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President says he has signed four death warrants

Four convicted drug dealers now on death row will be executed shortly, President Maithripala Sirisena announced at a press conference held in Colombo this morning.

“I have signed the death warrants for these four people,” he told reporters when he was asked about the reports that had been circulating on Social Media in the past few days.

This will end a 43-year long moratorium on executions that the country has maintained, although several hundred convicts have been sentenced to death by the courts.

Most of those given the death sentence are convicted of drug offenses.

The four men to be executed have been convicted of large scale drug importation and dealing, the President said.

He said he would not reveal the date of the executions, although the date has already been set.

The men have exhausted all avenues of judicial appeal and may as a last resort appeal to the President himself.

President Sirisena announced he would be bringing back the death penalty for drug offenses in February. At the time he said that big-time drug dealers were still carrying out their drug businesses from behind prison walls even though they had been sentenced to death.

“Illegal drugs are destroying the nation. They have swallowed up our Universities and are polluting our schools. We have to take this seriously,” he told Mediapersons.

There has been an outcry from all religious groups in the country as well as Human Rights defenders across the world against the move.

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Two days ago Amnesty International said that executing prisoners convicted of drug offences is against International Law.

Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International, said: “We are dismayed by these reports that will see Sri Lanka surrender its positive record on the death penalty. Executions will not rid Sri Lanka of drug-related crime.”

In 2018 Sri Lanka pledged to the United Nations that it will not resume executions.

The last person to be executed in Sri Lanka was a 25-year old farmer J M Chandradasa who was convicted of murder.   

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