World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Sri Lanka: reactivation of death penalty

Sri Lanka: Amnesty International concerned at reactivation of death penalty

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:

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Euro-Med Monitor: Sudan Military Coup Shatters Democratic Path, Threatens With Authoritarian Rule Return
The Sudanese army's seizure of power in the country diminishes the hard-won human rights and civil gains achieved after the December 2018 protests, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said today in a statement...More>>

Weather: Pacific Likely To Experience Double Dip La Niña Episode

The Pacific is likely to experience a rare occurrence of what is called a double dip La Niña in the coming months, Climate models and predictions tools used by Pacific National Meteorological and Hydrological services (NMHSs) show...

CNS: Will India's 1 Billion Vaccination-dose-milestone Be Catalytic For Vaccinating All?

On 21 October 2021, India crossed its milestone of administering over 1 billion (100 crores) doses within 278 days since it began the vaccination rollout (on 16th January 2021)... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

Pacific: Young Climate Leaders Call For Urgent Climate Action Ahead Of COP26

Eight Pacific Young Climate Leaders shared their experiences of climate resilience and activism in an inaugural dialogue with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Mr Henry Puna on 21 October 2021... More>>

UN: With Clock Ticking, Sustainable Transport Key To Global Goals
From electric cars and buses to zero-carbon producing energy sources, new and emerging technologies along with innovative policy changes, are critical for combating climate change. But to be effective, they must ensure that transport strategies benefit everyone, including the poorest... More>>

COP26: 7 Climate Action Highlights To Remember

A September to remember, a pivotal month for climate action commitments. From the United Nations General Assembly week to the final pre-COP meeting, last month was an important time to build momentum... More>>