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UK: Javid signals a 'huge backward step' on death penalty with reported letter

Amnesty International UK has reacted with dismay to reports in the Daily Telegraph this morning (23 July) that Britain has abandoned its blanket opposition to the death penalty.

The daily newspaper has reportedly seen a letter sent by the British Home Secretary Sajid Javid to Jeff Sessions, the US Attorney General, saying that Britain will demand no “assurances” that the captured British citizens, and alleged jihadists, Alexanda Kotey and Shafee El-Sheikh, will not be executed in the US.

Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International UK’s Head of Advocacy and Programmes, said:

“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.

“At a time when the rest of the world is moving increasingly to abolition, this reported letter from the Home Secretary to the US Attorney General marks a huge backward step.

“The death penalty is a serious human rights violation and Amnesty opposes it in all circumstances.

“Capital punishment is the ultimate denial of life – it is always cruel and unnecessary, it doesn’t deter crime, and it means that rehabilitation is not an option.

“By refusing to seek assurances on this case, the Home Secretary is leaving the door wide open to charges of hypocrisy and double standards.”

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