England vs. USA
September 10, 2001 11:23 PM   Subscribe

England vs. USA Over the death penalty. Initially I felt like saying "butt out" but America tends to get involved in other countries when our citizens are in trouble (like that kid in Singapore way back).
posted by owillis (7 comments total)
The Washington government is understood to be angry that the Foreign Office should choose to act on two Death Row cases involving American citizens who acquired British nationality only by an accident of birth.

Can someone explain this logic to me? Either they have dual British nationality, or they don't. Since these two do. then Britain at least has the right to get involved. I don't often agree with you owillis, but I think you're right in saying that the USA is usually quite agressive in protecting the rights of it's citizens overseas, so I don't think it has any cause for complaint here. Not that any external intervention is likely to save these two.

Please, can we not make this yet another debate about the death sentence itself, but to whether Britain has any right to get involved?
posted by salmacis at 12:42 AM on September 11, 2001

Personally I'd say that, regardless of how these people acquired their dual nationality, if British citizens are involved, then Britain not only has a right to get involved, but a duty as well.
posted by Nick Jordan at 1:03 AM on September 11, 2001

salmacis, I think that the fact it is a death sentence has a lot to do with whether Britain should get involved, so that fact cannot be ignored. I agree with the sentiment, though, that it would be more interesting to discuss international politics with local involvement rather than the merits of the death penalty.

My two cents: Britian has every right to defend these two; indeed, I think it would be helpful for every country without the death penalty to protest or try to intervene on any ruling for the death penalty by other countries. Perhaps, if enough attention, time and money is poured into making sentencing people to death not worth the cost (political or monetary) it will stop happening.
posted by Neale at 1:11 AM on September 11, 2001

> Please, can we not make this yet another debate about
> the death sentence itself, but to whether Britain has any
> right to get involved?

Then, for the sake of argument, change the crime.

Bank robbery. Does the UK have the right to intervene in a case involving a bank robbery committed on US soil by someone with dual US and UK citizenship?

Drug smuggling. Does the UK have the right to intervene in a case involving someone with dual US and UK citizenship who gets caught bringing heroin into the US?

In any case, the UK does have the right (and duty, as Nick Jordan points out) to intervene in defense of its citizens.

The problem is with dual citizenship. A US-only citizen who commits the same crime as a US-UK citizen cannot count on the UK government to step in on his behalf. The US-UK citizen can, however, count on receiving all of the same US benefits as the US-only citizen. Dual citizenship pits one government against the other and leaves the dual citizen in doubt as to which laws he must follow.

Mind you, I am arguing against dual citizenship, which doesn't seem like a big problem but does seem wrong; I am not arguing for capital punishment, which I am very much against. I do not want these guys to die.
posted by pracowity at 1:43 AM on September 11, 2001

Heh. If it's not through accident of birth, why the hell are any of us British?

I suspect the problem is that now that we finally have human rights enshrined in law, the government is worried that they could be prosecuted for not defending the rights of their citizens. And it's also good PR for an "ethical foreign policy" that has otherwise looked pretty much like business as usual.

Maybe even it's an excuse to kick the USA over something other than Star Wars, to deflect Tam Dalyell.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:28 AM on September 11, 2001

PS in case it's not obvious, that would explain why this is different to bank robbery/drugs - I think it's fairly widely accepted outside the USA that the death penalty is an unacceptable violation of human rights (just a statement of fact; I don't want to go down the is/isn't it path either).
posted by andrew cooke at 3:32 AM on September 11, 2001

If the men are British citizens, whether they hold dual American citizenship or not, then the British government can and should be involved in their case.

But does that mean that the men should be given special dispensation or protection from American law, because they are British? I'm not so sure about that.

Like the American kid, Michael Fay, who vandalised cars in Singapore in 1994, these British men will be tried according to the laws in the country where they committed their crime.

I do not condone the death penalty, but just questioning if their crime should be considered any less serious because they are not American/Singaporean/ a citizen of Country X?
posted by netsirk at 4:12 AM on September 11, 2001

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