LibLink: Sally Hamwee: The UK should never be complicit with the death penalty anywhere in the world

Yesterday Sally Hamwee wrote about why she and Labour were going to have a good go at amending the Government’s Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill to ensure that

In an article for Politics Home, she set the scene:

The UK has long opposed the use of the death penalty in other countries, and we have committed ourselves to the goal of abolishing it everywhere. We can do this by using our diplomatic influence, and also by refusing to help foreign governments with prosecutions that will result in someone being executed.

That has been longstanding government policy: the UK must get assurances that the death penalty will not be used before providing security and justice assistance to countries that still retain it. This clear policy is an important statement of Britain’s values. It is vital not only for preventing the use of the death penalty in the individual cases where we provide assistance, but also for strengthening our efforts to persuade all countries to abolish it.

Yet in July, we discovered that the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, had offered to assist the United States government in prosecuting two British citizens accused of carrying out executions for ISIL in Syria and Iraq, without seeking assurances that the death penalty will not be used. Even worse, he made that decision in secret. We only found out because his letter to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions was leaked to the Telegraph.

There is no doubt that terrorists should face justice, but that could be achieved in this case either by prosecuting them here, under British law, or by assisting the US authorities with their prosecutions – if they guarantee that they will not seek the death penalty.

So what can this Bill do about it?

The Government is seeking to give our courts new powers to require internet companies outside the UK to provide electronic data that law enforcement agencies need to investigate and prosecute serious crimes. This will only be possible with new international agreements between the UK and other governments.

These new agreements are good opportunity to enshrine our commitment not to assist in death penalty cases. That’s why my Liberal Democrat colleague Brian Paddick and I have been working with Labour peers to amend the Bill to require death penalty assurances as part of any future agreements on international data-sharing. It would remove the sort of ministerial discretion that was abused in the case we heard about in July.

And the good news is – they won and defeated the Government in the process.

You can read Sally’s whole article here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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