The president of Sri Lanka announces the resumption of hangings within two months. A moratorium on capital punishment had been in place since 1976. Almost 1,300 people are on death row, 48 for drug-related offences.
Colombo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has announced the end of a 43-year moratorium on the death penalty, saying that he wants executions to restart in two months with drug dealers and traffickers first on the list of those to be hanged.
By his own admission, Sirisena’s decision came after a visit to the Philippines where he met Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, who has led a brutal drug war that has so far caused about 5,000 official deaths.
In addition, at a recent drug prevention meeting at the Sanath Jayasuriya Stadium in Matara, the president said that the war on drugs will be carried out like the war against terrorism that led to the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elan (LTTE).
Since 1976, when the moratorium was imposed, 1,299 people have been sentenced to death. In Sri Lanka, criminals in Sri Lanka are regularly given death sentences for murder, rape and drug-related crimes, but until now their punishments have been commuted to life jail.
However, prison overcrowding is one of the reasons that have prompted the president to lift the moratorium on executions within two months. He told parliamentarians that the Welikada prison in Colombo has become a hotbed of the drug trade in the country.
For this reason, Sirisena warned that “human rights organisations [should] not to object to the move to implement the death penalty as it is done to control the drug menace and underworld activities in Sri Lanka.”
For several experts, resuming executions is more of an attempt by the government to show that it is still in charge. In fact, out of almost 1,300 prisoners on death row, only 48 are drug-related. Of these, 30 have appealed their sentence and are waiting for a hearing.
Whilst it is true that the country has seen a rise in crime, including drug-related murders by criminal gangs, as well as sexual violence, the small number of people convicted on drug-related charges does not seem to warrant resuming executions.
Instead, experts point out that, following the country’s recent political crisis, the measure seems to be aimed at regaining popularity among voters by emulating strongman Duterte.