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: Only 7 % of executions related to terror charges

Pakistan comes in a world ranking in executions
"After China and KSA, Pakistan comes in world ranking of executions."
Since Dec 2014, 426 criminals executed, mostly in cases unrelated to terrorism; after China and KSA, Pakistan comes in world ranking of executions in 2016

"Execution of convicted terrorists", the 1st point in National Action Plan, was included as a deterrent against the terrorists but only 7 % of the total 426 have been executed on the charges of terrorism.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) data shows that from December 2014 to November 2016, only 29 out of 426 people have been executed under the Anti Terrorism Act. Vast majority of the 426 executions carried out since the moratorium was ended for the death penalty in December 2014 has been for crimes unrelated to terrorism.

There is an ideological debate on the issue of execution in the country as one side believes the death penalty serve the purpose of deterrent against crimes. The other side claims that execution can never be a deterrent against the crimes and this could be justified through the crime data of western countries where execution is banned.

The legal and constitutional experts also believe there are legal shortcomings and serious problems in the criminal justice system. Therefore, they say under these circumstances the extreme punishment is unjustified and illegal.

Syed Nayyar Abbas Kazmi was one of person executed after the moratorium was ended for the death penalty. His number was 182 on the list of those who executed in year 2015 and was hanged on July 29, 2015 in Multan jail. He was charged in murder case and arrested in 1996. According to his family, they were in negotiation with the victim's family for settlement but before they reached any agreement he was hanged.

Talking to The News, Syed Naeem Abbas Kazmi brother of Syed Nayyar Abbas, a resident of a small village Kotla Haji Shah (Layyah), said he was 18 when he was jailed and spent 19 years in the jail.

"We tried a lot for settlement and were paying the blood money to the bereaved family. Initially they did not agree for the settlement but when he (Nayyar) spent more than 1/2 of his life in jail they agreed for the talks. We were almost in the middle of the negotiation but before we reached an agreement he (Nayyar) was hanged", commented Naeem Shah.

Soon after the terrorists attack on Army Public School Peshawar in December 2014, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressed the nation and announced a 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) whereof executing the terrorists was the 1st point.

In 2014, 7 people were hanged. All of them were executed on terrorism charges. 3 of them were involved in attack on General Musharraf. Dr Usman, the mastermind of GHQ attack and 3 other persons were accused of suicide attack on Musharraf's convoy.

Similarly, 333 people were hanged in 2015, out of which 15 were executed on the charges of terrorism whereas the remaining 318 were hanged on murder charges. 3 out of the 15 have been hanged on the charges of attack on Musharraf. 3 have been charged for highjacking PIA plane whereas 4 people have been hanged on the charges of attack on Army Public School Peshawar.

From January to November 2016, total 86 people have been executed, out of which total 7 were hanged on the charges of terrorism. More than 90 % of the execution occurred in jails of Punjab province. According to the data obtained from Justice Project Pakistan, a local NGO, 46 persons have been hanged in Faisalabad,39 in Rawalpindi, 52 in Lahore, 10 in Karachi, 25 in Multan, 31 in Sahiwal, 33 in Bahawalpur, 4 in Mirpur, 9 in Jhang, 2 in Peshawar, 6 in Jahlum, 7 in Harripur, 5 in Sukkur, 1 in Larkana, 14 in Gujranwala, 13 in Sargodha, 19 in Attock, 6 in Toba Tek Singh, 17 in Mianwali, 7 in Mach, 16 in Gujrat, 9 in Vehari, 17 in Sialkot, 2 in Haiderabad, 9 in DG Khan, 6 in Kasur, 11 in Kohat and one in Teemer Graha.

Chairman Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Leader of the House in Senate, Senator Raja Zafarul Haq, while commenting on the execution says, Islam teaches to avoid awarding death penalty at first place and it should be applied as a last resort.

"Sometimes perceptions and human errors cause to make mistakes therefore awarding death penalty should be avoided. This is such an extreme punishment which cannot be overturned so easily keeping our criminal and justice system in view. We have seen many cases when people are wrongly executed. Because of having no influence and lack of resources they could not challenge the verdict at the level of apex courts. This is the reason Islam has asked to avoid awarding extreme punishment as 1st choice," Raja Zafarul Haq remarked.

"Though there is a proper system of punishments for any crime in Islam but these penalties are used as last resort. For instance there are 12 or 13 precautions which needed to be checked before awarding sentence of cutting hand of a thief. Similarly death penalty is even the extreme punishment which should be avoided unless it is necessary. There are many other ways to control the crimes and bring reforms in the society. The punishment should be awarded keeping justice system and course of evidence in view", he commented.

"We need to review the capital punishment law and bring changes in it accordingly keeping our criminal justice system in view," recommended Raja Zafarul Haq.

Analysis of the official data of Lahore High Court for the year 2014 shows that total 1105 execution petitions were instituted across the province whereas 458 petitions were pending from the previous years. The courts disposed of 988 (63 %) execution petitions whereas 575 (37 %) remained pending for the next year.

Similarly, the same year 1456 new cases were instituted in anti-terrorism courts whereas 380 cases were pending from the previous years. The courts disposed of 1400 (76 %) cases whereas 436 (24 %) cases remained undecided.

According to the Justice Project Pakistan's data, after China and Iran, Pakistan has become the 3rd ranking country in terms of executing people. In 2016, there is no exact data of executions in China, but 57 people hanged in Iran whereas Pakistan has executed 86 and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 93.

The data further shows that till 2013, Pakistan has the largest death row population in the world as total 8,568 were waiting for death penalties. According to JPP's data, total 800 prisoners on death row in Pakistan were tried as 'terrorists'. In 86% of these cases, there was no link to anything reasonably defined as 'terrorism'. Hence, the 'terrorism' cases represent more than 1 in 10 of Pakistan's death row in the figures from 2012. However, this is now estimated to be as high as 30% whereas in the province of Sindh the figure is as much as 40 %. It is pertinent to mention here that there are currently over 17,000 pending 'terrorism' cases in Pakistan

Barrister Sarah Belal, director Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) believes executions can never serve as deterrent against crimes. This could be justified while analyzing the crime data of entire world as crime has no relation with hanging someone.

"Our criminal justice system is full of problems. We have problems in investigation system; there is capacity problem in our police department whereas bribery and political pressures further add to the miseries of the people. How can we execute a person when the criminal justice system is problematic? Therefore first we need to take measures to improve the system and then think about executing the criminals", commented Barrister Sarah.

The government officials on the other hand have a totally different perspective on the death penalty. They claim that policy of execution has proven effective as deterrence against terrorism. According to the official statistics the number of terrorist attacks has decreased from 1,823 in 2014 to 1,009 in 2015. Fatalities from attacks have also decreased from 1,761 in 2014 to 1,081 in 2015.

Source: The News, December 14, 2016

Death penalty: LHC rejects appeals of 7 military court convicts

The Lahore High Court dismissed on Tuesday the appeals of 7 militants convicted by military courts in cases of targeted killings.

An LHC division bench comprising Justices Shahid Mahmood Abbasi and Shahid Mehmood Sethi dismissed the writ petitions of the 7 convicts associated with proscribed organisations after going through the record of the military court's proceedings and arguments presented in-camera by the federal government.

The military courts had awarded death penalty to Sabir Shah, Abdul Rauf, Awais Gujjar, Suleman Pathan, Rafiullah and Sheikh Farhan, but the heirs of the convicts challenged their sentences before the high court.

On behalf of the appellants, Advocate Ali Zia Bajwa argued the trial of the convicts was under way in anti-terrorism courts when their cases were shifted to the military authorities from Kot Lakhpat jail. Neither the convicts were allowed to meet their families nor given a chance to engage a counsel to defend themselves before the military courts, he added.

The counsel contended the families of the convicts only come to know about the military courts' decision through a press release issued by the military's media cell. He requested the court to set aside the conviction by the military courts and acquit the petitioners.

The LHC judges, however, rejected the appeal.

Model Town inquiry

The Lahore High Court has dismissed the petition filed by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) seeking the public release of the judicial inquiry into the Model Town carnage.

On Tuesday, an LHC full bench dismissed the plea for making the yet-to-be-released report a part of the religio-political party's private complaint pending in an anti-terrorism court.

Through its complaint, the PAT seeks the trial of prime minister, Punjab chief minister and others on charges of killing 14 party workers in a standoff with Lahore police on June 17, 2014.

PAT's counsel Rai Bashir Ahmad argued the Punjab government with mala fide intention restricted the publication of the report of the inquiry held by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi.

He said if the report became a part of the ATC proceedings, it would strengthen the statements of the witnesses.

The lawyer asked the bench to dismiss an order of the trial court and order it to make the inquiry report a necessary part of the proceedings on the complaint.

Minhajul Quran Administration Director Jawwad Hamid had filed the petition against dismissal of their application by the ATC.

The LHC bench headed by Justice Muhammad Yawar Ali dismissed the petition, announcing a reserved verdict.

Source: The Express Tribune, December 14, 2016

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