Home Office refuses to admit responsibility for ‘aid for executions’

February 22, 2015

Image of a man tying a noose

The Home Office is refusing to disclose the part played by UK counter-narcotics funding in facilitating executions in countries such as Pakistan – even though a number of Brits have been revealed to be on that country’s death row.

The UK provides counter-narcotics funding to organisations such as Pakistan’s Anti-Narcotics Force – which has cited the number of death sentences it secures as a key ‘prosecution achievement.’ Reprieve has warned ministers that the funding amounts to public funds being used to support executions overseas, at odds with the UK’s long-standing policy of opposition to the death penalty.

In recent correspondence with legal charity Reprieve, which supports British citizens and others facing the death penalty abroad, the Home Office stated that the issue of counter-narcotics aid doesn’t fall under its remit, but rather that of the Foreign Office. However, in a Parliamentary answer earlier this month, minister Lynne Featherstone admitted that the Home Office has “lead responsibility” for international counter-narcotics policy.

Twenty-four people have been executed in Pakistan since December 2014, when the authorities began a new wave of executions. There are now fears that drug offenders on the country’s 8000-strong death row, among them a number of British citizens, are directly at risk of being executed.

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “Pakistan has the largest death row in the world, and is now actively executing prisoners – placing a number of Brits at risk. The UK Government has given a series of flaccid excuses for continuing to support anti-drug raids in Pakistan, which very often see drug offenders sentenced to death. Now that the Pakistani authorities are once again carrying out executions, the lives of these people and many others are in grave danger. If the UK is committed to ending the death penalty worldwide, why is British anti-narcotics aid supporting these drug convictions – and why won’t the Home Office admit responsibility?”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8160

2. Reprieve’s report into European counter-narcotics funding and executions is available here.

3. Reprieve’s correspondence with the Home Office on UK counter-narcotics funding is available on request.

4. The Parliamentary answer by Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone can be seen here.