“From now on, we will hang drug offenders without commuting their death sentences,” Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena told his cabinet, according to his spokesman Rajitha Senaratne, adding that he “was ready to sign the death warrants” of repeat drug offenders.
“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.
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has waged a brutal campaign to crack down on suspected drug dealers and users since he came to power in 2016. The administration has spearheaded the extrajudicial killings of thousands. Authorities have acknowledged killing more than 4,200 drug suspects who resisted arrest, AFP reports, but rights groups say the real number is at least triple that figure.
Since 1976, Sri Lanka, a predominantly Buddhist country, has commuted death sentences for serious crimes to life in prison. But authorities say a tougher approach on drugs is now needed as the country has increasingly became an international transit hub for narcotics. In January, authorities destroyed over a $108 million worth of seized cocaine, Reuters reports.
Some 19 drug offenders, whose death sentences had been commuted to life, will now be executed Senaratne said, according to the Guardian citing local media.
Amnesty International has condemned the move.
“By resuming executions after more than 40 years, Sri Lanka will do immense damage to its reputation,” Dinushika Dissanayake, deputy director for South Asia at Amnesty International, said in a statement. “The government must immediately halt plans to carry out any executions, commute all death sentences, and establish an official moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty.”