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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…

Outrage of UN Rights Expert at Iran Regime's Execution of a Young Man Sentenced as a Child

Iran: A corrupt theocracy, a medieval justice system.
Iran: A corrupt theocracy, a medieval justice system.
GENEVA (11 August 2017) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Asma Jahangir, has expressed outrage at the execution of a young man who received the death penalty as a child.

Alireza Tajiki was arrested at the age of 15 in 2012 and sentenced to death in 2013 at the age of 16.

He was executed on August 10 despite repeated interventions by UN human rights experts, who said the death penalty should never be used against a child, and noted that Mr. Tajiki had reportedly been tortured and had not received a fair trial.

“I am distressed in the extreme to learn that this execution has gone ahead despite twice being postponed on previous scheduled dates,” said the Special Rapporteur.

The human rights expert stressed that Mr. Tajiki’s death penalty was upheld following judicial procedures which did not meet acceptable international standards of a fair trial or due process.

“I am deeply concerned that the court relied on the use of forced “confessions”, which were reportedly extracted using torture, including beatings, floggings and suspension by the arms and feet,” she said. “There has been no investigation into these torture claims.”

“Mr. Tajiki also suffered violations of his rights to a defence, for example by being denied access to a lawyer throughout the entire investigation process and being held in solitary confinement for 15 days without access to his family.”

Ms. Jahangir added: “This treatment would be unacceptable for an adult, but for a child suspect to have been convicted after such grave rights abuses, and then to be executed despite all interventions, is truly shocking.”

The death sentence against Mr. Tajiki was quashed in 2014 but the Supreme Court, but he was resentenced to death by the Provincial Criminal Court of Fars, which ruled that he had sufficient “mental maturity” for an understanding of his alleged crime to be executed. This verdict was later upheld by the Supreme Court.

Children watching a public hanging in Iran
Children watching a public hanging in Iran
“I note that Iran has ratified both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which commit the country to protecting and respecting children’s right to life,” the Special Rapporteur noted.

“These Conventions also unequivocally forbid the passing and carrying out of the death penalty on anyone below 18 years of age.”

The human rights expert recalled that Iran has already executed three other juvenile offenders since January and at least 86 are known to be on death row, although the exact figure may be higher.

“The Government of Iran must immediately and unconditionally stop sentencing children to death,” said Ms. Jahangir. “It must also commute all existing death sentences imposed on children, in line with its international commitments.”

Ms. Asma Jahangir (Pakistan) was designated as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran by the Human Rights Council in September 2016 Ms. Jahangir was elected as President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan and as Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Over the years, she has been recognized both nationally and internationally for her contribution to the cause of human rights and is a recipient of major human rights awards. She has worked extensively in the field of women’s rights, protection of religious minorities and in eliminating bonded labour. She is a former Special Rapporteur on summary executions, and on freedom of religion.

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Source: NCRI, August 12, 2017

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