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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…

Bahraini Court Upholds Military Tribunal Death Sentences

Bahrain
Bahrain’s highest court has upheld the death sentences handed down by a military tribunal to four men accused of plotting to kill the head of the country’s armed forces, concluding a secretive and unfair trial that has fallen far short of international standards of due process. They face imminent execution, along with four other men previously convicted and sentenced to death based on false confessions extracted through torture.

Telecoms engineer Sayed Alawi Sayed Hussain was abducted by Bahrain’s security forces on 24 October, 2016. Another of the defendants, Fadel Radhi, was taken from his home on September 29, 2016. Both men were ‘disappeared’ for months: their families were not told where they were being held or what they were accused of.

In April 2017, Bahrain amended its constitution to enable military tribunals to try civilians accused of threatening the security of the state. Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, supposedly the intended target of the plot, appointed the judges that convicted the accused plotters and sentenced them to death. Lawyers for the men have not been allowed to see the evidence against them, and a gag order prevents them from disclosing anything heard in court to the press. Requests from the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain to monitor the trial were refused.

The upheld death sentences are the latest sign that Bahrain is prepared to ignore human rights in efforts to deter dissent. In January 2017, three men arrested following demonstrations against the regime and tortured into ‘confessions’ were executed – the first Bahraini nationals to be executed since 1996. Since these executions, Bahrain’s death row has increased dramatically from 7 to 25, amid ongoing concerns over the unfair trials and the use of torture to obtain false confessions.

Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of international human rights organisation Reprieve, said:

“These verdicts, delivered in secret by an illegitimate military tribunal, are an egregious violation of human rights. The U.K. Foreign Office has spent millions of pounds training Bahraini police and prison guards, ostensibly with the aim of reforming the Kingdom’s justice system. Torture and executions are not justice. If Prime Minister Theresa May’s vow that Britain will take a ‘moral lead in the world’ is to be more than cheap talk, she must demand that these men receive a fair trial.”

Commenting, Sayed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy of London-based NGO BIRD, said:

“Today’s death sentences are patently illegal under international law – the men were subjected to prolonged enforced disappearances, sham military trials, without any respect for due process. The Court of Cassation has sanctioned Bahrain’s human rights abuses by allowing these civilians to be sentenced to death in military tribunals. The UK has a responsibility to call on Bahrain to immediately review its use of the death penalty.”

Source: Reprieve, April 25, 2018


Bahrain commutes death sentences handed down by military court


Bahrain's king has commuted death sentences handed down to 4 men by a military court to life in prison, state news agency BNA reported on Thursday.

The death sentences were the 1st to be issued by a military court in the Gulf Arab state against civilians, according to activists.

In December, a military court sentenced 6 men to death and revoked their citizenship after they were convicted on charges of forming a terrorist cell and plotting to assassinate a military official.

BNA said King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa reduced the sentences confirmed by a military appeals court the previous day.

Source: Reuters, April 26, 2018


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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning