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Sri Lanka leader asks rights groups not to oppose executions

February 6, 2019

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s president urged human rights groups on Wednesday not to interfere with his plans to end a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment.

Maithripala Sirisena told Parliament that executions will resume in the next two months.

He said many larger nations carry out executions but smaller countries like Sri Lanka are hampered by human rights groups in their efforts to control crime.

“In carrying out the executions ... I especially appeal to the human rights organizations not to control punishments given to serious criminals by raising human rights issues,” Sirisena said.

Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist, a religion which advocates non-violence. It last executed a prisoner in 1976.

Sirisena said while the country has had positive influences from all religions, tough law enforcement is necessary to curb crime and maintain order.

Recent large seizures of narcotics have raised suspicions that the country has become a smuggling hub.

During a visit to the Philippines last month, Sirisena praised President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug crackdown as “an example to the world.” Thousands of suspects have been killed in the crackdown, which Duterte launched after taking office in 2016. Rights groups have denounced the killings as extrajudicial executions.

Sri Lanka has 1,299 prisoners facing death sentences, including 48 convicted of drug offenses.

Police have intensified efforts to crack down on drugs, seizing 90 kilograms (198 pounds) of heroin from a luxury apartment in Colombo last month. Two Americans, two Sri Lankans and an Afghan were arrested. On Tuesday, a total 110 kilograms (242 pounds) of drugs were seized from two locations near the capital.

Giada Girelli, a human rights analyst with the Harm Reduction International drug policy research group, said last week that there is no evidence that executions would serve as an effective deterrent to drug use or trafficking.

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