No. 10 refuses to back Javid in death penalty row

Number 10 have refused to back Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s decision to not seek assurances around the death penalty in the case of the ISIL ‘Beatles’.

British official policy on the death penalty is fairly clear - information and assistance will only provided with assurances that the death penalty will not be used.

But in his letter to the Americans, Javid reiterated this official policy and then wrote that:

“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.”

The move has been criticised by the family members of the accused’s victims, as well as human rights organisations like Amnesty International, who described the letter as a ‘huge backward step’. Their head of advocacy Allan Hogarth added:

“This is a deeply worrying development. The Home Secretary must unequivocally insist that Britain’s long-standing position on the death penalty has not changed and seek cast iron assurances from the US that it will not be used.

"While the alleged crimes of Alexanda Kotey and Shafee El-Sheikh are appalling, the UK's principled opposition to the cruelty of the death penalty isn't something it should compromise.

“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.

Shami Chakrabarti, Labour’s Shadow Attorney General, sounded the alarm bell on the news, adding that:

“Sajid Javid appears to have secretly and unilaterally abandoned Britain’s opposition to the death penalty. By doing so he is not just playing with the lives of these particular terrorists but those of other Britons – including potentially innocent ones – all over the world.

“Just as we should be persuading countries like the US and Iran to drop the death penalty, Sajid Javid appears to be encouraging this grave human rights abuse.”

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