Moves underway to carry out first execution following 43-year-long moratorium

Saturday, 22 June 2019 00:11 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

President Maithripala Sirisena is gearing to carry out the first hanging in the near future raising fresh concerns within the diplomatic and rights activists. 

According to sources in Presidential Secretariat, “it has been put in motion”, to carry out the first hanging in the near future, but not as “early as next week, as rumoured”. The President decided to carry out executions on repeated drug offenders who are on death row, proposing the move as an effective deterrent to address the drug trafficking in Sri Lanka.

The move will end a 43-year-long moratorium on the death penalty, where the country has not carried out executions although the death penalty has been given by court rulings. The Sri Lankan Government voted to maintain its moratorium at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in December 2018.   

The Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorala or the Commissioner of Prisons T.M.J.W. Thennakoon were not able to confirm the decision. 

Earlier this year, the Commissioner of Prisons called for applications to recruit two hangmen to fill the positions that have remained vacant for over a decade.

The diplomatic community who on earlier occasions too have raised concerns over Sirisena’s decision to re-enact the death penalty, are now raising fresh concerns on the matter with warnings that the decision will likely negatively affect GSP+ while also having personal repercussions. 

The President on several occasions has reiterated that he is going to carry out the death penalty regardless of what the international community feels about the move. Earlier this year President Sirisena said that he has already decided on a date on which the death penalty would be implemented, but declined to publicise the date. 

However, there has been concerns from both the international community and rights activist against the President’s decision to restart executions. In April this year, the EU in a joint statement with Embassies of France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Romania and the UK High Commission, the Embassies of Norway and Switzerland, as well as the High Commissions of Canada and Australia called on the Government to reconsider its decision noting that evidence does not show the move as an effective deterrent to address drug trafficking. 

“We call on the Sri Lankan Government to maintain its moratorium on the death penalty in line with its vote at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in December 2018,” the statement said.