Sajid Javid proposes allowing ISIL individuals to be sent to the USA with the risk of torture and execution
UPDATE: 1 August. Article by Bharat Malkani in British Politics and Policy published by LSE which goes into the wider aspects of British policy in connection with executions on foreign soil.
UPDATE: 26 July. Following considerable protest over this decision, the government today announced a temporary suspension of the cooperation with the US over the case.
It has been widely reported today that the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, is withdrawing the long-standing objections the UK has had to sending people to the USA where they risk being executed. The USA is the only country in the Americas which still has the death penalty. We continue to document cases in our monthly reports.
The two individuals who are involved are Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, both from West London. They were part of a group of individuals from the UK who joined ISIS and allegedly perpetrated some dreadful crimes including beheadings. They allegedly murdered two US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning and aid worker and Iraq war veteran Peter Kassig. Investigations have been continuing for 4 years and the question has arisen of where they should be tried.
The UK government has a long-standing policy of opposing the death penalty abroad in all circumstances. It has also been active in trying to persuade those countries which continue to use it, to stop. Amnesty is opposed to the practice as it has a number of serious flaws. It is ineffective in preventing crime and it is not a deterrent. Mistakes cannot be put right. In the case of terrorists, it risks creating martyrs and spawning others who want to avenge the executions.
It is therefore particularly depressing to see our home secretary acceding to the request. The full text shows that it is because he believes a successful federal prosecution in the US is more likely to be possible because of differences in their statute book and the restrictions on challenges to the route by which defendants appear in US courts. In his leaked letter to Jeff Sessions, the US Attorney General, he says on the matter of sending them to the States:
[…] All assistance and material will be provided on the condition that it may only be used for the purpose sought in that request, namely a federal criminal investigation or prosecution.
Furthermore, I am of the view that there are strong reasons for not requiring a death penalty assurance in this specific case, so no such assurances will be sought. From the letter published in the Mail Online [accessed 23 July 2018]
The decision has received widespread criticism. Alan Howarth, the head of advocacy and programmes, at Amnesty International said:
This is a deeply worrying development. The home secretary must unequivocally insist that Britain’s longstanding position on the death penalty has not changed and seek cast-iron assurances from the US that it will not be used.
A failure to seek assurances on this case seriously jeopardises the UK’s position as a strong advocate for the abolition of the death penalty and its work encouraging others to abolish the cruel, inhuman and degrading practice.
Other criticisms have come from Shami Chakrabarti, Labour’s shadow Attorney General and Lord Carlile who said on the BBC the decision was extraordinary and:
It is a dramatic change of policy by a minister, secretly, without any discussion in parliament. It flies in the face of what has been said repeatedly and recently by the Home Office – including when Theresa May was home secretary – and very recently by the highly respected security minister, Ben Wallace.
Britain has always said that it will pass information and intelligence, in appropriate cases, provided there is no death penalty. That is a decades-old policy and it is not for the home secretary to change that policy. BBC Today programme 23 July 2018
There is also the question of the use of torture. Will either or both of them be sent to Guantanamo Bay to receive abusive treatment including water boarding? Coming so soon after a select committee roundly criticized the government for its role in torture and rendition, this is a surprising and disappointing development.
The full text of the letter can be seen here.
Sources: Amnesty; BBC; the Guardian; Mail on line
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