UK drug strategy raises human rights fears

(Reprieve) – The Government’s 2017 drug strategy could risk contributing to the death penalty for drug offences overseas, human rights organization Reprieve has said.

The UK’s new drug strategy, released today, commits the Government to “taking new action” overseas on counter-narcotics, in countries including Pakistan. The document says that new “capability building projects” will see the UK provide training in “enhanced investigation and prosecution practices”, in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Pakistan retains the death penalty for drug offences, in breach of international law. Reprieve has raised concerns that many on the country’s death row received unfair trials, with some being tortured into false ‘confessions.’ Pakistan reintroduced executions in 2014.

The UK Home Office has provided millions of pounds in support to the country’s Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), including during Theresa May’s tenure as Home Secretary.

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The ANF is responsible for arresting and prosecuting alleged drug offenders, hundreds of whom face death sentences. The ANF’s website boasts of securing death sentences, listing these among its ‘prosecution achievements’. In November 2016, the body’s Director-General announced that more prisoners had been sentenced to death on drugs charges, saying this indicated a “90 per cent success rate.”

Commenting, Maya Foa – Director at Reprieve said:

“The Government has today re-committed the UK to a failed international drug strategy that has seen taxpayer pounds used to support death sentences overseas. The Pakistani counter-narcotics police continue to sentence vulnerable drug mules and innocent scapegoats to death for alleged drug offences.

“Theresa May’s policy has enabled gross human rights abuses whilst doing nothing to reduce the flow of drugs to the UK. Ministers must urgently explain what steps they are taking to ensure that that public funds don’t lead to further death sentences and executions.”

This report prepared by Repieve.