UK overseas spending linked to 350 death sentences in Pakistan

April 15, 2019

Britain has assisted prosecutions in anti-terrorism courts in Pakistan that have handed down more than 350 death sentences in the last five years, it has been revealed in the Telegraph.

The Counter Terrorism Associated Prosecutorial Reforms Initiative (CAPRI) is a strand of the Pakistan Rule of Law Programme, funded through the UK Government’s Conflict, Security and Stability Fund (CSSF). From 2018-19, the programme was allocated £9.32 million.

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.”

The United Nations Human Rights Committee and Committee Against Torture have both expressed grave concern that the ATA provides for extended detention without trial, enables courts to try juveniles as adults, and eliminates safeguards against torture.

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.

Conservative, Labour and senior MPs have raised questions about the Pakistan Rule of Law programme, which cost the taxpayer £9.32 million in the current financial year.

James Gray, a Conservative MP, told the Telegraph: “It’s massively complicated and largely secret and I certainly wouldn’t want to swear in a court that I have the faintest idea where the money is going – I really don’t know. It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest to discover some of it may be going in the wrong place.”

Dan Dolan, Deputy Director at Reprieve, said: “What does it say about the UK Government’s human rights risk assessments that Ministers felt able to sign off on a programme that has helped sentence hundreds of people to death over the last five years? That the same broken system is being used to approve security assistance to countries such as Iraq and Egypt, where torture, summary trials and executions are widespread, demonstrates the need for urgent change. That these programmes are funded in secret, with no transparency or accountability, should appal British taxpayers.”