British aid money is simultaneously being spent on lobbying countries to overturn their death penalty laws, and to assist Pakistani forces in capturing drug smugglers, who face capital punishment if caught.
Tanzania, Belarus, Nigeria, Kazakhstan and South Sudan and China are all among countries being targeted by £740,000 worth of spending on campaigns to end capital punishment.
Meanwhile, £5m a year is currently being handed to Pakistan’s antinarcotics forces to help train and equip their officers.
It’s a situation that sends “really contradictory messages,” Maya Foa of the charity Reprieve, said, adding: “It is a scandal that British public money is being used to help Pakistan send non-violent offenders to the gallows.”
Labour peer Lord Lipsey told The Times: “This is not what we in parliament vote an aid budget for. It is not what the British taxpayers think their aid taxes are going on. Campaigning on political issues is not what the aid budget is for.”
Among the aid projects are £50,000 spent to achieve a “step by step” abolition of the death penalty in Morocco, £30,000 to harangue Malaysian MPs into overturning the death penalty for drugs offences and £25,000 towards an initiative run by a Swiss socialist local councillor, targeting Indonesia, Malawi and Sierra Leone.
One of the most expensive projects was £70,000 spent on holding a “dialogue with judges” to encourage them to understanding of international standards and obligations about the death penalty. Department papers do not stipulate which countries were involved in the dialogue.
At the same time, 100 drug criminals languish on Pakistan’s death row. Five of them are British, one of whom is a woman.
According to a diplomatic source: “The UK has raised at the highest level of the government of Pakistan its concerns about the principle of the use of the death penalty and the lifting of the moratorium on executions, and continues to urge Pakistan to ensure due process and adherence to international obligations.”
Despite widespread opposition to the spending, the Prime Minister David Cameron has stuck to his guns over a pledge to spend 0.7 percent of GDP as overseas aid. Consequently department officials are under constant pressure to find ways to spend the £12 billion a year target, which has now been enshrined in law.
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said last night: “It remains our longstanding policy to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. This is a strong example of the promotion of British values to the world.
“Only 22 states carried out an execution in 2014. UK work has contributed to this success. For example, following FCO-sponsored dialogue with British judges, China has just reduced the range of offences which attract death sentences.
“There have been no executions in Pakistan as a result of UK counternarcotics co-operation. We continue to review the situation as we have always done. The UK and Pakistan have a shared interest in working together to tackle organised crime including the trafficking of drugs, which is a threat to both our societies.”