Whitehall confusion over ‘aid for executions’ as Brits face Pakistan gallows

February 24, 2015

Image of a man tying a noose

The Government has been urged to end UK support for Pakistani drug operations that lead to death sentences, after an admission by the Foreign Office (FCO) that it does not know the identity of two British citizens facing execution after UK-funded drug raids.

The FCO confirmed Pakistan’s refusal to disclose the pair’s identity through “off the record sources” on Tuesday, after investigators at the legal charity Reprieve noted disparities between death row figures supplied by the British and Pakistani Governments.

Pakistan’s failure to pass on the identity of the two British nationals, believed to be drug offenders apprehended in UK-funded counter-narcotics raids, could constitute a violation of the country’s obligations under international law. Responding to Reprieve’s enquiries on the issue, Foreign Minister Tobias Ellwood admitted that identifying Britons on death row in Pakistan “presents a challenge”.

The admission follows criticism this weekend of the UK’s decision to continue funding Pakistan’s Anti-Narcotics Force, which lists the 112 death sentences it has secured as “Prosecution Achievements”. The UK has provided more than £12 million to the controversial agency.

In response to concerns that the money is supporting executions for drug offences overseas, the FCO has sought to rely on the existence of a human rights policy document which apparently sets out steps to ensure British aid and assistance doesn’t contribute to human rights abuses abroad. Asked whether they had followed the steps, the FCO would neither confirm nor deny.

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 people convicted of drug offences on the country’s 8000-strong death row, among them a number of British citizens, are at risk of being executed.

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said:

“The British government claims to be anti-death penalty, yet its aggressive counter-narcotics policy appears to be actively encouraging capital convictions and potential executions for drug offences. This is hypocritical and untenable. The British government should change its position immediately, and ensure that its counter-narcotics aid is strictly conditional on an end to the death penalty for drug offences.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

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

2. Reprieve’s 2014 report into European counter-narcotics funding and executions is available here.

3. Reprieve’s correspondence with the Foreign Office is available on request.