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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…

Philippines would abandon 'serious' commitment if it revives death penalty - Amnesty International

Rodrigo Duterte
Rodrigo Duterte
Human right group Amnesty International on Friday said the Philippines would be abandoning international commitments if it pushes through with the plan to bring back the death penalty as favored by incoming president Rodrigo Duterte.

"It would be a shame on the Philippines," said AI vice chairperson Romeo Cabarde at a press briefing.

He said the Philippines is one of the countries at the forefront of the campaign against death penalty, having signed the Second Optional Protocol to the United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The protocol mandates state members to push efforts in abolishing the death penalty.

"We are appreciated globally because we are the 1st country in Asia to outlaw death penalty," Cabarde said. "Reviving it means there are serious commitments that we are abandoning internationally."

The death penalty in the Philippines was abolished under former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2006 with the signing of Republic Act 9346 or An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines.

The said law ultimately repealed Republic Act 7659 or the Death Penalty Law.

"What kind of face are we going to show to the rest of the world, having promised that we will commit to the eradication of death penalty and here comes a new leader who would impose it just because he wanted to curb criminality?" Cabarde asked.

"Hindi naman natin bababa ang krimen just because there is a presence of death penalty. It is not a deterrent factor to the commission of crime," he added.

Not a deterrent to crime

Cabarde also said some studies have already been conducted which disprove the belief that imposing death penalty would result in lower crime rates. He noted that when the Philippines still had the Death Penalty Law, the crime rate was higher.

"There is no logical connection, between imposing death penalty and reducing crime rates in the country," he said

Cabarde instead proposed that to solve the crime problem, the government must strengthen law enforcement, and improve its judicial system and the provision of basic social ecomonic needs.

"Kung ito naa-address natin, then we would not need death penalty," he said.

He added that the more Duterte pushes for the death penalty, "the more there is an implied admission that law enforcement, the judiciary is not working in the Philippines."

"Kung 'yun ang root cause kung bakit mayroong criminality, then I think we have to hit the target at its very root and not propose something that is proven to be ineffective," he said.

Amnesty International-Philippines board member Veronica Cabe echoed the sentiment, saying their group expects the incoming president to instead implement programs on economic, social and cultural rights.

Proposed plan of action

During the press conference, the group outlined their programs of action on human rights which the group plans to submit as proposal to Duterte.

The document outlines 4 major concerns of the group, all of which boil down to the protection of human rights.

Cabe said one key point they would want to raise is the strenghtening of the independence and mandate of constitutional bodies that ensure government accountability in safeguarding the rights of its constituents.

"In societies stricken with high levels of inequality, a leader who does not adhere to human rights principles can be a threat to justice and freedom," Cabe said.

The group also wants human rights be embedded in peace process and prevent the use of counter-insurgency measures to justify human rights violations.

"Change is coming"

Meanwhile, Amnesty International country chairperson Ritzlee Santos said Duterte should stand for his slogan "Change is coming" and truly deliver changes when it comes to human rights.

"We want that change to happen," Santos said.

"The human rights situation in the Philippines is in dire need of uplifting... We would like to ask the President to make human rights the top of his administration's [priority]," Santos added.

Source: gmanetwork.com, May 20, 2016

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