Amnesty International yesterday raised fresh concerns that Sri Lanka may soon end a 42-year moratorium on capital punishment and hang 13 men convicted of drug offences.
The London-based rights group said it was “alarmed” over media reports of preparations to resume hangings although the country still does not have a qualified hangman.
“Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena must immediately halt his plans to resume executions for at least 13 prisoners convicted of drug-related crimes,” Amnesty said in a statement.
Sirisena in February announced he would carry out the first executions in 42 years within less than two months, but he is yet to sign any death warrant, officials said.
He said this was in response to spiralling narcotics-related crime inspired by President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines.
The president has also appealed to human rights organisations not to pressure him on his decision.
Criminals in Sri Lanka are regularly handed death sentences for murder, rape and drug-related crimes but since 1976 their punishments have been commuted to life imprisonment.
The Justice Ministry which is responsible for the correctional system said more than a dozen people had been shortlisted to fill the vacancy for an executioner, but no formal appointment has been made.
While Sri Lanka’s last execution was more than four decades ago, an executioner was in post until his retirement in 2014. Three replacements since have quit after short stints at the unused gallows.