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Alexanda and El Shafee's Story

In 2018, the UK government was criticised for agreeing to assist the US in prosecuting two men who were at risk of the death penalty. The US Government alleged that British citizens Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh were members of the Islamic State cell known as ‘the Isis Beatles’ and had committed executions of US and UK captives. Kotey and Elsheikh were captured in Syria by American forces and transferred to the United States. They denied the accusations but the UK Government stripped them of their British citizenship, which Kotey and Elsheikh said would make them stateless and put them at risk of torture.

The US asked the UK to help them prosecute Kotey and Elsheikh, and the UK initially agreed. Normally, if the UK helps another country with a case that could involve the death penalty, they will ask for assurance this will not happen but the Home Secretary at the time said he would not seek those assurances in this case. Elsheikh’s mother brought a case to the UK Supreme Court, who said the UK hadn’t done a proper assessment under the Data Protection Act to be able to transfer information. One judge, Lady Hale, said the UK could not transfer personal data to help a prosecution that could result in the death penalty because it breached human rights. The US then wrote to the UK and said they wouldn’t use information provided by the UK to seek the death penalty against Kotey and Elsheikh and if the death penalty was imposed, it wouldn’t be carried out. Both men were ultimately sentenced to life in prison.

Key information


Rights this relates to: 
Article 1, Protocol 13: Abolition of the death penalty

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