Sri Lanka to resume executions within two months: president

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will resume the hanging of convicted drug criminals within the next two months despite opposition from local and international human rights organisations, President Maithripala Sirisena announced Wednesday.

He said he was determined to end the 42-year moratorium on capital punishment by resuming hanging convicted drug criminals as part of his anti-narcotics drive.

Sirisena, who returned from a visit to the Philippines last month, has said he wants to draw inspiration from Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against drugs. Duterte is alleged to have killed tens of thousands of drug dealers, users, and officials.

"I hope to carry out the first hanging within a month or two," Sirisena said. “I appeal to human rights bodies not to oppose these hangings.”

His statement came a day after Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorale said her ministry had finalised judicial and administrative procedures for the execution of five drug convicts out of 18 convicts in line for execution. What was required was for the president to sign their death warrants and decide on a time to hang them at the Welikada prison.

Sirisena said a Pakistan national was also among some 18 convicts to be hanged, but he did not want to execute a foreign national. He did not say why.

It is not clear how the prisons could carry out the death penalty in the absence of an executioner. Attempts to fill a vacancy for a hangman have failed to bring results despite the offer of a 35,000 rupee monthly salary for the promise of “light work.”

Sri Lanka’s last execution was in 1976, but an executioner remained in service till his retirement in 2014. (COLOMBO, February 6, 2019 – SB)

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