Sri Lanka to bring back hanging to ‘replicate success’ of Duterte’s drug war

Since 1976 all death sentences in Sri Lanka have been automatically commuted to life in prison.

Sri Lanka is to bring back hanging after half a century to “replicate the success” of the drug war in the Philippines.

Today (Wednesday, July 11), Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena told his cabinet that he “was ready to sign the death warrants” of repeat drug offenders and deploy the military to tackle drug crime.

“From now on, we will hang drug offenders without commuting their death sentences,” government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said.

“We were told that the Philippines has been successful in deploying the army and dealing with this problem. We will try to replicate their success.”

Since 1976, Sri Lanka has commuted all death sentences to life in prison.

Senaratne said there were currently 19 drug offenders whose death sentences had been commuted. It is not clear if these convicts would face the gallows under the new policy.

Within hours of the announcement, Amnesty International urged the government not to press ahead.

“Sri Lanka must pull back from any plans to implement the death penalty and preserve its longstanding positive record on shunning this cruel and irreversible punishment,” the human rights group said in a statement.

However, Sri Lankan authorities maintain that a tougher approach is needed to combat what they say is an explosion in drug-related crime.

Senaratne cited a case this week in which a jailed drug dealer had arranged to import 220 pounds of heroin from behind bars.

President Duterte won his election to high office amid frequent pledges to kill thousands of people involved in the drug trade, including officials.

Authorities have acknowledged killing more than 4,200 suspects who resisted arrest. Rights groups, however, contend that the actual number of dead is at least triple that. 

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