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…

Two men in Indonesia's Aceh province face up to 100 lashes for gay sex

Public caning in Indonesia's Aceh province
Medieval: Public caning in Indonesia's Aceh province
Indonesia’s Aceh province was allowed to implement Sharia law in 2014. 

Public canings like the one in the photo on the left of a man accused of adultery have been staged ever since. Now two men accused of gay sex could become the first to face a lashing.

The Associated Press reports that neighbors identified the men, both in their early 20s, as a gay couple. And a disturbing video online allegedly shows the moment when a group bursts in on the two naked men in a room, blocking the door, as one man frantically calls for help on a cell phone. 

The men could face 100 lashes with a cane, because even though Indonesia does not criminalize homosexuality, Sharia law does. 

Indonesia has been lurching toward religiosity. A story last year in The New York Times warned of an impending antigay crackdown that spreads outside of Aceh. There were reports of “Islamic vigilantes” who searched boarding houses for gays and lesbians.

The Williams Institute in March looked at the economic effects on Indonesia of its anti-LGBT culture and placed the potential loss anywhere from $900 million to $12 billion. A more precise estimate isn’t possible because of the lack of data about LGBT people in the country. But discrimination penetrates into health care, employment and in everyday safety. 

Human Rights Watch has been warning of rising danger in Indonesia for years. Most recently, the groups sent a letter to French President Francois Hollande asking him to confront Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo during a Southeast Asian tour in March. There's no report that Hollande raised the issue.

“Since taking office, President Jokowi’s rhetorical support for human rights has yet to translate into meaningful policy initiatives to address the country’s serious rights problems,” they warned. The group specifically called out attacks on LGBT people. “Beginning in January 2016, high-ranking Indonesian officials made a series of vitriolic anti-LGBT pronouncements, giving rise to increased threats, intimidation, and violence against LGBT activists and individuals, primarily by Islamist militants. Jokowi has failed to adequately address the discriminatory statements and policies issued by senior government and military officials that have fueled abuses toward the country’s LGBT population.”

Source: The Advocate, Lucas Grindley, April 09, 2017

‘Release gay men at risk of torture’ in Indonesia: Human Rights Watch

Public caning in Indonesia's Aceh province
Although opposition to and stigmatization against homosexuality and LGBT individuals runs high throughout Indonesia, homosexual acts are not against the law. Except, that is, in Indonesia’s Aceh province, the only region of the Muslim-majority country that has been granted permission by the central government to enact and enforce its own strict interpretation of sharia law.

Although the law criminalizing homosexual acts in Aceh was enacted in 2015, it had not been used previously (except in the case of two women who were suspected of being lesbians and questioned by religious police after they were found hugging one another). But two men in Banda Aceh last month became the first to be arrested under the law, and they could face up to 100 lashes each, administered with a bamboo cane in front of a large public audience, an action that international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) defines, based upon international rights conventions, as nothing less than torture.

“The arrest and detention of these two men underscores the abuse imbedded in Aceh’s discriminatory, anti-LGBT ordinances,” said Phelim Kine, HRW’s deputy Asia division director, in a statement released on the HRW website. “These men had their privacy invaded in a frightening and humiliating manner and now face public torture for the ‘crime’ of their alleged sexual orientation.”

The two men, both in their twenties, were apprehended on March 28, not by the religious police but by a group of vigilantes who forcibly entered the house on the suspicion that the two were having same-sex relations. Cell phone footage of the raid circulating online, allegedly taken by one of the vigilantes, shows both men terrified while one attempts to call for help.

But help didn’t come. Instead, the two men were taken by the mob to a nearby sharia police facility, where authorities say the men confessed to being gay. They are now being held in custody until their punishment is determined.

According to the lead investigator on the case, Aceh’s Islamic Criminal Code calls for homosexual acts to be punished 100 lashes in public, which HRW notes constitutes torture under The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia ratified in 2005. That convention also protects the rights to privacy and prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, and other status such as sexual orientation, all principles which this case flagrantly violates.

President Joko Widodo, in response to a question about the rising intolerance and attacks against LGBT individuals last year, told the BBC “The police must act. There should be no discrimination against anybody.”

But what about when it is the police who and the government who are doing the discrimination?

“President Jokowi should urgently intervene in this case to demonstrate his stated commitment to ending discrimination against LGBT people,” Kine said. “Jokowi then needs to act to eliminate Aceh’s discriminatory ordinances so these outrageous arrests don’t happen again.”

Source: Coconuts Jakarta, April 10, 2017

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