Sri Lanka to hang drug criminals, replicate Philippines 'success'

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jul 11 2018 07:30 PM

COLOMBO - Sri Lanka announced Wednesday it would start hanging drug dealers, ending a near-half century moratorium on capital punishment as officials promised to "replicate the success" of the Philippines drug war.

President Maithripala Sirisena had told the cabinet he "was ready to sign the death warrants" of repeat drug offenders, government spokesperson Rajitha Senaratne said Wednesday.

"From now on, we will hang drug offenders without commuting their death sentences," he said.

Sri Lanka has commuted death sentences for serious crimes to life in prison since 1976 when the last execution took place.

Senaratne said there were 19 drug offenders whose death sentences had been commuted to life. It was not clear if they would be hanged under the government's policy shift.

But authorities say a tougher approach is needed to combat what they say is an increase in drug-related crime.

Senaratne cited a case this week where a convicted drug dealer, whose death sentence was commuted to life, had arranged the import of 100 kilograms of heroin from behind bars.

The government has drawn inspiration from the Philippines, where a no-holds-barred war on drugs has been a centerpiece of President Rodrigo Duterte's administration.

"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," Senaratne said of the decision to deploy the military to tackle drugs.

The government has not spelled out how it will deploy troops, but in the past, they have been used to reinforce local police in riot control.

Duterte ran on a law-and-order platform that included promises to rid the country of the drug trade. 

Authorities have acknowledged the deaths of more than 4,200 drug suspects who resisted arrest in drug operations.

But rights groups say the actual number of dead is at least triple that and could amount to crimes against humanity.