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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…

Mauritania must quash the death sentence against blogger

Mauritania must quash the death sentence handed down to a blogger for apostasy and release him unconditionally, Amnesty International said today, ahead of his appeal court hearing in the south-western city of Nouadhibou tomorrow.

Mohamed Mkhaitir, 33, was sentenced to death in December 2014, after a year in pre-trial detention, for writing a blog that criticized those who use Islam to discriminate against certain groups in the society. 

It is the 1st time the death sentence has been imposed for apostasy in Mauritania since the country gained independence in 1960.

"The death penalty should not be used in any circumstances, the sentencing of Mohamed Mkhaitir to death for writing a blog that criticized those who use religion to discriminate is unjust and it shows how far the Mauritanian authorities will go to try and stamp out dissent", said Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International West Africa researcher.

"The Mauritanian authorities must quash the death sentence and immediately and unconditionally release him."

Mohamed Mkhaitir is a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for the peaceful expression of his right to freedom of expression. 

Amnesty International considers the use of penal sanctions to compel religious belief is a violation of international human rights law, particularly the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, to which Mauritania is state party.

The organization opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime. The death penalty violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and it is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Source: Amnesty International, April 20, 2016

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