[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Nov 23 13:55:11 CST 2004
News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty
AI Index: ASA 37/007/2004 23 November 2004
Sri Lanka: Amnesty International concerned at reactivation of death
Amnesty International is gravely concerned at the recent announcement that
the death penalty will be reactivated in Sri Lanka.
The announcement, issued by the Office of the President on 20 November,
stated that "the death penalty will be effective from today for rape,
murder and narcotics dealings". It comes in response to the murder of a
High Court judge, Honourable Sarath Ambepitiya, and a policeman who was
providing security to him, both of whom were shot on 19 November. It is
not known who carried out the murder, although it is suspected that it may
be related to organised crime.
The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and is the ultimate
cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, according to Amnesty
International. The organization recognises that Sri Lanka has for some
time been facing an increase in serious crime and the state must respond
to this. However, the death penalty violates human rights and there is no
proof that it is a more effective deterrent to crime than imprisonment.
Moreover, given the significant failings within the Sri Lankan justice
system, including frequent reports of torture in custody to extract
confessions, the chances of innocent people being executed are high.
The reactivation of the death penalty by Sri Lanka would be a retrograde
step, ending a 27 year moratorium on executions. Over the past decades Sri
Lanka has been one of the Asian states that has set an example in the
region by rejecting the death penalty, and this step will break with that
tradition and with the international trend towards abolition of the death
penalty. Amnesty International urges the President and government to
search for other solutions to address criminality and to withdraw plans to
reactivate the death penalty.
The last execution in Sri Lanka was carried out in June 1976. Since then
consecutive presidents have automatically commuted all death sentences. In
March 1999, amid reports of rising crime, the government announced that
death sentences would no longer be automatically commuted when they came
before the President. However, following widespread condemnation, this
policy was not implemented.
During a meeting with an Amnesty International delegation visiting Sri
Lanka in June 2002, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga promised
to continue the practice of automatically commuting all death sentences
that come before her.
In 1999, Amnesty International proposed the appointment of a commission or
similar body to study the apparent rise in criminality in the country and
make recommendations for effective measures which could be taken without
resort to the death penalty. In June 2001, the then Minister of Justice
indicated his interest in commissioning such a study. In March 2003,
Amnesty International made a similar proposal to the Prime Minister and
Minister of Interior, but did not receive a response.
For current and background information on the death penalty please visit
the dedicated Death Penalty Pages:
You may repost this message onto other sources provided the main text is
not altered in any way and both the header crediting Amnesty International
and this footer remain intact.
(source: Amnesty International)
More information about the DeathPenalty