Britain Home Secretary Sajid Javid is being accused of taking “the power of life and death into his own hands” over his plan, made in secret, to allow the United States to bring to trial and potentially sentence to death two terrorism suspects who were British citizens.
The Guardian reports that Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh are Islamic State members who authorities believe committed war crimes of kidnap and torture, murder, or conspiracy to commit murder. The two men were captured in January by Kurdish fighters and are being held in Northern Syria.
There is no death penalty in the UK, and the policy there has been not to extradite capital cases to the United States because of the possibility defendants will be sentenced to death. And, as the Guardian reports, “The decision was revealed without parliamentary debate and only through a leak.” The situation is complicated by the fact that both men have been stripped of their British citizenship.
The paper says Javid’s “decision to suspend the normal approach of demanding a ‘death penalty assurance’ could put the UK’s principled opposition to the death penalty in jeopardy.”
Kotey and Elsheikh are accused of being two of the “Isis Beatles,” a group of four British citizens who allegedly joined the terrorist organization and executed high-profile western captives, beheading them on tape, and posting the videos on the internet.
The Guardian also reports that Amnesty International has denounced the plan and quoted the group’s head of advocacy and programs as saying, “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.”