March 25 (UPI) -- The British Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the British government acted unlawfully when it decided not to pursue assurances from the United States that it wouldn't seek the death penalty for two Islamic State fighters.
The case concerns two British-born militants, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, known in some circles as the Islamic State Beatles. Kurdish fighters caught the two men in February 2018 during fighting in Syria.
The United States and Britain negotiated which country should prosecute the two men for terror-related crimes. The men were ultimately placed in U.S. custody in October.
But the British high court said Home Secretary Sajid Javid should have sought an assurance from the United States that it wouldn't consider the death penalty as a punishment for the men. Britain abolished the death penalty in 1998, but the United States still uses the form of punishment.
"The most fundamental of the rights protected by the European convention [on human rights] is the right to life. This is an absolute right, not qualified by the possibility of restrictions or interferences which are 'necessary in a democratic society,'" the judgment by Justice Brenda Hale read.
Elsheikh and Kotey are suspected of operating a four-man Islamic State cell that sought to abduct and kill Westerners, including American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
Their Syria cell drew the nickname "Islamic State Beatles" because it included four British-born members, the same number in the legendary rock band that emerged from Liverpool in the early 1960s.