No hanging around for Sri Lanka executioner: official

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s prison authorities are launching a fresh search next week for an executioner after  President Maithripala Sirisena ended the island’s moratorium on capital punishment and promised a steady work for the right candidate.

Prisons spokesman Thushara Upuldeniya said they will advertise the vacancy for a post of hangman that carries a salary of 35,000 rupees ($218) to the right candidate who will also have to shoulder some of the light clerical duties.

A hangman recruited in 2014 panicked and fled after seeing the dilapidated gallows. Since then, the execution chamber has been refurbished. Two hangmen recruited a year later in 2015 too abandoned the job. They were getting bored doing nothing.

Upuldeniya said they were legally required to have an executioner should President Sirisena deliver on his promise to start signing death warrants of convicted drug offenders.

The spokesman said there were 17 men and a woman condemned to death for drug offences and all of them had exhausted their appeals process and were candidates to hang immediately guaranteeing work for the hangman.

President Sirisena told his cabinet on Tuesday that he "was ready to sign the death warrants" of repeat drug offenders and deploy the military to tackle drug crime.

"From now on, we will hang drug offenders without commuting their death sentences," government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said.

"We were told that the Philippines has been successful in deploying the army and dealing with this problem. We will try to replicate their success," he said.

Upuldeniya said the total number of condemned prisoners in Sri Lanka stood at 373 convicts by Friday the 13th of July.
"If the President starts signing death warrants, we should be able to carry out his orders. As far as the gallows is concerned,
we are ready. All we need is the executioner in place," Upuldeniya said.

There was another 872 condemned prisoners who have appealed their sentences and were awaiting a final court decision.
Sri Lankan courts regularly hand down death sentences for rape, murder and drug-related crimes, but these are routinely commuted to life in prison since 1976.

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Amnesty International has urged Sri Lanka not to revive capital punishment.
But Sri Lankan authorities say a tougher approach is needed to combat what they say is an increase in drug-related crime. (ECONOMYNEXT  July 13, 2018)

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