Rights group ‘shocked’ as President signs death warrants for four prisoners

Rights group ‘shocked’ as President signs death warrants for four prisoners

June 26, 2019   11:15 pm

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Amnesty International said it is shocked by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s announcement that he has signed the execution warrants of four death row prisoners convicted of drug-related crimes, and that they will be hanged in “the near future”.

While the President has confirmed signing the death warrants, no names have been revealed and no details have been shared about any scheduled executions or information on the cases.

“The lack of transparency makes it impossible to ascertain whether these prisoners have exhausted clemency appeals, or if all safeguards were followed in their conviction or sentencing. There is also no confirmation that the four prisoners, or their families, have been alerted to their imminent execution,” the rights group said.

The executions would be the first time Sri Lanka has implemented the death penalty since 1976.

Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International, said: “We are outraged that the President has signed the first execution warrants issued by Sri Lanka in 43 years. In one stroke, he will undo all the country’s progress in putting a stop to the use of the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

“At a time when other countries have come to the realisation that their drug control policies are in need of reform, and are taking steps to reduce the use of the death penalty, Sri Lanka is bucking the trend.

“This will be devastating to the country’s international reputation and we hope that President Sirisena will reconsider his decision.”

Earlier this week, Amnesty said it had learned that there are 13 prisoners who are at grave risk of imminent execution. Executions for drug-related offences are unlawful. They do not meet the threshold for “most serious crimes” – such as intentional killing – to which the use of the death penalty must be restricted under international human rights law, it said.

Amnesty has repeatedly called on President Sirisena to halt his plans to resume executions, making clear that the death penalty does not have a unique deterrent effect on crime.

President Sirisena on Wednesday said he signed the death warrants to hang four drug convicts, ending a four-decade-long moratorium on the capital punishment in the country.

Sirisena said he was committed to bringing back capital punishment for drug offenders, months after vowing a tougher line on spiralling narcotics-related crime.

“I have signed the relevant documents and forwarded them to the concerned authorities,” Sirisena told reporters on Wednesday. He said he treats the drug menace as main problem in the country where over 60 per cent of the island’s 24,000 people in jail are sentenced due to drug addiction.

Drug trafficking is a capital offence in Sri Lanka, which authorities believe is being used by peddlers as a transit hub.

“I will not announce the dates for hanging because it can create problems in the prisons,” Sirisena said, adding that “they will be carried out soon”.

President Sirisena’s signing of death warrants have come during the ongoing ‘Drug Prevention’ week from June 23 to July 1.

-With Agencies Inputs

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