Reprieve responds to Monday’s FCO report on Britons in trouble abroad

August 26, 2009

Image of a shadow of a noose hanging on a cracked wall

22 British nationals now face execution abroad, says new Foreign Office report; Reprieve urges families to approach us for immediate assistance.

Reprieve believes the true number of Britons at risk of execution is even higher than that cited in yesterday’s report from the Foreign and Commonwealth office, with 27 Britons facing the death penalty and an additional 8 on death rows worldwide.

Reprieve urges the families of these prisoners to approach us for help immediately. It is imperative to their safety, particularly in countries with harsh or unfair judicial systems, to obtain independent legal advice, investigation and representation.

Reprieve’s Death Penalty director Sally Rowen says:

“Prisoners facing the death penalty abroad are often extremely frightened and disorientated; they no longer know who to trust, and their instinct is to refuse to sign any piece of paper that is waved in front of them by the authorities.

“This makes our job difficult; we cannot commence work on a case until officially authorised by the accused. That is why it is so important for families to encourage prisoners to sign our forms of authorisation.”“If there are British nationals charged with capital crimes who have not contacted Reprieve, I would urge them, their families or supporters to get in touch without delay. The pre-trial stage can often be the most critical, and it is essential anyone in that situation gets as much help as possible.”

Once authorised, Reprieve will make every effort to save the British citizen in question from execution and have them returned to Britain. They may then serve a term in a British prison, where they can be protected from abuse and torture, receive visits from friends and family and live in conditions compliant with human rights laws.

If a prisoner has been wrongly convicted in a ‘show trial’ abroad, we will fight in the British courts for their release.

Reprieve also provides practical and emotional support, not just to prisoners but to their relatives here in Britain as they face the inevitable frustration, uncertainty and financial difficulties inherent to having a loved one facing the death penalty.

Legal Director of Reprieve, Clive Stafford Smith says:

“Here at Reprieve we have the power to make a real difference in the cases of Britons facing the death penalty abroad – but only if we are enabled by the prisoners themselves do so.

“Embassies and consulates are often overstretched and understaffed – the fact that the Foreign Office’s figures are already out of date is a sign of the scale of this problem. Reprieve can provide much-needed resources and manpower in these cases.”


Notes for Editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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