Sri Lanka's president on Wednesday said that a 42-year moratorium on capital punishment will end within two months with the hanging of drug convicts. Maithripala Sirisena told parliament he was committed to bringing back the death penalty for drug offenders, months after vowing a tougher line on spiralling narcotics-related crime inspired by a similar crackdown in the Philippines.
"I hope to carry out the first hanging within a month or two," he said. "I appeal to human rights organisations not to try to pressure us on this decision." Criminals in Sri Lanka are regularly given death sentences for murder, rape and drug-related crimes but until now their punishments have been commuted to life jail.
Following a visit to the Philippines last month, Sirisena said he wanted to copy President Rodrigo Duterte's strongarm tactics in dealing with illegal drugs. Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorale said Tuesday that administrative procedures for the execution of five drug convicts had been completed and Sirisena now only had to sign death warrants. The president did not say how many would be involved in the first hangings.
But prison officials said Tuesday that authorities were still trying to fill a vacancy for an hangman, despite placing advertisements for the position last year offering a salary of 35,000 rupees (USD200) a month. While Sri Lanka's last execution was more than four decades ago, an executioner was in post until his retirement in 2014. Three replacements since have quit after short stints at the unused gallows.