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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…

UK allies among world’s worst executioners – report

London
UK allies are bucking a trend towards the abolition of the death penalty worldwide, according to new figures.

A new Amnesty report has found that there are fewer executions worldwide, and fewer countries using the death penalty. However, the annual study found that far more people than in previous years are being sentenced to death.

British allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan remained in the top ranks of the world’s executioners. Since resuming executions in 2014, Pakistan has executed innocent people as well as juveniles and other vulnerable prisoners; two brothers were recently acquitted by the Supreme Court, a year after they had been prematurely hanged.

Other countries – notably Bahrain – have recently resumed executions following a pause of several years. Three political protestors were executed in the Gulf Kingdom this year.

Egypt’s government was also highlighted in the report as a strong user of the death penalty.

All four countries have close ties with the UK. Britain has continued to provide assistance to their security forces, despite concerns over abuses such as executions, and the use of torture to extract forced ‘confessions’. 

Human rights organization Reprieve has discovered that Bahraini and Saudi police have received repeated training from UK public bodies, despite concerns over the risk of complicity in abuses. 

Reprieve has written to the Prime Minister, Theresa May, asking her to call for the release of three Saudi juveniles who face beheading – and in one case, ‘crucifixion’ – following their alleged attendance at political protests.

Mrs May visited Saudi Arabia last week to promote closer UK-Saudi ties. However, it was unclear whether she raised the cases with the Saudi leadership.

Commenting, Maya Foa – Director at Reprieve – said:

“While the overall trend towards fewer executions is welcome, it’s disturbing that certain governments are increasingly using the death penalty as a means of crushing dissent. Many of those with the worst record on executions are countries which British Prime Minister Theresa May has been actively courting in recent weeks – including Saudi Arabia, where juveniles face beheading and crucifixion, and Bahrain, where political protesters have been executed on the basis of forced ‘confessions.’ The UK government must not let the trade agenda trump concerns for human rights. Mrs May must condemn the use of the death penalty as a tool of oppression.”

Source: Reprieve, April 11, 2017

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