Executions will not end drug-related crime in Sri Lanka, Amnesty International said today, in a new briefing that makes the case against President Maithripala Sirisena’s plan to revive the death penalty 43 years after the last execution was carried out on the island.
The briefing, Sri Lanka: Halt Preparations to Resume Executions, highlights how the death penalty is being used in circumstances that violate international law and standards, has failed to act as a unique deterrent to crime in other countries, could claim the lives of people who may have been convicted through unfair trials, and could disproportionately affect people from minority and less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds.
“There is no evidence that implementing the death penalty will end drug-related crime. Executions are never a solution. Indeed, they may result in people being put to death following unfair trials. The death penalty is also a punishment that disproportionately affects people from less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds,” said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International.
Amnesty International’s briefing highlights the lack of evidence that the death penalty has unique deterrent effect on crime. Statistics from countries that have abolished the death penalty show that the absence of executions has not resulted in an increase in crimes, previously subjected to capital punishment.
The briefing highlights countries that have abolished the death penalty, or amended drug laws, including Iran where recent legislative amendments have resulted in a significant decrease in executions of people convicted of drug-related offences. Similarly, in Malaysia, the government announced a moratorium on executions and a review of the country’s death penalty laws, after having introduced some sentencing discretion for the offence of drug trafficking in 2017.
Amnesty International also highlights how the trials of those facing execution could have failed to meet international fair trial standards, due to torture and forced “confessions” being routinely practiced in Sri Lanka’s criminal justice system, as noted by the National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and UN experts.
“There is no coming back from an execution. There is no criminal justice system that is perfect. The risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated, and the injustice that ensues can never be redeemed,” said Biraj Patnaik.
Furthermore, the briefing also highlights that evidence from other countries shows that defendants from less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds, belonging to racial, ethnic or religious minorities are disproportionately vulnerable to being sentenced to death.
Amnesty International calls on the Sri Lankan government to halt its current execution plans and establish an official moratorium on the implementation of death sentences, with a view to abolishing the death penalty altogether.
“No criminal justice system is capable of deciding fairly who should live or who should die. Sri Lanka has not implemented this ultimate cruel, degrading and inhumane punishment for more than four decades. It should continue to honour a tradition that chooses life instead of vengeance,” Patnaik added.