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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…

Pakistan sets execution date for ‘insane’ prisoner

Authorities in Pakistan have handed down an execution warrant to a death-row prisoner who is severely mentally ill. 

Pakistan's interior ministry today handed down a so-called ‘black warrant’ confirming that it plans to hang Imdad Ali, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, next Wednesday (2nd). Mr Ali was sentenced to death in 2008 over a shooting, following several years in which his family struggled to pay for medical treatment. Since then, a series of medical assessments have confirmed his illness, with one doctor describing him as “insane”, and saying that his condition is “chronic and disabling.”

Despite this, last week saw Pakistan’s Supreme Court dismiss an appeal by Mr Ali’s lawyers, commenting that schizophrenia is “not a mental disorder.” This afternoon, authorities at the jail where Mr Ali is held confirmed that a warrant has been issued for his execution on November 2nd. 

The execution of mentally ill people is prohibited under Pakistani and international law, and today’s development comes amid mounting criticism of plans to hang Mr Ali. UN human rights experts have called on the government to halt Mr Ali’s execution, while the UK's Foreign Office has said it is “very concerned” about the case. A group of Pakistani psychiatrists has also urged the authorities to commute Mr Ali’s sentence. Over 20,000 people have signed a petition calling on Pakistan’s President, Mamnoon Hussain, to grant mercy to Mr Ali.

Under international law, the President has a duty to review death penalty cases. Article 45 of Pakistan’s Constitution grants the President powers to “grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute” death sentences.

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director at Reprieve, said: “It’s appalling that the Pakistani authorities are pushing ahead with their plans to execute Imdad. Experts agree that Imdad is severely mentally ill – meaning his hanging would be a grave breach of Pakistani and international law, and an indelible stain on Pakistan’s reputation. It is the President of Pakistan’s constitutional duty to review death penalty cases and to use his power to grant mercy in cases such as Imdad’s – where not to do so would result in a gross, irreparable miscarriage of justice. The President must use his power to pardon Imdad, and prevent this outrage from going ahead.”


Source: Reprieve, October 26, 2016. Reprieve is an international human rights organization.


Imdad Ali, a severely mentally ill prisoner in Pakistan,
is at imminent risk of execution

There's no time to lose: Imdad Ali, a severely mentally ill prisoner in Pakistan, is scheduled to be executed at dawn on Tuesday (November 2nd) after the Supreme Court ruled that his execution could go ahead despite prison doctors confirming that he has severe paranoid schizophrenia. The Supreme Court argued that the execution could proceed because paranoid schizophrenia is "not a mental disorder".

Imdad Ali's mental health deteriorated in the years prior to his arrest over a 2002 shooting, but his family was unable to afford the treatment which could have prevented the tragedy. Imdad's delusions are so severe that he is not even aware that he is about to be executed.

Reprieve's supporters already helped to temporarily postpone Imdad's execution once while the Supreme Court considered the case, but now that his appeal has been rejected, Imdad once again faces the noose at dawn on Tuesday. The execution of the mentally ill is contrary to both Pakistani and international law.

Executing a man so ill that he can understand neither his crime nor punishment is not justice. Only the Pakistani government can now stop this grave injustice – so please sign our petition calling on President Hussain to halt the execution of this severely mentally ill man.

Take Action Now!
Click here to sign Reprieve's online petition


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