Supreme Court stays drug traffickers’ execution

The prisoners were set for execution in late October, outgoing President Sirisena’s last act as head of state. Justices heard petitions saying the death penalty violates the equality provision of the constitution.

Colombo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka has decided to stay the execution of four drug traffickers for a second time. until 20 March 2020

The latter would have been the last act of President Maithripala Sirisena, who left office in mid-November following the election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Murdu Fernando, S W Thurairajah and Gamini Amarasekara postponed the sentence following 12 petitions by various human rights groups opposed to the death penalty, including the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka.

According to the petitioners, former President Sirisena’s decision to lift a moratorium on the death penalty only for those involved in drug trafficking violates Art 12 (1) of the Constitution, which says that “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law.”

The president’s move stirred human rights groups into action. In their view, the former is unconstitutional because it singles out one specific group of prisoners.

The former president has also been accused of emulating Filipino Rodrigo Duterte, who launched a brutal war on drugs in his country. By his own admission, Sirisena's decision came after he visited the Philippines.