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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…

UN human rights watchdog orders Saudi Arabia to stop executing children

People over 15-years-old in the Kingdom are tried as adults and can be executed

The United Nations has called on Saudi Arabia to repeal laws that allow stoning, amputation, flogging and execution of children.

Children over 15 years are tried as adults and can be executed, "after trials falling short of guarantees of due process and a fair trial", according to the report by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The committee's 18 independent experts analysed the kingdom's compliance record with a UN treaty protecting the rights of citizens under the age of 18.

Experts voiced concern that the Saudi government "still does not recognise girls as full subjects of rights and continues to severely discriminate (against) them in law and practice and to impose on them a system of male guardianship".

The committee said violations of young girls' right to equality should not justified using traditional, religious or cultural attitudes.

Children from the minority Shi'ite community and other religious minorities are continually discriminated against in their access to schools and justice in the Sunni-ruled kingdom, they said.

According to the UN committee, out of 47 people executed on 2 January for security offences, four were under 18.

Responding to the committee's findings, the Saudi Human Rights Commission told the body that Islamic Sharia law, was above all laws and treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Bandar Bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, the chairman of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, did state the kingdom had the political will to protect children.

All sexual abuse against children should be made illegal in Saudi Arabia with persecutors prosecuted, the experts said.

The case of Muslim preacher Fayhan al-Ghamdi was cited by the report, saying his charges were reduced and he was released from jail "after having raped, tortured and killed his five-year-old daughter" in 2012.

Saudi air strikes in Yemen were also strongly criticised by the UN watchdog which said hundreds of children had been killed and maimed.

Source: The Independent, Reuters, May 23, 2017

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