ECPM alarmed by the statements of the President of Sri Lanka

1 October 2018

Why does the current situation worry ECPM? ECPM is extremely occupied by what has been going on in Sri Lanka and specifically the declarations of the President Sirisena announced this past summer. The President confirmed his wish to hang all the inmates sentenced to the death penalty in Sri Lanka for drug dealing. Therefore 19 people risk this execution. Simultaneously to this declaration, the prison administration of this country published a job offer for executioners. The last execution dating back to more than 40 years ago, their career had become obsolete, and all executioners had quit. This escalade of declarations worried us : we sent a letter to the President, asking him to rethink his statement. This was also reported back to the United Nations during the Council of human rights (which took place from the 10th to the 28th of September) by the High-commissioner of human rights, Mrs.Bachelet, who notably spoke about the situation in Sri Lanka and asked the President to rethink his declaration. What would the consequences be of such a decision for the country? If this decision where to be applied, the country would be putting an end to an unofficial moratorium dealing with the death penalty which exists since 1976, which would be an extremely critical decision for the country and for the region. This decision would also be in total contradiction which the previous conduct of this country concerning the death penalty. Not only has it been 42 years since Sri Lanka has executed a prisoner, but the country has even been consistently commuting the prisoners sentenced to death for drug dealing to life sentences. In addition, Sri Lanka voted in favour of the biennial resolution of the United Nations concerning the application of a universal moratorium. The country greatly supports this resolution and most of all, it was represented for the first time at the highest level during the 6th World Congress against the death penalty which took place in Oslo in 2016, by sending its Minister of foreign affairs and Minister of justice. Sri Lanka was even the most represented state in the Congress! Both ministers had extremely strong arguments in favour of the abolition and confirmed that an abolition would be applied very soon. Is it possible that Sri Lanka will be taking a step back? We hope that this declaration was only an announcement, as did the Philippines who’s President also declared multiple times that he wished to apply capital punishment, which hasn’t yet led to an execution. Nevertheless, we remain alert and hope the government of Sri Lanka will be present at the 7th World Congress against the death penalty that we are organising at the European Parliament in Brussels. This occasion will favour a dialogue with the government and a measure of the path left to achieve abolition.