Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Sajid Javid and the fate of the Islamic State Jihadists

It has been disclosed that Sajid Javid, the UK Home Secretary, has allowed the extradition of two UK-based individuals who are accused of committing a series of murders while acting in support of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Contrary to convention, Javid did not gain the usual assurances that the suspects would not be subjected to capital punishment, which is allowed under US law.

Quite a few people have been asking why all the fuss over the fate of two men who have travelled to fight with a terrorist organisation and there is video evidence of them committing most horrible murder. If the Americans end up killing them after due process, who cares? 

Well, hang on there. All the fuss is about rule of law and not sympathy with young men who, most likely, have committed obscene criminal acts.  It is certainly not about support for terrorism, which I have been accused of while debating the issue online. 

Since the 1960s, the United Kingdom has given a free vote to MPs on the matter of capital punishment. Every time the subject has been raised for debate, the death penalty has been rejected by the nation’s sovereign body. The law of the United Kingdom rejects capital punishment. In addition, UK law does not allow for torture.

Owing to this, all people who are under UK law and are subject to extradition requests are not to be extradited if there is a possibility of them subjected either to capital punishment or torture. Previously, all extraditions have been subject to this proviso. As part of the European Union, this nation has agreed to object to capital punishment in all cases and, as a nation, we support the active campaign to oppose capital punishment on a global basis.

In not seeking the usual assurances from the Americans prior to extradition, Home Secretary Sajid Javid has overturned both EU and UK law on a whim. He may personally have no objection to seeing these two men executed by the Americans after due process but it is not his choice to make. The law of the UK does not allow for him to choose. He, and quite possibly PM Theresa May has, by decree, now stated that the death penalty and the fate of those the UK transfers over to the jurisdiction of others, is a matter of indifference. That indifference is effectively support for the death penalty. 

Upon hearing the news, I tweetedThe UK government is either opposed to the death penalty or not. One cannot use death as a penalty a wee bit. This Conservative government has shown its hand: it is pro-capital punishment. That is a disgrace for any civilised nation #R4Today

The hashtag #R4Today is a reference to the BBC Today Programme on Radio Four and allow other listeners on Twitter to follow listener reaction. I was kind of struck by the similarity of my point with that of the shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott who, was speaking in the Commons later the same morning.  “They [the Government]cannot be a little bit in favour of the death penalty. Either we offer consistent opposition or we don’t.”

Another critic pointed out to me that the two people have been stripped of their UK citizenship, the implication being that the UK no longer have an interest in their fate. That is not so either. First of all, the concept of making a person stateless may possibly contravene Article 15 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The government may argue that withdrawal of citizenship was not arbitrary but creation of individual statelessness as a result of criminal activity is legally dubious, especially without trial. Secondly, even if the two individuals have legally been made stateless, the Home Secretary has exercised authority over them and the rules he acts under is still that of the UK. 

Ultimately, this argument is all about the rule of law and whether the government can ignore it or can exempt people from it. That answer is simply no, it cannot. 

A critic opined whether I “would be still bleating the mantra if you were on your knees in the desert in an orange jumpsuit.”

I have two replies to this. First of all, it is the rule of law that ultimately stops governments acting in the same way as ISIS.

Secondly, it’s been a few years but I have worked in such places. My name has been down on proposals for work in Iraq. I have worked in the Middle and Near East, North Africa. Yes, there was security and in some places lots of it. Ultimately though, our best chance of remaining a decent society to uphold the rule of law, even for people we don’t like. Even for murderers and terrorists. 

Sajid Javid has put his personal morality above both UK and international law and, as a senior government member, has by executive decree, overturned both. That is why there is a fuss.