enforcement operations in Iran and Pakistan which have directly led to death sentences. This funding has gone toward expert training for anti-narcotics agencies, the establishment of border offices where drug mules are frequently arrested, and equipment used for pursuing alleged drug carriers (including body scanners, sniffer dogs and night vision goggles).

hangingEuropean support of this nature is overseen by the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Although the UNODC is opposed to the death penalty for drug offences in principle, in practice its programmes end up encouraging capital convictions by setting drug agencies performance targets such as “an increase in drug seizures and corresponding increase in arrests”. Projects measuring success by increased numbers of arrests, convictions and size of seizures risk increasing the number of death sentences handed down under Iranian and Pakistani judicial systems, where sentencing codes set out harsher punishments for larger seizures.

European aid for executions fails to achieve drug policy goals and undermines Europe’s commitment to worldwide abolition of the death penalty.

Reprieve is calling for all such aid and assistance to be made conditional on the states which receive it abolishing the death penalty for drug offences. For more information, download Reprieve’s report European Aid for Executions.

British Examples

KhadijaOne of the most recent victims of European aid for executions is Khadija Shah, a 27 year old British woman who was arrested in Islamabad airport in May 2012. Khadija, who was heavily pregnant at the time of her arrest, was imprisoned in the infamous Adiala Jail in Pakistan. Her two young children (aged 4 and 6 years old) were incarcerated with her for four and a half months before being released into the care of their grandmother and allowed to return to Britain. Khadija herself was let out of the prison for just one day to give birth, and returned immediately to the notoriously unhygienic Adiala Jail, where she and her newborn baby girl have remained since.

Khadija, a vulnerable young mother, was ultimately given a life sentence.

Cases like Khadija’s are common and show just how flawed the UK’s current policy on counternarcotics aid is. Instead of targeting the masterminds behind the global drugs trade, British aid money serves to facilitate the arrests and executions of the most vulnerable and abused.

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