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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…

USCIRF: Pakistan & Iran have the worst blasphemy laws in the world

Blasphemy laws in the world
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has released a ground-breaking report that takes a look at blasphemy laws around the world and compares them to international human rights standards.

The report covers instances of the blasphemy laws in 71 countries which include countries like Pakistan and Indonesia, known for harsh punishments like the death penalty to countries like Canada and Switzerland which have minor penalties like fines. 

Among the six countries which were ranked the worst in terms of blasphemy laws, Iran topped the list while Pakistan ranked second, followed by Yemen, Qatar, Somalia, and Egypt.

USCIRF scored the countries based on Severity of the Penalty, Freedom of Religion, whether the State protected or preferred certain Religion Protections, Freedom of Expression and Discrimination Against Groups.

Of the 71 states studied, 59 or 83 percent sanction blasphemy with imprisonment. Iran and Pakistan, the two countries with the highest-scoring laws for Severity of the Penalty, include the death penalty as punishment for “insulting the Prophet.”.

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad. USCIRF uses international standards to monitor religious freedom violations globally, and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and Congressional leaders of both political parties. Their work is supported by a professional, nonpartisan staff. USCIRF is separate from the State Department, although the Department’s Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom is a non-voting ex officio Commissioner.

➢ The full report can be found here.

Source: Rabwah Times, August 10, 2017

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