JUSTICE co-signs letter to the Prime Minister on the issue of the death penalty

The Howard League for Penal Reform has written to the Prime Minister to request a meeting over the UK government’s decision this summer not to seek assurances from the US government against the use of the death penalty.

The letter, which is co-signed by JUSTICE and other non-governmental organisations, lawyers and academics, was sent to Theresa May yesterday (Wednesday 10 October), which also was the World Day Against the Death Penalty.

The letter states: “The position of this country in opposing capital punishment is clear, principled and has been adopted by all political parties. This principle has manifested itself in policies not to extradite individuals without assurances that the death penalty will not be imposed, and it has led to successive governments imposing expert controls on the materials used in executions. It is therefore astonishing that the government has reneged on this stance on this occasion.”

The letter continues: “We note the statements made in the House of Commons by Ben Wallace MP on 23 July 2018 that in deciding not to seek death penalty assurances from the US government the UK consulted its Overseas Security and Justice Assistance Guidance (OSJA). The failure of the OSJA policy to prevent this kind of action suggests the policy is inadequate, and again highlights the question recently raised by the Home Affairs Committee as to ‘whether the Overseas Security and Justice Assistance guidance is fit for purpose’.

Mr Wallace’s statement and the lack of action to seek assurances against the death penalty call into question the UK government’s sincerity and integrity in upholding international human rights. It also strikes a blow in practical terms against efforts to eradicate the death penalty.

As a matter of principle we must respect and uphold human rights. The prohibition on the death penalty is absolute and there should be no circumstances in which the UK may be complicit in legitimising its application.This principle is universal and we seek an assurance from you that it will be applied in all instances, irrespective of the nature of the request for British assistance and irrespective of nationality, including in cases where the person in question is stateless.”

The letter has been signed by Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform and JUSTICE,  Amnesty International UK, Death Penalty Project and Liberty have also signed, along with Lord Carlile of Berriew QC and Ben Emmerson QC.

The letter has also been signed by six eminent academics: Professor Carolyn Hoyle, University of Oxford; Dr Bharat Malkani, Cardiff University; Dr Mai Sato, University of Reading; Professor William A Schabas, Middlesex University; Dr Lizzie Seal, University of Sussex; and Professor Jon Yorke, Director of the Centre for Human Rights at Birmingham City University.