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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…

Doubts Over Saudi-UK 'Assurances' on Juvenile Executions

Public execution in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia: Darkness at Noon

3 Saudi juveniles remain on death row, 1 year after the UK began seeking 'assurances' that they would not be executed. 

Abdullah Hasan al-Zaher, Ali al Nimr, and Dawood al-Marhoon were aged 15, 17 and 17 respectively when they were arrested for allegedly taking part in protests in the country's eastern province. All 3 face beheading after they were sentenced in the secretive Specialised Criminal Court, on the basis of 'confessions' they signed following torture. Last September, the death sentences of the 3 were upheld, and they could now be executed at any time. 

The UK has a close relationship with Saudi Arabia, and for the past year, the UK Foreign Office has sought regular 'assurances' from the Saudi government that the three would not be executed. Last month, Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood told Parliament: "our expectation remains that they will not be executed." 

However, the 3 juveniles remain on death row, and their families say that they fear the executions could go ahead without warning. Speaking to Channel 4 last month, Ali al Nimr's father, Mohammed al Nimr, said that his son was "waiting to be called" to the "execution square." 

Concerns for the 3 juveniles have been heightened by recent reports of other rights abuses in the country. Earlier this week, it was reported that the Saudi authorities had executed a member of the royal family for the 1st time in 40 years; while Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi, is said to be facing a new round of 'lashes' as part of a flogging sentence handed down for his criticisms of the government. 

The British government has so far stopped short of calling for the 3 juveniles' death sentences to be scrapped - something that other governments, such as France, have done. Human rights organization Reprieve has written to the Prime Minister, Theresa May, asking her to request that Saudi Arabia commute the sentences. 

In January this year, several juveniles were among 47 prisoners executed en masse in the Kingdom. They included Ali al-Ribh, a teenager from the Eastern Province who, like Ali, Abdullah and Dawood, was arrested in school in the wake of protests. Last week, a UK Foreign Office minister said that she was "horrified" by news of the mass execution. 

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director of Reprieve, said: 

"It's appalling that Ali al Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher and Dawood al-Marhoon could be beheaded at any moment for the so-called 'crime' of attending a protest. Saudi Arabia's 'assurances' that they won't execute these 3 boys count for nothing when the Kingdom has continued to behead juveniles and other prisoners, many of whom were tortured into bogus 'confessions.' Theresa May must call urgently for these death sentences to be scrapped."


Source: Reprieve, October 21, 2016

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