UN Drugs and Crime Office says no to death penalty

Monday, 30 July 2018 00:40 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Shanika Sriyananda

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) would not endorse the decision of the Government to hang the drug traffickers on death row, a top official of the UN said.

UNODC Regional Office, South Asia, Program Coordinator Shanaka Jayasekara said that Sri Lanka, which had given a lead in combating drug trafficking, would lose its regional links for information sharing if the Government implemented  the death penalty on drug traffickers.

“Information sharing is the key component of combating drug trafficking. The western countries state that intelligence provider should not lead to a prosecution that has a death penalty. Sri Lanka was able to say that there was a moratorium on death penalty and receiving information. But, if the Government moves ahead with implementing the death penalty, we will not be receiving any intelligence on drug trafficking,” he cautioned.

With the police finding out about the involvement of a drug dealer, who was on death row, in importing 100kg of heroin, President Maithripala Sirisena had informed the Cabinet that he was ready to sign “death warrants” to those organised drug traffickers a few weeks ago. Following President Sirisena’s instructions, the Minister of Justice and Prison Affairs Thalatha Athukorale had submitted a report on implementing capital punishment. 

This decision created hot debate among the interested parties, including the religious dignitaries who expressed their views for and against hanging those notorious drug traffickers in death row. 

Speaking on ‘Countering drug trafficking in the Indian Ocean: The role of UNODC and the Southern Route Partnership’ at the lecture organised by the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies, he said that the country needed a well-connected information sharing system to fight against drug trafficking.

Jayasekara said that as a UN staffer, he strongly advised the Government to avoid implementing the death penalty for drug traffickers, and to reap the benefits of the initiatives - Southern Route Partnership (SRP) and establishing the South Asian Regional Intelligence Coordination Centre SARICC)- taken by the Government to combat drug trafficking.

Commending the Government for spearheading the establishment of the two initiatives, he said that the SRP, which was signed in Colombo between seven ministers of Internal Security under the former Minister of Law and Order Sagala Ratnayake in 2016, was a major breakthrough taken to fight against drug trafficking in the Indian Ocean. 

Jayasekara said that under this program, the heads of drug enforcement agencies in the region would meet annually to discuss strategies on how to combat drug trafficking in the Indian Ocean.

There would also be dialogues and seizure training for junior level drug enforcement officers in all those countries, he said, adding that the SRP provides immediate support when dhows with drugs are seized, and also helps countries to develop their maritime capabilities. 

“The first high-level meeting of the SARICC was hosted by President Maithripala Sirisena, who took the leadership to set up the centre, which will be based Colombo. The SARICC officers representing the South Asian countries will work together, not only to counter narcotics smuggling but all forms of transnational crimes in the South Asian region,” he noted. 

Jayasekara said that Sri Lanka needed to address the domestic problem of fighting against drug trafficking through a regional strategy while also addressing it domestically.