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

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…

Reflections on the 29 April 2015 Executions

Many of Reprieve Australia’s Executive Committee, including President Julian McMahon, worked on the Bali Duo cases. Below are Julian McMahon’s reflections on the anniversary of the executions.

At about 12:35 am on 29 April 2015 on the island of Nusakambangan, off the south coast of Java, in a little clearing in the jungle, 96 shots rang out in a huge sudden volley. Eight prisoners died, hopefully immediately. Quite a few people on the current board of Reprieve knew two of them personally, and some of us knew the majority of those shot. It was a tragic moment, and the reverberations of that volley of rounds are still being felt in many ways.

Most of all, the families of the shot prisoners suffer. In Australia, it is the families of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Long before the executions, questions of guilt and innocence, acceptance of punishment, reform and rehabilitation, generosity and helping other prisoners had been fully canvassed. But the harsh reality of the senseless brutality of state sanctioned, premeditated killing of prisoners tied to a wooden frame has been with the families ever since that night. Reformed sons, focused on helping others and making the prisons and prisoners better and more useful for society, had been shot.

This is not the occasion to analyse the whole affair. This week we need to remember that the death penalty continues, and last year significantly increased in numbers around the world. Many Australians became acutely aware of the injustices attached to the death penalty as they came to see in real depth the stories of Chan and Sukumaran.

Part of that story is the reflection from the families. Andrew Chan’s widow, Febyanti Herewila, recently wrote to us:

“If you are asking me what is his legacy…what is Andrew’s legacy…of course the first one is to abolish the death penalty. Second chance. People make mistakes especially when you are young like him. Give them a chance. Also Andrew wants the young people from around the world to learn from his life. Whatever decisions you make today it will determine your future. He wants all young people to learn from his life.”

We asked Andrew’s brother Michael for a few words, and he wrote:

“I would like to say that with the Anniversary of Andrew’s death which has been a roller coaster ride for the family to come to terms with the loss, there has not been a day that has gone by that he is not in our thoughts.

We have been blessed by the support from our Friends and Family who have gotten us through these tough periods would have been a lot tougher without them.

It saddens me that 1 year on and we are now talking about a 3rd round of executions in Indonesia. Countries need to look at ways to rehabilitate prisoners instead of executing them. We need to keep talking about this issue so we can abolish the Death Penalty for Good.

I know this was what Andrew wanted and also need to speak up for the rest of the people that are on death row so they can be heard.”

For our part, we will remember the anniversary of the executions each in our own way. May I suggest that on the morning of 29 April 2016, each of us spend some time reflecting on the good that came of the lives of those who were shot, the need for justice to be better served, the need for us all to do what we can to fight against pre meditated state sanctioned killings and the other injustices in our region.

Source: Reprieve Australia, Julian McMahon, President, Reprieve Australia, April 26, 2016. Reprieve Australia’s purpose is to end the death penalty globally, with a particular focus on death penalty cases in our region and on Australia’s actions abroad. Our work includes advocacy, litigation support, volunteer placements, and political engagement to continue progress towards abolition.

Un cyclone de souffrances
An open letter by Sabine Atlaoui

Sabine is Serge Atlaoui's wife. In the following letter published on her Facebook page, she recalls the final hours that she spent prior to the killings with the relatives of some of the prisoners executed on Nusakambangan island on April 29, 2015. Serge and Mary Jane Veloso narrowly escaped the firing squad that night, and are currently awaiting the outcome of pending legal procedures. Click here to Google translate this letter into your own language.

Serge Atlaoui, Sabine and their son Yasin
Serge Atlaoui, Sabine and their son Yasin
Le vendredi 24 avril 2015... Les mots dits ou écrits ne pourront jamais transposer toute la torture, la souffrance, l'horreur, la détresse de ce jour, de cette annonce, de ce compte à rebours: "L'Indonésie lance les «préparatifs» de l'exécution de Serge Atlaoui".
Ce jour, mon visa expirait. Il me fallait effectuer un aller-retour hors du pays avec notre fils Yasin. A Jakarta, j'ai pris l'avion avec Yasin tôt le matin, la crainte au ventre. Coupée de tout contact durant le vol, chaque seconde était un supplice... qu'on m'annonce que Serge avait été placé en isolement, que l'Ambassade soit convoquée à Nusakambangan et ne reçoive la notification des 72 heures... A mon retour à Jakarta, direction l'Ambassade, nous sommes restés des heures et des heures, tard dans la soirée... prêts à prendre de suite la route pour Cilacap... aucun message officiel, aucune notification... pas de convocation... Mais tout pouvait encore arriver...
Je suis arrivée à l'hôtel vers 5-6h du mat' avec Yasin. A mon arrivée, si tôt, je n'ai croisé personne. Je n'ai cessé de revivre ces derniers instants d'accolade avec la maman de Myu, avec Angelita m'accompagnant le jeudi à la gare, toutes partageant encore tous nos espoirs.. Nous ne savions pas encore que 24 heures après, dès ce vendredi 24 avril, l'annonce de la préparation des exécutions serait annoncée. Je les ai quitté ce jour-là pour reconduire mon visa avec tant d'Espoir, cet Espoir qui nous procurait tant d’énergie et de courage aux uns et aux autres. Je les ai retrouvé dévastés. Un cyclone de souffrances avait tout emporté. Je suis allée voir Angelita avant qu'elle ne partage, à nouveau, encore quelques heures avec Rodrigo. Son regard, ce regard, me transperce encore le cœur. On s'est prise dans les bras, les larmes coulaient le long de nos joues, brûlaient la peau de tant de souffrance, d'impuissance, d'incompréhension de tant de cruautés inhumaines de tant de tortures psychologiques, durant tous ces mois, toutes ces semaines, toutes ces dernières heures... Je revois ces instants lors de la messe pour Mary Jane. Je me rappelle cette révolte intérieure d'entendre résonner dans cette église ce mot exécution, la veille d'une mort programmée, face à sa famille, ses enfants...Ce fut d'une violence.. tenir cette bougie dans mes mains, serrer et embrasser ses enfants... Cette bougie, je l'ai toujours, non complètement consumée, elle s'est cassée, je ne sais à quel moment mais je me conforte à me dire qu'aujourd'hui, elle est le symbole de sa vie et non pas de sa mort.
Aujourd'hui, je revis, ressens chaque moment vécu auprès de ces familles et proches, ma vie, mon coeur, mon âme en sont imprégnés. Je continuerai, déterminée, à combattre pour mon mari, à combattre cette peine de mort pour tous ces condamnés tombés sous les balles de la barbarie, à combattre cette peine de mort pour toutes ces familles, ces proches, condamnés à vie de toute cette cruauté, cette sentence inhumaine, hypocrite. Je continuerai à dire, écrire, Amour, Courage, Espoir, pour crier à cette sentence, à ces bourreaux, qu'ils ne tueront ni mon humanité, ni mon cœur, ni mon âme, quoiqu'il arrive. Pour leur dire que je n'arrêterai jamais, que je reste déterminée à combattre pour mon mari, contre cette peine de mort, quoiqu'il arrive.
Sabine Atlaoui, 25 avril 2016
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