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To: Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
The British government must protect its citizens from the death penalty
Dear Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs,
Congratulations on your new appointment. Please use this opportunity to actively oppose the death penalty and protect the lives of British citizens abroad.
Please make sure that when British nationals are facing a death sentence and cannot access a competent lawyer, they can borrow the funds they need in order to defend themselves against the death penalty.
Why is this important?
A competent lawyer is key to avoiding a death sentence. One of the greatest challenges we face in our work is the absence of, or restrictions to, legal aid in certain jurisdictions. This means that the poorest and most vulnerable individuals cannot secure lawyers, are at far greater risk of being sentenced to death, and are then unable to appeal their sentences.
The British government opposes the death penalty and says it is pushing for worldwide abolition. Yet it is the only government in the western world willing to stand back and watch as its own citizens face the firing squad in a foreign country, refusing to loan citizens money, even when they have nowhere else to turn.
There are not many people in this situation, but the few who are are in countries without functioning legal aid systems. In these countries, death sentences are handed out for minor drug offences, blasphemy, or adultery. Trials are often unfair, and prisoners without lawyers are routinely tortured. A helping hand from our government could mean the difference between life and death.
We have long been appealing to the British government to step in and assist nationals facing the death penalty overseas, who have no other means of obtaining legal representation. Most abolitionist states - and a number of retentionist - step in to prevent their nationals from being executed by funding local lawyers. This means that their citizens' rights are upheld, and they are able to defend themselves when their lives are at stake.
The British government, too, must show that it is serious about opposing the death penalty, and about protecting its citizens abroad.