News   /   Human Rights

UK grants funds to Pakistan in return for death sentences: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (AFP photo)

British taxpayers are paying for a boom in capital punishment in Pakistan, a new report has shown, amid claims that London is forcing Islamabad to increase its executions of alleged terrorism suspects without international standards being carefully observed.

The Observer said in a report published on Saturday that Britain’s Foreign Office has been granting financial support to civilian courts in Pakistan in return for their increased use of capital punishment against suspected terrorists.

The report said more than 10 million pounds have been spent on a program called Capri, which stands for Counter Terrorism Associated Prosecutorial Reforms Initiative, and focuses on Pakistan’s legal ability to deal with terrorism. Most of the funds have been allocated to Pakistani civilian courts that prosecute terrorist suspects, said the report.

According to a parliamentary report issued last week, the aim of the project, which began in 2016, has been “to increase Pakistan’s civilian capacity to investigate, detain, prosecute and try terrorists in line with international standards and human rights norms”.

However, rights campaigners are concerned that courts in Pakistan have failed to observe the international standards in their UK-sponsored trails against terrorism suspects. They say many of the courts, in fact, have imposed death sentences on offences that do not deserve execution. That raises suspicions that the courts merely aim to receive the financial support from the UK.

Campaigners working for Reprieve, a UK legal charity, said courts in Pakistan have issued death sentences for kidnappers despite bans in the international law which stipulate that only murder should be compensated with execution.

Others have criticized the courts in Pakistan for ignoring due-process safeguards for issuing death sentences that are required by international law.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has also slammed Pakistan’s “broad definition of terrorism” which imposes death penalty on any crime or threat designed to create a “sense of fear or insecurity in society”.

The report said a total 59 people have been sentenced to death in Pakistan since the start of the British project two years ago.

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