The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has called on Sri Lanka’s President, Maithripala Sirisena, to retract his recent pronouncement that executions would resume in the country notwithstanding a moratorium on capital punishment that has lasted 43 years. The last execution was carried out in Sri Lanka in 1976.
“Resuming executions would be an egregious violation of Sri Lanka’s obligations under international human rights law, a serious threat to human rights in the country, and it would be inconsistent with the global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ’s Asia-Pacific Director.
Moreover, the UN Human Rights Committee has made it clear that the imposition of the death penalty for “drug offenses” is incompatible with the Covenant.
The UN General Assembly has adopted repeated resolutions, most recently in December 2018, by overwhelming majority in calling for all retentionist States to observe a an immediate moratorium with a view to abolition.
It must be noted that Sri Lanka voted in favor of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in the 2018 UN GA Resolution. This commitment should not be reversed, but upheld in practice instead, the ICJ says.
The ICJ calls on the Government of Sri Lanka to reject the resumption of executions and to do away with the death penalty once and for all. Instead of planning on resuming executions, the Sri Lankan authorities should focus on effective, evidence-based approaches to crime prevention in manners that conform to international human rights law and standards, such as formulating policies and legislation that address the underlying social and economic causes of criminality, which are also vital to ensuring stability and the rule of law.
The ICJ also urges Sri Lanka to immediately ratify the 2nd Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which obligates State Parties to take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty.
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