Clegg drug stance ‘undermined by aid for executions’
March 4, 2015
Nick Clegg has been challenged to explain his support for UK-funded drug raids in countries such as Pakistan, which can lead to death sentences for ‘mules’.
In a Guardian article published today, followed by a press conference, the Deputy Prime Minister condemned the “vast police, criminal justice and military resources” wasted on UK drugs policy, which he described as an “abject failure”. However, in recent correspondence with human rights organization Reprieve, Mr Clegg has defended continuing UK aid for Pakistani anti-drug operations, where those caught are sentenced to death.
The UK has provided more than £12 million to Pakistan’s Anti-Narcotics Force, which has cited the number of death sentences it secures after anti-drug raids as a ‘prosecution achievement.’ One week before Pakistan resumed executions late last year, Mr Clegg wrote to Reprieve defending the assistance, claiming that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had assured him that no executions would take place. However, a total of 24 prisoners, out of an 8,000-strong death row population, have since been hanged in Pakistan.
Since then, Mr Clegg has maintained that the UK funding to that country will continue, based on Pakistan’s claim that it only plans to execute “terrorists.” However, at least two people not convicted of terror offences have now been hanged, and there are fears that drug offenders could also soon be in line for execution.
The UK and countries such as Denmark have previously withdrawn similar aid to Iran, with Denmark concluding in 2013 that “the donations are leading to executions.”
While Mr Clegg has led the government’s public response to the issue, recent questions have also been raised over which department has overall responsibility for it. The Home Office has said to Reprieve that the issue is a matter for the Foreign Office, but last month Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone appeared to contradict this stance, telling Parliament that her department took “lead responsibility” for the policy.
Commenting, Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:
“Nick Clegg’s positive rhetoric is undermined by his dogged defence of British funding for Pakistani drug raids, which routinely end in death sentences for those caught. The death penalty for drug offences is the sharp end of the failed war on drugs, yet Mr Clegg has stuck by the Home Office’s counter-narcotics programme as it has helped send hundreds to death row – including British nationals. If his words on the war on drugs are to have any kind of credibility, he must stop toeing the Home Office line on UK aid for executions, and refuse to fund drug raids in countries that maintain the death penalty for these offences.”
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8160
2. Reprieve’s recent report into European counter-narcotics funding and executions, including Denmark’s assessment of anti-narcotics aid to Iran, is available here.
3. Reprieve’s correspondence with Mr Clegg and the Home Office is available on request.
4. Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone’s comments in Parliament can be read here.