UK government fights to keep links to Pakistan executions secret

By agency reporter
February 9, 2015

A case concerning whether the UK overnment should be allowed to keep secret evidence which could show it has contributed to executions in Pakistan will be heard on 9 February 2015 by the Information Rights Tribunal (IRT).

The legal charity Reprieve has warned ministers that, by funding organisations such as Pakistan’s Anti-Narcotics Force – which cites the number of death sentences it secures as a key ‘achievement’ – public money could be helping support executions overseas. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21155)

This is directly at odds with the UK’s long-standing policy of opposition to the death penalty. Reprieve has asked the Government what safeguards (if any) it has in place to prevent public money from funding executions in Pakistan, and what assessments it has carried out.

However, ministers have refused to provide any detail, beyond pointing to the existence of guidance on Overseas Justice and Security Assistance (OSJA).

The OSJA is a wide-ranging piece of guidance which requires ministers to consider whether UK support for policing and security operations could lead to complicity in serious human rights abuses, such as torture and the death penalty.

However, ministers have rebuffed Freedom of Information requests from Reprieve asking whether they had sought reassurances from the Pakistani authorities that UK support would not contribute to the imposition of death sentences for drugs offences. The questions have become more pressing since Pakistan lifted a moratorium on executions in December 2014.

The UK previously ceased funding to Iranian counter-narcotics programmes because of concerns that doing so was contributing to executions. Nevertheless, despite Pakistan resuming executions – and the country’s imposition of the death penalty for non-violent drugs offences – it has yet to take similar steps with regard to that country.

In addition, Reprieve says it has established that a number of people facing execution on drugs charges in Pakistan are British citizens.

Reprieve is also concerned by the UK government’s attempts to impose yet more secrecy on the process – insisting that the vast majority of the case is heard in secret, without Reprieve, the organisation’s lawyers, or even a government-appointed, security-cleared lawyer known as a ‘Special Advocate’ allowed to be present.

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/

* European Aid for Executions here: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/case-study/safe/

* Information Rights Tribunal (Ministry of Justice): http://www.informationtribunal.gov.uk/Public/search.aspx

[Ekk/4]

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