Europe Funding Executions for Drug Offenses in Iran, Pakistan: Report

A new report has revealed Europe's dark role in funding executions for drug offenses in Pakistan and Iran. 

The report by the legal charity Reprieve -- titled European Aid for Executions -- highlights how, since 1985, nearly $60 million has been given by European states in counter-narcotics aid to Pakistan and Iran to try and combat the flow of heroin from these countries to the continent. Of this amount, the UK has contributed just over half.

See our interactive map "Drug Offenses and the Death Penalty."

Funding from these countries is channeled through the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and has typically gone toward equipment, training programs and fostering intelligence sharing. However, as Reprieve states:

Despite many European countries' pledges to ensure counter-narcotics aid does not enable human rights abuses, performance targets attached to such funding frequently end up encouraging capital convictions.

In the last 15 years alone, at least 3,353 people have been executed in Iran for drug offences, while some 111 have been put on death row in Pakistan for drug-related crimes. The latter has a death row population of over 8,000 people, though currently has a moratorium in place for the death penalty.

As the two graphs taken from the report show (below) there is a clear correlation between European counter-narcotics funding and the trend in death sentences and executions in Iran and Pakistan.

Trials in many of these cases fall short of international standards and minors can face the same harsh punishment, as was seen this year with the execution in Iran of 15-year-old Jannat Mir from Afghanistan for drug trafficking.

Due to more than 10,000 people being executed in Iran for drug offences since 1979, a number of countries have now stopped funding their counter-narcotics programs. However, Pakistan still receives high levels of aid from many countries, including the UK whose "five-year strategy" to end the death penalty worldwide ends next year. As Maya Foa, the director of Reprieve's Death Penalty Team, stated:

Despite grand commitments to end the death penalty worldwide, Britain has given millions of pounds to corrupt and repressive police forces then turned a blind eye as they have used the money to pack their death rows full of drug offenders. Astonishingly, British aid has frequently come with targets which end up encouraging death sentences and executions. Britain’s aid for executions breaches the Government’s own human rights rules and makes a mockery of its commitment to fight capital punishment abroad. The only way to end this costly and untenable hypocrisy is to place proper conditions on counternarcotics aid which stop it enabling death sentences.

This hypocrisy is true of not only the UK, but also Denmark, Ireland, Germany and Sweden, among others detailed in the report.

Reprieve concludes with recommendations that any future counter-narcotics funding be conditional on "a commitment not to sentence people to death for drug offenses," and that the EU work toward constructing a motion for the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs "to defund all UNODC supply-control programmes in countries which maintain the death penalty for drug offenses." 

Europe knows full well the consequences of their actions in these countries, but seemingly places a primacy on tackling the heroin trade over securing human rights around the world.