Concerns Raised Over Double Standards On Death Penalty
By Nirmala Kannangara
The double standards displayed by Sri Lankan government on the issue of the death penalty internationally and locally have raised many questions. Numerous groups and organizations as well as individuals pointed out that although Sri Lanka has abstained from voting at the UN General Assembly where a motion was presented against the carrying out of the death penalty and on extra judicial, summary or arbitrary execution, in Sri Lanka the view of the authorities are in favour of it.
“The reason for our rulers to stand against the death penalty, extra judicial, summary or arbitrary execution internationally is to show the outer world how compassionate they are and back in the country their stances are completely contradicting. This is double standard,” said Nuwan Bopage Executive Committee Member of the Young Lawyers Association.
According to reports, the UN draft resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty was adopted by a recorded vote of 111 in favour to 41 against, with 34 abstentions.
The document was adopted by a recorded vote of 117 in favour to none against, with 67 abstentions. The UN General Assembly, during its session last week adopted 56 resolutions and 9 decisions.
Meanwhile in a press release the Amnesty International welcomed an increase in global support for abolition of the death penalty.
“Although the UN General Assembly vote is not legally binding, it does express the will of the international community and is a strong signal from the world body.
The death penalty is the ultimate form of cruel and inhuman punishment – we oppose its use in all circumstances,” Amnesty International’s UN representative in New York José Luis Díaz said in a statement.
Speaking further Nuwan Bopage pointed out as to how the abductions have taken place from October 2011 to July 2012 but added that it was disheartening to note as to how no action has been taken to apprehend the culprits.
“From October 2011 to March 2012, 56 abductions have been taken place while from April to July 2012, 21 cases of abductions have been reported. We as lawyers want to know as to how many abductors have been brought to book and the status of these investigations are. Since the authorities concern have not taken any action to carry out investigations, it clearly shows that the security forces do not want to bring the culprits to book because of certain reasons,” claimed Bopage.
According to Bopage, there is no other option for the country’s leaders than resorting to extra judicial killings in order to safeguard their positions.
“Take the recent prison riot in Welikada where more than 25 inmates were killed. There are allegations that those who were not involved in the riot were also killed for a purpose. It is alleged that the list of names that wanted to be silenced forever have been drawn before the riot broke out. There are evidences where an inmate has spoken to the family members well after the riots were controlled but found dead the following day. How can these happen if the state machinery is not involved? The government can appoint any amounts of commissions or committees to find out how the riots broke out but the million dollar question is whether an independent report would come out,” said Bopage.
Bopage further added as to how the state machinery is using the judiciary, police and even prison authorities to suppress the people who have become a threat to their future.
“Although the judiciary, police and prisons should be there to maintain law and order in a country, in Sri Lanka these three departments are there to give a supportive hand to the state machinery to suppress the masses that become a threat to the government’s illegal activities,” said Bopage.
Meanwhile, Executive Director, Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu said that Sri Lankan government’s position on death penalty internationally and locally is contradicting.
“While Sri Lanka has abstained from voting at the UN General Assembly where a motion was presented against the carrying out of the death penalty and on extra judicial, summary or arbitrary execution, and advertising for the post of hangman contradicts each other. If this abstention is part of the government stance suggesting that they won’t support capital punishment we hope that one day they might move for the abolishing of the death penalty in Sri Lanka as well,” added Saravanamuttu.
Meanwhile, Secretary, Rehabilitation and Prisons Reform Ministry, G.S. Withanage said that there are no such plans to implement gallows, as the approval should come from President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“When new applications were called for the post of hangman, the general public assumed that once the post is filled the Justice Ministry would re-introduce the gallows. There is no such move still. Post of hangman is in the prison carder and we cannot keep the post vacated. The last hangman went on retirement somewhere last year and we are now in the process of selecting suitable candidates for the post. According to my knowledge Director General Prisons have called for police reports of the prospective candidates.
Once the necessary requirements are met the post will be filled. But that does not mean that the country is going to implement gallows.
The final approval for the gallows should come from President Rajapaksa. It is the Justice Ministry that has to come up with the idea and only the prisons department has to implement the decision,” said Withanage.
When contacted Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe for a comment for the double standard the country is following, this newspaper was asked to contact Justice Minister for a clarification.
“Please contact Justice Minister for a comment,” said Minister Samarasinghe.
All attempts to contact Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem for a comment failed.
From October 2011 to March 2012, 56 abductions have been taken place while from April to July 2012, 21 cases of abductions have been reported. We as lawyers want to know as to how many abductors have been brought to book and the status of these investigations are. Since the authorities concerned have not taken any action to carry out investigations, it clearly shows that the security forces do not want to bring the culprits to book because of certain reasons.
Executive Committee Member
of the Young Lawyers Association.
No decision on death penalty
By Indika Sri Aravinda
The government has not decided on the implementation of the death penalty, External Affairs Ministry Secretary Karunatillaka Amunugama said.
Amunugama told The Sunday Leader that the issue has become a debate in society with the rise in crime especially via the media. “However the government has not taken a policy decision on this,” he said.
Sri Lanka had two weeks ago abstained from voting at the UN General Assembly in favour of abolishing the death penalty. The draft resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty was adopted by a recorded vote of 111 in favour to 41 against, with 34 abstentions.
Amunugama said he had advised officials in New York to abstain from voting at the UN General Assembly as Sri Lanka had not taken a policy decision on the death penalty.