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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…

UN rights office 'deeply concerned' about possible imminent executions in Gaza

Expressing concern about possible imminent executions in Gaza, the United Nations human rights office today urged the authorities in Gaza to uphold their obligations to respect the rights to life and to a fair trial and not carry out death penalty.

"We also urge the Palestinian President to establish a moratorium on executions in line with the strong international trend towards ending the use of the death penalty," said spokesperson Rupert Colville of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

He said that the office is "deeply concerned about recent statements made by the authorities in Gaza, including the Attorney General, of their intention to implement a number of death sentences, and fear that the first executions may be imminent."

The Gaza authorities' statements follow the demands of several families for the death penalty to be carried out against individuals accused of killing their relatives.

Death sentences may only be carried out in extremely limited circumstances, and pursuant to a trial and appeals that scrupulously follow fair trial standards, he said, adding that the office has serious doubts as to whether capital trials in Gaza meet these standards, and is concerned about reports indicating that these executions will be implemented without the approval of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which is required under Palestinian law.

Media reports indicating that the sentences could be carried out in public also raise alarm, as this is a practice prohibited under international human rights law, the spokesperson said.

Source: UN News Centre, May 26, 2016

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