UK government may not know identities of those facing execution in Pakistan

By agency reporter
December 29, 2014

Questions have been raised over whether the UK Government is aware of the number and identity of British citizens on death row in Pakistan, in the wake of the re-start of executions in the country in the past fortnight.

On 19 December, Pakistan abandoned a moratorium on executions which had been in place for several years, in response to the terrorist atrocities in Peshawar. However, concerns have been raised by the UN and NGOs including the legal charity Reprieve that many of those now facing hangings had no connection with the Peshawar massacre or with terrorism at all.

They include a significant number of British citizens who are on death row in Pakistan following conviction for non-violent drugs offences. Research by Reprieve has found that the Pakistani authorities list six British nationals – five men and one woman – as being under sentence of death for alleged drugs offences. However, contact with the Foreign Office (FCO) has suggested that they are aware of the identity of just one of those individuals.

Reprieve has written urgently to Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to alert him to this apparent discrepancy and request clarification. The letter, sent on 19 December, warns that “it appears that the UK government may not know the identities of many of the [British citizens] who are currently on death row in Pakistan and may not therefore be in a position to help prevent their possible executions.” Reprieve has yet to receive a response from Mr Hammond.

Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s death penalty team said: “There is huge sympathy around the world for the horrific massacre which was carried out in Peshawar. However, hasty executions of masses of people whose crimes bear no relation whatsoever to terrorism – including those convicted of non-violent drugs offences – will do nothing to make the country any safer. It is alarming that Britain does not seem to be sure how many of its own citizens are at risk on Pakistan’s death row. The Foreign Secretary must urgently clarify this, and ensure assistance is provided before it is too late.”


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