Koley and Elsheikh, Islamic State’s Beatles duo: Should they receive the death penalty or life imprisonment?

Koley and Elsheikh

Alaxanda Koely and El Shafee Elsheikh, referred to as Islamic State’s ‘Beatles duo’ may be facing trial for murder in the US. Koley and Elsheikh worked alongside another UK citizen, Emwazi (aka Jihadi John who was killed in a drone strike in Syria in 2015) with Islamic State in Syria where they guarded, tortured and killed hostages the group held. This included the killing of US citizens James Foley and Stephen Sotloff and the UK aid worker, Alan Henning that received high profile media reporting due to the gruesome videos the cell recorded of their beheading by Emwazi.

Javid

Koley and Elsheikh were captured early 2018 in Syria by one of the freedom fighter groups and handed over to US authorities in the area. The question to determine is where they will be tried for the murders they were Invovled in. On the 23rd July 2018 the UK Home Secretary, Sajid Javid has written to his US counterpart suggesting prosecution of the two men in the US would be the best course of action, adding, controversially, the UK would not insist against the death penalty for these two men.

ECHR logo

Why it is controversial is because since 1965 the UK abolished the death penalty for murder and in 1998 when the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was enshrined into UK law through the Human Rights Act 1998, the death penalty for treason, piracy and arson of the Queen’s dock yards (basically the Royal Navy’s dockyards) was also abolished. As such extradition of persons from the UK to the US will only be on the basis those extradited will not receive the death penalty. We saw this with the extradition of the Islamist preacher Abu Hamza, a decision supported by the European Court of Human Rights who held the extradition did not violate Hamza’s right to a fair trial (article 6 ECHR) and because he would not receive the death penalty so preserving his right to live (article 2 ECHR).

The difference with the extradition of Koley and Elsheikh is that under section 2 Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, they were stripped of their British citizenship under a temporary exclusion order from the UK. It is this legal issue that has led to Javid informing the US that there are ‘strong reasons for not requiring a death penalty in this specific case.’

The UK Labour Party’s shadow attorney general and former head of the group Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti to see this move as a ‘grave human rights abuse’. is this really the case? This is potentially a one-off extradition and as many have posted on social media sites there is little or no sympathy for Koley and Elsheikh as they had no regard for the human rights of those they tortured and killed. This is an understandable response. Rather than claiming a grave human rights abuse will occur, it is preferable to request that neither men receive the death penalty as it will take away the potential for Islamists to  claim that Koley and Elsheikh are martyrs, should they receive the death penalty. This will remove any potential propaganda Islamist groups will use as they distort the truth. If found guilty in a court of law it is better they receive life sentences being left to spend the rest of their lives in prison. Perhaps Javid could consider this as an option should Koley and Elsheikh be tried in the US.

My terrorism book cover

The law in this area can be found in my book ‘Terrorism: Law and Policy‘ published by Routledge this year.

Australian Extreme Far Right Group Antipodean Resistance: Should it be Proscribed Like National Action in the UK?

antipodean resistance

The rise in prominence in nationalist politics has created an environment allowing extreme far right groups to feel more confident and able to express publically their views and beliefs. In Australia One Nation is a right wing nationalist political party that has a number of elected politicians in both state governments and in Australia’s federal government, including its founder and leader, Pauline Hanson. In essence One Nation is an anti-immigration and anti-Islam party, exemplified by Pauline Hanson’s recent theatrics in the Senate when she attended a session dressed in a burqa as part of a protest against Islamic women wearing the garment. Some of the most prominent Australian far right groups includes Aryan Nation, Combat 18, National Democratic Party for Australia, Soldiers of Odin and United Patriots Front. Formed in late 2016 and one of the more recent extreme far right groups to emerge in Australia is Antipodean Resistance. The group is clearly influenced by the national socialist ideology and appears to be inspired by the UK group National Action (who is now a proscribed group in the UK). Looking at their website, to date most of their activity appears rather innocuous as they have been involved in is placing stickers and posters at various locations such as universities, churches and other public buildings. While many groups are clearly anti-immigration or anti-Islam, Antipodean Resistance make it clear that are also anti-sematic, homophobic, racist, anti-multiculturalism and have no time for liberal democratic principles. The articles and news items on their website make this very clear, as seen in an article ‘Being White is Not Enough’ posted in July 2017 that says:

‘There are many, many poor quality or degenerate evil whites in the world. White people can be race traitors, selfish capitalists/communists, rapists, paedophiles and faggots … White men have dropped the ball. We’ve let Jews, non-whites, feminists and degenerates run our nations to the ground.’

antipodean resistance 1

In their latest news bulletin on their website, Antipodean Resistance have attacked the latest journalists’ reporting of their activities and politicians who have equated Antipodean resistance to Islamist based terrorism saying:

‘All reasonable people reading through their nonsense should be able to see the ham fisted attempt at equating any form of legitimate nationalism as terrorism … The problems we as a society face won’t go away with MORE liberalism, MORE state oppression or MORE non-whites. Our society will only start to become healthy with a strong dose of FACISM and nothing else.’

Antipodean Resistance are very open as to the conditions one must meet to join the group. An applicant must be white and living in Australia with ‘blacks, Asians, Jews or mixed abominations’ prohibited along with white people who are in a relationship with a non-white as ‘racial treason cannot be tolerated’. As they brand themselves as the 21st century Hitler Youth, an Antipodean Resistance applicant must be in their teens or twenties, free from serious physical or mental disabilities and must not be a homosexual.

antipodean resistance poster 1antipodean resistance poster

There are calls for Antipodean Resistance to be proscribed as a terrorist organisation. While to date the group have only posted stickers and posters, Antipodean Resistance claim to radicalise their followers at radicalisation camps where they also deliver combat and survival training to its followers. Federal Labour MP, Anne Aly, who worked in counter-terrorism and radicalisation prior to her election, would like to see Antipodean Resistance and similar groups be proscribed as terrorist and violent groups. She says by Australia focusing on the jihadist threat it is missing a very real threat as Antipodean Resistance is about violence and hatred, not about expressing opinions in a civil debate. As the group’s ideology is about killing people, it only takes one person for a terrorist attack to succeed.

The Link between the UK’s National Action and Australia’s Antipodean Resistance

National Action 2
Formed in 2013, National Action see themselves as political radicals not extremists. They promoted themselves as a non-violent organisation, yet actions by their members and those influenced by their narrative suggests otherwise. National Action openly admit to being national socialists, following a contemporary version of the Nazi ideology and actively encourage young people to join them. In their statement of what they represent, regarding the use of violence National Action state they:

‘…only advocate legal violence, i.e. through the Law. Our ultimate aim of a white Britain can only ever be achieved through state power and the complicity of state institutions; Police force, Army, Intelligence Services, etc.’

national action 5

However actions by the group’s members contradicts this position and is one of the key reasons why in December 2016 the UK government proscribed them as a terrorist organisation. Prior to their proscription National Action’s early activity was similar to that seen with Antipodean Resistance that included posting stickers and posters at various locations, including universities in an attempt to recruit members from the student population. What appears as an innocent activity belied the vitriolic intolerance of others and the violence contained in their ideology. This was seen in National Action’s website (that has been taken down since their proscription) that contained phrases such as ‘gas all traitors’ and ‘fight for your country’, which some of its members took literally. Evidence of the latter can be seen in the professionally produced National Action videos that were posted on their website and on YouTube where one consistently hears comments by National Action spokesmen inciting and glorifying violence. An example is the video National Action produced in January 2016 filmed in Newcastle and posted on YouTube where the National Action speaker says, ‘A war is brewing. … And we fight’ and a couple of members then attack a black man who was playing a saxophone.

zak davies

How this self-professed non-violent group’s ideology is influencing its members to commit violence is exemplified with the conviction of one of its members, Zack Davies who in June 2015 was convicted of the attempted murder of a Sikh, Dr Bhambra. This was an unprovoked attack on Dr Bhambra who was shopping at a supermarket when Davies attempted to decapitate him. During the attack Davies shouted racist remarks and had with him a National Action flag. When asked by the police why he carried out the attack, Davies said it was because Dr Bhambra was an Asian. In January 2017 a 17 year-old teenager from Bradford who was a member of National Action was arrested prior to National Action being proscribed and convicted of making a pipe bomb, but not of the offence of preparing an act of terrorism. During his trial it was revealed that he idolised Hitler and saw Thomas Mair, who killed UK Member of Parliament, Jo Cox, as a hero, posting on Facebook, ‘There is one less race traitor in Britain thanks to this man.’
Impact of Proscription on Extremist Groups

Impact of Proscription on Extremist Groups

Since National Action became proscribed as a terrorist organisation the impact this has had on investigations into the group’s activities has already had some impact as there have been a number of arrests made in the UK under the Terrorism Act 2000. In two separate investigations, one led to four members of the British Army being arrested on the 5th September 2017 under section 11 Terrorism Act 2000, being a member of a proscribed organisations, the second led to eleven people being arrested under section 11, five of whom are suspected of funding terrorism and six suspected of preparing acts of terrorism against individuals.

ns131

Recognising that proscription of far right groups can result in them going underground as they become increasingly covert in how they carry out their activities. It is also recognised that proscription will not stop a group from carrying out attacks as seen currently with Islamist groups and nationalist groups such as the New IRA in the UK. That said, proscription allows the security services and the police to investigate them under the wider powers provided by terrorism legislation. With groups like the far right, their organisers can try to avoid coming under terrorism legislation by breaking up and morphing into new groups as National Action have done with the names Scottish Dawn and NS131 (National Socialism Anti-Capitalist Action). Once found they too can be proscribed which, having laid an Order in September 2017, the UK government is currently in the process of doing.

Returning to Australia, while its far fight group activity has been relatively minor from holding protests to posting stickers and posters at public buildings, especially where a group espouses the national socialist narrative like Antipodean Resistance, the Australian government should seriously consider taking a hard legislative line. They only have to look at the UK where in its formative years National Action carried out similar action. As they have based themselves on National Action, Antipodean Resistance’s rise in activities can be nipped in the bud by proscribing the group.