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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 drug strategy raises human rights fears – Reprieve

Downing Street London
The Government’s 2017 drug strategy could risk contributing to the death penalty for drug offences overseas, human rights organization Reprieve has said.

The UK’s new drug strategy, released today, commits the Government to “taking new action” on counter-narcotics in countries including Pakistan. The document says that new “capability building projects” will see the UK provide training in “enhanced investigation and prosecution practices”, in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Pakistan retains the death penalty for drug offences, in breach of international law. Reprieve has raised concerns that many on the country’s death row received unfair trials, with some being tortured into false ‘confessions.’ Pakistan reintroduced executions in 2014.

The UK Home Office has provided millions of pounds in support to the country’s Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), including during Theresa May's tenure as Home Secretary.

The ANF is responsible for arresting and prosecuting alleged drug offenders, hundreds of whom face death sentences. The ANF’s website boasts of securing death sentences, listing these among its ‘prosecution achievements’. In November 2016, the body’s Director-General announced that more prisoners had been sentenced to death on drugs charges, saying this indicated a ’90 per cent success rate.’

Commenting, Maya Foa – Director at Reprieve – said:

“The Government has today re-committed the UK to a failed international drug strategy that has seen taxpayer pounds used to support death sentences overseas. The Pakistani counter-narcotics police continue to sentence vulnerable drug mules and innocent scapegoats to death for alleged drug offences.

"Theresa May’s policy has enabled gross human rights abuses whilst doing nothing to reduce the flow of drugs to the UK. Ministers must urgently explain what steps they are taking to ensure that that public funds don’t lead to further death sentences and executions.”

Further recent background on the UK's assistance to Pakistan is available on the Reprieve site, here.

The Government's strategy document can be seen here.

Source: Reprieve, July 14, 2017

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