Pressure on UK over counter-narcotics funding and death penalty concerns

By agency reporter
November 18, 2013

The legal and human rights charity Reprieve has called on the UK to follow Ireland’s lead in stopping support for counter-narcotics programmes in Iran and Pakistan which lead to death sentences.

Last Friday (15 November), Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs announced that it was ending “funding to UNODC’s Illicit Trafficking and Border Management programme because of human rights concerns related to the use of the death penalty in Iran.”

Ireland had supplied approximately 600,000 Euros to Iranian counter-narcotics programmes – contributing to higher numbers of arrests and sentences in a country where more than three quarters of all executions carried out are for drug offences.

The UK has also contributed several million pounds to Iranian programmes and to similar operations in Pakistan – which also has the death penalty for drug offences, and one of the largest death row populations in the world.

However, the British Government has failed to attach conditions to the aid to ensure it does not contribute to the death penalty, despite Reprieve having raised the problem with them on several occasions. As a result, UK public money used to support counter-narcotics operations in Iran and Pakistan is contributing to death sentences handed down in those countries for drug offences, says the charity.

Following last week’s move by Ireland, which follows Denmark in ending such support, Reprieve has written to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to urge action on the part of the British Government to end “aid for executions.”

Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s Death Penalty Team said: “Britain is rapidly becoming isolated as the only country which thinks supporting the death penalty machines of Iran and Pakistan is acceptable. Hundreds of people have been sentenced to death in these countries in the last few years for non-violent drug offences – helped by millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money.

"It is worth remembering that both countries also have significant failings in their justice systems, including widespread problems with the use of torture. Britain could end this problem tomorrow by putting in place conditions on the aid that it cannot be used to support the death penalty – why are ministers refusing to do so?”

[Ekk/4]

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