Civil society concerned with implementing death penalty, providing Police powers to Military

Saturday, 21 July 2018 00:10 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The undersigned civil society activists and groups in Sri Lanka express our deep concern about the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers to take steps towards implementing the death penalty. The death penalty has not been implemented in Sri Lanka since 1976, though it continues to remain as a punishment for certain categories of offences. 

According to media reports the Cabinet of Ministers approved a proposal by President Maithripala Sirisena to take steps towards implementing the death penalty regarding persons who have been sentenced to death for drug offences and “who continue to operate the drug racket from their prison cells”.

We reiterate the objections made by several stakeholders in stating that;

nThere is no empirical evidence to support the assertion that the death penalty has a deterrent value and that it reduces crime;

nOnce imposed the death penalty cannot be reversed as such individuals could to be punished with death for crimes they did not commit;

nEnforcing the death penalty is contrary to Sri Lanka’s international obligations; and

nIt is not the way a civilised society deals with crime, especially complicated crime in the nature of trafficking narcotics.

In this regard we welcome the observations of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) contained in letter dated 13 July addressed to President Sirisena which echoes its previous letter to President Sirisena in January 2016 requesting him to take steps to abolish the death penalty. We urge the President, Prime Minister and the other members of the Cabinet of Ministers to seriously consider these recommendations by the HRCSL, which is statutorily mandated to advise the Government in matters relating to the promotion and protection of human rights.

We are also concerned by a proposal reportedly approved by the Cabinet of Ministers at its meeting on 10 July to draft legislation that would allow the security forces to exercise some Police powers for a period of two years to purportedly help the Police in “eradicating the drug menace in the country”. 

The Military exercising Police powers is unacceptable in a context where there is no ongoing armed conflict. Military involvement in civilian activities has been a problem in post-war Sri Lanka and the GoSL since 2010 has continuously promised to reduce the role of the military in civilian life. Whilst progress in this regard has been slow, this proposal if passed into law would be a mistake and a step in the wrong direction. 

The Military’s training does not equip it to carry out policing functions effectively, as was seen when the Military was summoned to deal with a protest in Rathupaswala in 2013, forcing the Military to engage in policing functions can have disastrous consequences. Whilst the proposed bill is for a specific period of time, Sri Lanka’s experience with other similar legislation has shown that these types of laws eventually become a permanent fixture in the legal system.

There is no doubt about the need to curb narcotics in Sri Lanka, however the response of the GoSL needs to be carefully considered so as not to exacerbate existing problems. If the GoSL is serious about dealing with narcotics and drug trafficking, it needs to, among other things, focus on training the Police to deal with narcotics related crime and invest in modern equipment and technology to help investigations. 

The GoSL also needs to address the strong perception in society that politicians are involved in trafficking narcotics and/or are direct beneficiaries of money derived from such activities. Implementing the death penalty and using the security forces would do little to solve the problem and in the long run would only compound the rule of law problems in Sri Lanka.



1.A.D. Rajani 

2.A.R.A. Ramees

3.Aaranya Rajasingam

4.Ainslie Joseph

5.Anithra Varia

6.Annouchka Wijesinghe

7.Anoma Wijewardene

8.Anushaya Collure

9.Aritha Wickramasinghe

10.Asma Rahman

11.B. Gowthaman

12.Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe

13.Bhavani Fonseka 

14.Brito Fernando 

15.Chandra Jayaratne

16.Chandraguptha Thenuwara

17.Chulani Kodikara

18.Cyril Pathiranage

19.Danesh Casie Chetty

20.Deekshya Illangasinghe

21.Dr. Daya Somasundaram

22.Dr. P. Saravanamuttu 

23.Dr. Selvy Thiruchandran

24.Faaiz Ameer

25.Fr. J. M. Joseph Jeyaseelan

26.Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda

27.Gamini Viyangoda

28.Godfrey Yogarajah

29.Iromi Perera 

30.Ishara Danasekara

31.Jayanta de S. Wijeratne

32.Jayanthi Samaraweera Gunewardena

33.Jeanne Samuel 

34.Juwairiya Mohideen

35.K. Aingkaran

36.K. S. Ratnavale

37.Lahiru Kithalagama

38.Lionel Guruge

39.Luwie Ganeshathasan 

40.Mahaluxmy Kurushanthan

41.Mario Gomez

42.Mujeebur Rahman

43.Nagulan Nesiah 

44.Nigel Nugawela

45.P. Muthulingam

46.Prabodha Rathnayaka

47.Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda

48.Raisa Wickrematunge

49.Ramya Chamalie Jirasinghe

50.Rohana Jayaratne

51.Rohini Weerasinghe Weerasinghe

52.Ruki Fernando

53.S.P. Pushpakanthan

54.Sakina Moinudeen

55.Sampath Samarakoon

56.Sandun Thudugala

57.Sarah Arumugam

58.Selvaraj Rajasegar

59.Senel Wanniarachchi

60.Shalini Wickramasuriya

61.Shalomi Daniel 

62.Sharanya Sekaram

63.Shreen Saroor 

64.Sr. Noeline Christine Fernando 

65.Subha Wijesiriwardena

66.Sumika Perera

67.Sunela Jayewardene 

68.Sunethra Bandaranaike 

69.Tanuja Thurairajah

70.Ven. Samuel J. Ponniah


71.Alliance Development Trust

72.Centre for Human Rights Development 

73.Centre for Policy Alternatives

74.Families of the Disappeared  

75.Hashtag Generation

76.INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre

77.Institute of Social Development

78.International Centre for Ethnic Studies 

79.Law and Society Trust 

80.Manawa Shakthi Padanama, Galle

81.Mannar Women's Development Federation

82.Muslim Women Development Trust

83.National Peace Council 

84.Rights Now Collective for Democracy 

85.Rural Development Foundation 

86.The Grassrooted Trust 

87.Women's Action Network

88.Women’s Resource Centre