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Over a hundred human rights organisations call on Sri Lanka to end its death penalty for drug offences

In an open letter, signed by over a hundred human rights organisations, the Harm Reducation International (HRI) has urged the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) and International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) to apply pressure on Sri Lankan Government to abolish its death penalty. 

The demands maintained listed are that Sri Lankan authorities halt all impeding executions relating to drug offences, commute all existing sentences and abolish the death penalty. These demands follow the planned execution of four people for drug offences which was sentenced during the “National Drug Eradication Week”, which runs from 21 June - 1 July 2019. 

This has also been followed by a writ petition which has been filed in the Court of Appeal which requests an interim order to prevent the death sentences. The petition was sent by a person known as Malinda Seneviratne. He maintains that the death penalty is a violation of human rights and must be stopped.

President Sirisena has said, “From now on, we will hang drug offenders without commuting their death sentences”. This breaks from a 43 year moratorium on the use of the death penalty. Currently there are a further 46 execution warrants have been prepared and await the president’s signature.

President Sirisena had pledged to reinstate the death penalty as early as July 2018, arguing for the need to “replicate the success” of President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called drug war in the Philippines. 

Giada Girelli, a human rights analyst for HRW, warned; 

“There is no evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent to the drug trade. President Sirisena is making a cynical political move that will violate international human rights law and turn Sri Lanka into a pariah”

Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International, has stated;

“The taking of a human life by the state is one of the gravest acts a government can commit. The severity of the punishment as a minimum requires complete transparency as a key safeguard of due process.”

Sri Lanka currently has 24,000 people incarcerated, 60 per cent are arrested on drug-related offences. There are 1,229 inmates on death row and 48 are being convicted of drug offences.  

Détente’s has been accused of grotesque human rights abuses in his war on drugs with 33 people being killed in the country every day since he came to power in July 2016. His policies have targeted the most vulnerable communities in the country.g the most vulnerable communities in the country.

Read more here and here.