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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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To cope with his dread, John Kitzhaber opened his leather-bound journal and began to write.
It was a little past 9 on the morning of Nov. 22, 2011. Gary Haugen had dropped his appeals. A Marion County judge had signed the murderer's death warrant, leaving Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, to decide Haugen's fate. The 49-year-old would soon die by lethal injection if the governor didn't intervene.
Kitzhaber was exhausted, having been unable to sleep the night before, but he needed to call the families of Haugen's victims.
"I know my decision will delay the closure they need and deserve," he wrote.
The son of University of Oregon English professors, Kitzhaber began writing each day in his journal in the early 1970s. The practice helped him organize his thoughts and, on that particular morning, gather his courage.
Kitzhaber first dialed the widow of David Polin, an inmate Haugen beat and stabbed to death in 2003 while already serving a life sentence fo…

Juvenile protester was among Saudi mass-execution victims, new information shows

Public executions in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Public executions in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
A protester who was under 18 at the time of the alleged offenses for which he was convicted was among the 47 people executed in a single day in Saudi Arabia earlier this year, research by international human rights organization Reprieve has found.

Ali al Ribh was arrested while at school on February 12th, 2012 due to his involvement in activities calling for reform between February and October 2011 – when he was just 17 years old.

Ali – whose date of birth was December 2nd, 1993 – should therefore have been treated as a juvenile by the Saudi legal system. His execution on January 2nd this year was a breach of the absolute prohibition on the execution of juvenile offenders, and illegal under international law. The Saudi authorities did not inform his family of the execution and are keeping the location of his burial secret.

Ali’s execution will raise concerns about the position of other juveniles convicted for protest-related offences in the Kingdom. Dawoud al Mahroon, Ali al Nimr and Abdullah al Zaher remain under sentence of death for alleged offences which took place when they were aged 17, 17 and 15, respectively.

The British Government has said that it has raised their cases with the Saudi authorities and does not expect them to be executed. However, Reprieve is calling for renewed action in light of the fact that the Saudi authorities have executed at least one juvenile protester already this year.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve said: "Ali al Ribh's tragic case shows that the Saudi authorities are quite happy to execute juvenile protesters if they think no one is looking. Ali was seized by police at his school and subsequently executed, even though he was a child when the alleged protest offences were committed.

"Abdullah al Zaher, Ali al Nimr and Dawoud al Marhoon - all of whom were sentenced to death as children - remain imprisoned and could be executed at any time, without warning. Until the Saudi Government officially commutes their sentences, the sword will continue to hang over their heads. Britain must redouble its efforts to convince the Saudi Government to commute Abdullah, Ali and Dawoud's sentences – and those of any other juveniles facing execution – before it is too late."

Source: Reprieve, January 24, 2016

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