COLOMBO: Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena said on Wednesday (Jun 26) the government would press ahead with a controversial plan to reinstate the death penalty for drug-related offences.
“I have already signed (the) death penalty for four (convicts). It will be implemented soon and we have already decided the date as well,” Mr Sirisena told reporters in Colombo, without elaborating on the date or the names of the convicts.
The last execution in Sri Lanka was about 43 years ago, and Sri Lanka's last hangman quit in 2014 without having to execute anyone, citing stress after seeing the gallows for the first time. Another who was hired last year never turned up for work.
The justice ministry said more than a dozen people had been shortlisted to fill the vacancy, but no formal appointment has been made.
An official in Mr Sirisena's office said the president wanted the hangings to be a powerful message to the illegal drugs trade.
The president said there were 200,000 drug addicts in the country and 60 per cent of the 24,000 prison population were drug offenders.
His remarks came a day after Amnesty International said it was "alarmed" over media reports of preparations to resume executions, and called for the plans to be halted.
Mr Sirisena in February announced the country would carry out the executions, saying he had been inspired by President Rodrigo Duterte's strongarm campaign in the Philippines.
Criminals in Sri Lanka are regularly handed death sentences for murder, rape and drug-related crimes but since 1976, their punishments have been commuted to life imprisonment.