The White House and the State Department both dodged questions today about whether the U.S. government agrees with Jordan’s decision to hang two terrorists this morning.
Both had already gone through the judicial process and were waiting on death row. One was the female would-be suicide bomber ISIS tried to trade for pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh — after, it seems, he had already been murdered.
In D.C. yesterday, Jordan’s King Abdullah was on fire about taking out the Islamic State. The early morning executions and increase in sorties are the first steps in the kingdom’s retribution.
But the condemnations for Jordan are already coming.
“While all efforts must be made to counter terrorism and hold the perpetrators accountable, our reaction to the threat posed by (Islamic State) needs to be consistent with our common values on justice and the rights of prisoners,” European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement today. “Our action has to be guided by the respect of international human rights law and humanitarian law. The European position against death penalty remains unchanged and we believe capital punishment does not serve any deterrent purpose.”
“The Jordanian authorities are rightly horrified by this utterly reprehensible killing but the response should never be to resort to the death penalty, which itself is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program. “The death penalty should also not be used as a tool for revenge. The IS’s gruesome tactics must not be allowed to fuel a bloody cycle of reprisal executions.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said they saw reports about the executions.
“These were individuals who were sentenced to death and were serving time on death row. And then we did see reports that their executions were carried out overnight,” Earnest told reporters today.
“For questions about the circumstances of their confinement or the decision to move forward on the execution, I’d refer you to Jordanian authorities, who can provide a great deal more insight into the Jordanian justice system, frankly, than I can.”
When press on whether the White House shares the EU’s criticism, Earnest replied, “Again, you know, for questions about — about that specific situation, I’d refer you to Jordanian authorities.”
State Department press secretary Jen Psaki, presented with a similar question, said “we stand behind the people of Jordan.”
“The government of Jordan is an important partner. This was a vile murder of a brave Jordanian that will only serve to steel the international community’s resolve to destroy ISIL,” Psaki said.
“In terms of the actions, we are aware of the death sentences, of course, being carried out. These individuals, I would remind everybody were — had gone through a judicial process, were both convicted al Qaeda-connected terrorists, who had been sentenced to death long before Feb. 3. Beyond that, I don’t have any further comment.”
In offering his condolences for the “grisly murder” of the Jordanian pilot today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a reminder of the hangings the world should be concerned about.
“In the Islamic State of ISIS, they burn people alive; in the Islamic State of Tehran, they hang them from cranes in the public squares. Both are motivated by an extreme ideology of militant Islamic terrorism that has a cruelty that is unbounded,” Netanyahu said.
“But the greatest danger to the future and the security of the world is that this extremism will be backed up by nuclear weapons. This is something everyone must oppose.”