Executions may be resumed after 24 years

Following a cabinet decision in the context of rising levels of crime last March, the government is on the verge of breaking its 24-year moratorium.

'The death penalty is a brutalising punishment, ineffective and a gross human rights violation. It's not possible for a country to execute prisoners and fully respect human rights at the same time,' Amnesty International said.

'No one can condone the grave acts which some criminals commit but the death penalty is not the answer. The majority of governments have found alternative punishments.'

The letters urge the government to seriously consider several factors:

-- Studies from around the world, including one in Sri Lanka in the late 1950s, have shown that the death penalty does not deter people from committing crimes. If a rise in crime is the issue, the government must address this through comprehensive policy measures and not with executions. Amnesty International is urging the government to consider a commission of inquiry into rising levels of crime which would propose effective measures.

-- The death penalty has been shown to be discriminatory, usually carried out on the poorer and more marginalised people in society.

-- If Sri Lanka were to resume executions, it would be going against a clear international trend towards abolition of the death penalty and a moratorium on executions. In the past decade, an average of three countries a year have abolished the death penalty. So far 108 countries have abolished it law or practice.

-- There is always the risk of executing innocent people. A number of countries have recently released death row inmates found to be innocent: Philippines, Malaysia, Belize, China, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Malawi, Turkey, the USA and Japan.

-- The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has repeatedly called for a worldwide moratorium on executions.

'Amnesty International is calling on the government to uphold the most basic human right -- the right to life -- and not resume executions. Advocating such violence will wind the clock back for human rights in Sri Lanka.'

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