Will the “Beatles” soon come to the US for their really final farewell tour? According to The Telegraph, the UK has asked the US to take over prosecution of two ISIS terrorists with British citizenship allegedly involved in the torture and decapitation of several journalists, including Brits and Americans. They’d like to see them get the death penalty, a sentence not possible in the UK — and normally a bar to extradition to, and cooperation with, the US:
Britain has secretly abandoned its blanket opposition to the death penalty and Guantanamo Bay to allow two notorious members of the “Beatles” group of Isil terrorists to be sent to America, The Telegraph can reveal.
Documents seen by this newspaper reveal that the UK Government has agreed to hand over intelligence to help prosecute the captured jihadists Alexanda Kotey and Shafee El-Sheikh, who both held British citizenship, in the US courts.
In a letter sent by Sajid Javid to Jeff Sessions, the US Attorney General, the Home Secretary says that Britain will demand no “assurances” that the pair will not be executed in America.
CNN has more of Javid’s letter to Sessions, in which he explains that this does not represent a change in policy for the UK:
In the letter, Javid said he was willing to make an exception in the case of Kotey and Elsheikh: “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.”
“As you are aware, it is the long held position of the UK to seek death penalty assurances, and our decision in this case does not reflect a change in our policy on assistance in US death penalty cases generally, nor the UK Government’s stance on the global abolition of the death penalty,” the letter continued.
In other words, the Brits would like us to execute these two in particular, or at least give a US court that leeway, while still protesting that the leeway exists. If that seems hypocritical to anyone, it’s because that’s a valid takeaway — but there’s more going here, too. Americans thinking a pointing a finger on this might want to recall the “rendition” programs of the early war, however, when we turned over terror suspects to allies with considerably fewer restrictions on the use of torture than we normally employ. With that said, the Brits were among those who openly criticized the US for rendition too. Hypocrisy probably isn’t a winning argument.
Javid’s memo could just be a recognition that the UK likely won’t have much choice in the matter. Both “ISIS Beatles” are in the custody of US-backed Syrian militias at the moment, and their eventual destination was likely going to be the US anyway. Javid’s letter concedes that point and pledges to cooperate with their prosecution, regardless of whether the US seeks the death penalty in this case.
Theresa May has refused to endorse Sajid Javid’s position on the death penalty despite admitting she knew about a letter sent to the US which paves the way for two members of the “Beatles” group of Isil terrorists to be sent to America. …
She said there was no contradiction between the Government’s opposition to the death penalty and Mr Javid’s decision not to seek an assurance against execution.
She also said the decision had been made by the Home Secretary and Boris Johnson, who at the time was foreign secretary.
Asked if the Prime Minister had approved the letter, the spokesman said: “The decision was taken by the Home Secretary and the former foreign secretary and the PM was made aware of the decision but I would say it is everyone’s aim to make sure that these men face justice through a criminal prosecution.”
Frankly, it may not matter anyway. Javid and Johnson might have been better off making a formal protest and then dropping the matter, at least politically speaking, but this outcome was inevitable. The two alleged suspects murdered Americans and the US apparently has witnesses to their torture and murder. If true, we can try them ourselves and absolve the UK of any involvement in the trial’s outcome. Given the extremely graphic and public nature of the butchery perpetrated against American journalists, we’d have every right to demand that we try these suspects first since we have effective custody of them.
Therefore, this might be a favor done by our cousins across the pond in supporting the inevitable outcome, so let’s not hammer them for any apparent hypocrisy. Even those of us who normally oppose the death penalty as an outcome in domestic crimes can have some hesitation about it in the general case of war crimes, and specifically in the “ISIS Beatles” case.