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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…

Iraq: Execution of 31 piles injustice on top of bloodshed

The mass execution of 31 men in Iraq, which was announced yesterday, for their alleged role in mass killings in 2014 is further proof of the Iraqi authority's blatant disregard for human rights and misguided use of the death penalty in the name of security, said Amnesty International.

Local authorities confirmed to Amnesty International that they yesterday received the 31 bodies in Samarrah, Salah al-Din governorate, which were then transferred to the city's hospital for purposes of being collected by their families, who have commenced to do so. 

The executions took place on Friday, January 20, 2017.

The men, whose "confessions" were extracted under serious allegations of torture, were convicted following deeply flawed and speedy trials, over the killing of 1,700 military cadets at Speicher military camp near Tikrit in June 2014. 

The armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for those killings.

"This is the 2nd time in less than 6 months that the Iraqi authorities have carried out mass executions after unfair trials" said James Lynch, Head of the Death Penalty team at Amnesty International.

"The death penalty - the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment - is being used to create an illusion of security but it will only perpetuate the cycle of violence that is ravaging Iraq."

"Amnesty International has consistently condemned IS atrocities in the strongest of terms, including the heinous Speicher massacre. Victims of IS crimes have the right to justice and truth. However, unfair trials, torture and mass executions can never be considered justice."

"The Iraqi authorities must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty."

Source: Amnesty International, January 25, 2017

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