LONDON — Theresa May’s spokesperson today repeatedly refused to say whether the prime minister supports a decision to overturn Britain’s longstanding opposition to the death penalty, in an extradition deal with the Trump administration.
The Home Secretary Sajid Javid dropped Britain’s policy of requiring assurances from the US that the death penalty will not be used, before agreeing to extradite the captured jihadists, Alexanda Kotey and Shafee El-Sheikh, to the US.
The decision, which was leaked to the Telegraph, breaks a longstanding UK policy of opposing extraditions in circumstances where individuals could face the death penalty.
Questioned by Business Insider, a spokesperson for May on Monday would only say that the prime minister was „made aware” of Javid’s decision but would not explicitly support it.
„The decision was taken by the Home Secretary and the former Foreign Secretary following the advice of lawyers and officials and the prime minister was made aware of the decision,” they said.
Pushed on why the decision had been taken by Javid and Boris Johnson, they replied:
„We are continuing to engage with the US government on this issue and our priority is to make sure these men face criminal prosecution. We want to make sure they face justice in the most appropriate jurisdiction, which maximises the chances of a criminal prosecution and we continue to talk to the US government about it.”
May’s government was on Monday accused of failing to uphold its commitment to human rights.
„The crimes committed by these terrorists are amongst the most heinous imaginable. Clearly, these two individuals present a serious danger to the public and the argument that they should spend the rest of their lives in prison is overwhelming,” Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said. „However, the use of the death penalty — no matter the crimes involved — is wrong. By refusing to stand up to Donald Trump’s administration on this issue, Sajid Javid has abdicated his responsibility to uphold fundamental human rights. He has undermined the UK’s efforts to end the use of the death penalty around the world.
A Downing Street source said the government would continue to engage with the US to make the UK’s opposition to the death penalty clear.