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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…

Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network calls on Singapore to immediately halt imminent execution of Muhammad Ridzuan bin Mohd Ali

The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) urges the government of Singapore to halt the execution of Mr Muhammad Ridzuan bin Mohd Ali, 31, now said to be scheduled on 19 May 2017. 

We call on the President of the Republic of Singapore Tony Tan Keng Yam to show mercy and grant Ridzuan clemency.

Muhammaad Ridzuan and Abdul Haleem were both convicted for two charges of trafficking in diamorphine under s 5(1)(a) of the MDA read with s 34 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed). 

However, only Abdul Haleem received the certificate of substantive assistance. This resulted in them receiving different sentences. Abdul Haleem was sentenced to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane, and Muhammaad Ridzuan was given the mandatory death sentence.

In Singapore, for drug offences carrying the mandatory death penalty, it is only when the Public Prosecutor issues the certificate of substantive assistance pursuant to s 33B(2)(b) of the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 2008 Rev Ed) will the courts have the discretion to hand down other sentences, other than the death penalty. In Muhammaad Ridzuan’s case, despite having provided the necessary information to the Central Narcotics Bureau as to who gave him the drugs, with full name and identification, he was not given the Certificate, thus leaving the judge with no choice but to sentence him to death.

ADPAN is disheartened by the seemingly arbitrary issuance of the Certificates of Substantive Assistance by the prosecution. Discretion on sentencing must be with the courts. It is totally unjustifiable for the Public Prosecutor to have the ultimate power to decide who gets issued the Certificate, consequently, who gets to live or who not.

While we understand Singapore’s public health concerns on the entry of illegal drugs, we strongly oppose the use of death penalty as a solution. 

There is no evidence of efficacy of the death penalty in solving addiction or the entry of prohibited substances, even in Singapore. Despite carrying out executions, the Singaporean authorities continue to arrest drug mules and intercept large amounts of illegal drugs. The death penalty has shown to be not a deterrent.

Ridzuan was not raised in the best of circumstances, having to grapple with poverty that pushed him into working a series of jobs to contribute to his family’s income. Ridzuan did not get the best opportunities in life and he has realised his wrongdoings while in prison, and we believe he has demonstrated the potential for rehabilitation. His family has attested how he renewed showing more maturity in his words and actions. 

The execution on Friday, if to take place, will deprive a changed man of his right to life. In a statement, his family have pointed out that there would be no opportunity for him to commit a similar crime if his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

The death penalty is an affront to human dignity. It disregards the right to life, the very basis of all human rights. ADPAN believes that these rights should be protected by the State at all times. We therefore ask the President and the Government of Singapore to show mercy and stop Ridzuan’s execution, and to establish a moratorium on all executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) is an independent cross-regional network committed to working for an end to the death penalty across the Asia Pacific region. ADPAN is made up of NGOs, organizations, civil society groups, lawyers and individual members, not linked to any political party, religion or government and campaigns against the death penalty. It currently has members in 28 countries: Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, China, Denmark, France, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tonga, Vietnam, UK, USA.


Source: ADPAN, Ngeow Chow Ying, May 17, 2017

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