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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…

Malaysia to execute man on death row in days

Yong Kar Mun has days, if not hours, left to live if the authorities proceed with his execution expected to take place anytime within the next 72 hours, Amnesty International Malaysia said today.

Yong, 48, who has been on death row since March 2009 is scheduled to be executed “soon” at the Sungai Buloh prison. He failed in his appeals at the Court of Appeal and Federal Court on 6 October 2011 and 2 August 2012, respectively.

“Yong’s family received a letter by hand from the Sungai Buloh Prison at 2pm today, asking the family to visit him for the final time tomorrow (23 May 2017) at 9am. The family does not know when Yong will be executed,” Amnesty International Malaysia Executive Director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu said.

However, based on existing practice the execution is expected to take place this week.

Yong was sentenced to death in 2009 under Section 3 of the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act ,1971, which carries the mandatory death penalty, read together with Article 37 of the Penal Code, after being found guilty of discharging a firearm during an armed robbery. While no casualties resulted as a consequence of the robbery, another man involved in the commission of the robbery was killed in the fire exchange during the subsequent police chase.

The imposition of the mandatory death penalty is prohibited under international law, which also states that, in countries where it has not yet been abolished, the imposition of the death penalty must be restricted to “the most serious crimes”, meaning intentional killing.

The secretive nature of executions in Malaysia has been consistently criticised by Amnesty International. Information is hardly made publicly available on individual death penalty cases and families are often informed merely days before that their loved ones will be executed.

“The lack of transparency around executions in Malaysia is a violation of international law and standards. Families must have sufficient time to prepare for the last visit and take any further recourse available at the national or international level. To date, they still do not know when the execution is due to be carried out,” Shamini said.

The UN Human Rights Committee has stated that the ‘automatic and mandatory imposition of the death penalty constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of life (…) in circumstances where the death penalty is imposed without any possibility of taking into account the defendant’s personal circumstances or the circumstances of the particular offence.’

“Amnesty International Malaysia does not downplay the seriousness of crimes committed, but we urge the authorities to consider introducing more effective crime prevention measures that respect human rights instead of continuously using one that has no merit,” Shamini said.

Amnesty International Malaysia calls on the Malaysian government to put a stop to Yong Kar Mun’s scheduled execution and impose a moratorium on executions immediately with a view to full abolition.

Source: Amnesty International, May 22, 2017

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