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Fears that Sri Lanka death penalty moves will hit GSP+ access

ECONOMYNEXT -Fears are rising that Sri Lanka’s plans to execute drug dealers, ending a 42-year moratorium on carrying out the death penalty, may endanger the GSP+ free trade concessions with the European Union (EU), industry analysts say.

The European Union frowns on the death penalty, which is no longer carried out in many countries, and calls itself ‘the leading institutional actor and largest donor in the fight against death penalty worldwide’.

"Capital punishment is inhumane, degrading and unnecessary," the European Commission says.

"As a matter of fact, there is no valid scientific evidence to support that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments.

"Furthermore, any miscarriage of justice, which is a possibility in any judiciary no matter how advanced it is, could lead to the intentional killing of an innocent person by state authorities."

An apparel industry association representing exporters said it would consult with members and legal experts on the possible fallout of carrying out the death penalty on GSP+ concessions.

The EU Delegation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives has not commented on the matter so far, but may issue a statement later, according to diplomatic sources.

Sri Lanka must follow 27 international conventions to remain in the GSP+ programme.

Of these, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights calls for the death penalty to only be given to those who have committed ‘the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime’.

Sri Lanka also stopped carrying out the death penalty in the 1970s though the punishment itself is in the books.





Successive leaders have refrained from signing death warrants.

"Although there are certain opinions regarding capital punishment in a Buddhist society, if a large number of criminal acts spread in such a society despite religious sermons, it will be necessary to take some timely actions to control crime," President Maithripala Sirisena was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

Opposition activists have also called for a so-called ‘Hitler’ and authoritative rule to combat crimes, several of which have grabbed headlines.

President Sirisena said that propaganda which said that crimes have risen under the current administration was "carried out by opponents with political agendas," but he was concerned about widespread drug use and its effects on children and society.

Official statistics show that while reported grave crimes have fallen dramatically in recent years, reported drug crimes, have increased.

Police raids and seizures of soft and hard drugs have increased.  A part of the increase in raids may also be due to less political interference to act against the drug trade, some analysts say.

The apparel industry is most likely to be affected by the move, since around 60 percent of Sri Lanka’s exports to the EU are apparel, according to official data.

GSP+ allows Sri Lanka duty free access to its second largest market which bought 29.1 percent of Sri Lanka’s exports worth 3.3 billion US dollars in 2017, with a growth 6.4 percent from the previous year.
Sri Lanka lost the trade facility in 2010 over allegations of human rights abuses during a 25-year civil war, and regained GSP+ in mid-May 2017, following lobbying made by the current government.
In the 12-months from June 2017 to May 2018, Sri Lanka’s apparel exports to the EU increased 9 percent to 2.1 billion US dollars. (Colombo/July11/2018)

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