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…

Pakistan executions threaten trade status, warn EU lawmakers

Click here to sign Reprieve's online clemency petition
European Union politicians have warned that Pakistan’s preferential trade status with the EU could be under threat from an executions drive in the country that has seen over 400 people hanged since 2014. EU trade delegates are due to visit the country on Monday (31st) – two days before the scheduled hanging of a severely mentally ill prisoner.

Officials from the EU who oversee Pakistan’s special ‘GSP plus’ trade status with Europe will visit Pakistan from Monday next week to assess whether the government has honoured its obligations under the scheme, which including abiding by certain human rights standards. The visit takes place in the week that Imdad Ali – a prisoner who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia – is to face execution, on Wednesday (2nd). Government psychiatrists have confirmed Mr Ali’s illness, concluding that he is “insane.” The execution of mentally ill people is prohibited under Pakistani and international law.

In a letter sent earlier this month to Pakistan’s President, Mamnoon Hussain, members of the European Parliament from 10 countries – including the UK, Germany, Spain, and Italy – wrote that they are “deeply troubled that Pakistan became one of the world’s top-5 executioners in 2015”. Their letter urged Pakistan to reconsider its use of the death penalty, adding: “Given Pakistan's recent assurances regarding effective implementation of its obligations under 27 international conventions, we trust you will share our concerns regarding the imposition of the death penalty... As you know, effective implementation of these conventions is a requirement under the GSP+ scheme.”

Pakistan has hanged an estimated 418 people since a moratorium on executions was lifted in December 2014, and those executed have included vulnerable people such as juveniles, people who were tortured into signing fake ‘confessions’, and the mentally ill. Figures collated by human rights organization Reprieve and the Justice Project Pakistan show that 94% of prisoners who were recently executed had no links to terrorism – despite a repeated claim by the Pakistani authorities that executions are designed to combat militancy.

In their letter, the MEPs criticise Pakistan’s government for its use of “the ‘fight against terrorism’ to defend the use of the death penalty”, saying that Pakistani officials had repeated these claims during a public hearing on Pakistan’s trade status at European Parliament’s trade committee in February this year.

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director at Reprieve, said: “It’s shocking that the Pakistani government is planning to execute a severely mentally ill man, even while European trade officials are visiting the country to monitor Pakistan’s commitment to human rights. Imdad Ali is so seriously ill that he doesn’t even understand that he faces the hangman’s noose. EU officials visiting Pakistan next week must make very clear that Imdad’s execution would be a grave breach of Pakistan’s international obligations – they must urge the President to grant mercy to Imdad, before it’s too late.”

  • The MEPs letter to Pakistan's President is available on request.
  • Government psychiatrist Dr Tahir Feroze has told Reuters: "I have been treating this man for the last eight years, and there is absolutely no room for doubt in this that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia."
  • More information about Imdad Ali is available on the Reprieve website.

Source: Reprieve, October 29, 2016. Reprieve is an international human rights organization.

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