Letter to The Guardian:
I totally agree with the robust conclusion of your second leader (“There is no justification for the death penalty- even jihadist barbarism,” Guardian, 24 July; https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/23/the-guardian-view-on-the-death-penalty-barbarism-by-jihadists-is-no-justification)
Indeed, in a timely correction to an earlier parliamentary answer, published on 23 July, foreign office minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, (HLWS868) made it clear that one part of the Government also agrees!
The minister explained that support for special criminal sessions in the High Courts of Sierra Leone “was only given on the understanding that any death sentences passed would not have been carried out, given the moratorium in place. We continue to lobby to abolish the death penalty…” (https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statements/?page=2)Compared to this clear position, the unconvincing verbal gymnastics deployed by the security minister, Ben Wallace, in the urgent question Q&A in the House of Commons on Monday on ‘foreign fighters and the death penalty’(https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2018-07-23/debates/9822FAE5-EB5E-4D3E-8E79-D951F7D82219/ForeignFightersAndTheDeathPenalty) are convoluted indeed. He took protective cover behind the provisions of the obscure ‘security and justice assistance guidance’ (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/overseas-security-and-justice-assistance-osja-guidance) for ministers, but refused several requests from MPs to publish the legal advice given to ministers on the interpretation of this guidance in this case.
The exchanges between critical MPs and the minister are aptly summed up in this wisdom disbursed by Lewis Carroll’s splendid character Humpty Dumpty:
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that's all.” (Through the Looking-Glass, chapter 6 https://www.bartleby.com/73/2019.html)