£21m more for UK fund linked to death sentences

July 22, 2019

Image of hands hanging out of a prison cell

The UK government announced today that it has added £21m to the controversial Conflict, Security and Stability Fund (CSSF) – one strand of which has been linked to 350 death sentences in Pakistan.

The CSSF provides funding for overseas security programmes, including several in countries where the Foreign Office has identified a high risk of human rights abuses, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and Somaliland. In the 2018-19 financial year it was allocated £1.26 billion.

Earlier this year, The Telegraph revealed that The Counter Terrorism Associated Reforms Initiative (CAPRI), which is funded through the CSSF, assists prosecutions in anti-terrorism courts in Pakistan that have handed down more than 350 death sentences in the last five years. CAPRI is part of the Pakistan Rule of Law programme, which between 2018 and 2019 was allocated £9.32m from the CSSF.

In 2016, the then British High Commissioner to Pakistan claimed CAPRI was responsible for a tenfold increase in conviction rates in terrorism cases. Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) defines terrorism as any crime or threat designed to create a “sense of fear or insecurity in society.”

From 2013-19 – the period Britain has been funding CAPRI – at least 350 people have been sentenced to death under the ATA, while 68 people convicted under the law have been executed, according to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan figures compiled from publicly-available sources.

Reprieve is calling for stronger human rights safeguards on programmes funded through the CSSF, based on a strict prohibition of UK support where there is a real risk of torture and the death penalty.

The Government’s current system for assessing the human rights risks of such programmes, the Overseas Security and Justice Assistance Guidance (OSJA), has been widely criticised for being ineffective and lacking in accountability.

Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee has described as “totally unacceptable” the current lack of transparency around human rights assessments under the OSJA policy, and further queried whether the current framework is “fit for purpose”.

Dan Dolan, Reprieve’s Deputy Director, said: So far as we know, nothing has changed since it was revealed that public money is going into a programme that’s been used to sentence hundreds of people to death in Pakistan. Despite evidence risk assessments aren’t working, the Foreign Office is marking its own homework and assuring us everything is fine. We urgently need stronger safeguards and independent scrutiny in order to ensure UK funding does not continue enabling torture and the death penalty.

ENDS