Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network

Sri Lanka – Looking for new hangmen after no executions for 43 years

Sri Lanka advertises for new hangmen after reintroducing capital punishment

Island nation looks to carry out first execution for 43 years in Duterte-inspired drug trafficking crackdown

An advert searching for executioners was placed in Sri Lanka’s state-run Daily News newspaper on Monday

An advert searching for executioners was placed in Sri Lanka’s state-run Daily News newspaper on Monday ( Reuters )

Sri Lanka began advertising for hangmen this week after the country reinstated capital punishment, inspired by the Philippines’ hard-line approach to drug trafficking.

The last execution in Sri Lanka took place 43 years ago, but president Maithripala Sirisena said last week he wants to restore the death penalty for drug traffickers in the next two months.

During a state visit to the Philippines in January, Mr Sirisena praised president Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs”, which has drawn international criticism after the deaths of thousands of people and allegations of extrajudicial killings by police.

Drug trafficking is a capital offence in Sri Lanka, although no one has been executed for any crime in the country since 1976, with all death penalties commuted to life in prison since then.

The country’s last hangman quit in 2014 without ever having to execute anyone, citing stress after seeing the gallows for the first time. Another hired last year never turned up for work.

But, anticipating that capital punishment could soon be used again, the prison service is now hurrying to recruit two new executioners.

We never know if the government will resume the death penalty, but we want to hire two hangmen to fill vacancies and be ready if the government wants to execute drug traffickers,” Thushara Upuldeniya, a spokesman for the prison service, said.

An advertisement published in the state-run Daily News on Monday put the monthly pay at 36,310 rupees (£158), above average for a government job.

Candidates should be Sri Lankan, male, aged between 18 and 45, and have both “excellent moral character” and “mental strength”, the advert said.

Mr Upuldeniya said the job interviews will be conducted next month, while at least 25 people convicted for drugs offences, including two drug dealers, could be executed.

There were also 436 people, including six women, on death row for various crimes including murder, he added.

Government officials said Mr Sirisena has sought advice from the Philippines on how to combat drug trafficking, amid mounting concerns that Sri Lanka could become a transit hub for the narcotics trade in Asia.

Police have arrested more than 50 people since the middle of last year after busting a drug smuggling ring.

Additional reporting by Reuters – Independent, 13/2/2019

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