Sri Lanka: the death sentences of 60 prisoners commuted


By Elise Guillot, on 17 February 2017

On 4 February 2017, commemoration day of the 69th anniversary of the State, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena commuted the capital sentences of the prisoners on death row to life imprisonment. This measure applies for all prisoners on death row in Sri Lanka, namely 60 persons.

According to the press bodies having relayed the decision, President Sirisena followed the recommendations of a committee nominated by Minister for Justice and headed by the former Supreme Court Judge Nimal Dissanayake. 

This measure comes after the Sri Lankan Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Justice took part in the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Oslo, last June where a plenary session was dedicated to the progress and setbacks in Asia. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mangala Samaraweera, recalled on that occasion that the death penalty had already been abolished in the past in Sri Lanka and that “the vast majority of [his] colleagues in Parliament [found] the death penalty morally repugnant and [were] aware of its inefficaciousness” to deter crime. He also announced that the government was willing to “continue the four decades long de facto moratorium.”

Indeed, Sri Lanka has not carried out any execution since 1976. Nevertheless, the State still retains the death penalty in its legislation.

The World Coalition against the Death Penalty congratulates Sri Lanka for this decision and for its vote in favour of the UN General Assembly resolution on a universal moratorium on the death penalty, in December 2016. The country had abstained for the two previous UN resolutions, in 2012 and 2014. The World Coalition now encourages Sri Lanka to abolish the death penalty in law.


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