Sri Lanka interviews 47 potential hangmen

Sri Lanka on Wednesday began interviewing 47 applicants for two positions as hangmen, officials said, as Amnesty International urged Colombo not to bring back capital punishment.

President Maithripala Sirisena announced in February that Sri Lanka would end a 43-year moratorium on executions this month in a Philippines-inspired war on drugs.

Am official said that 47 male applicants would be interviewed on Wednesday and Thursday, after the government advertised the vacancies in February.

But the successful candidates may face a delay in carrying out their new role.

“Since there is no living person in Sri Lanka who has carried out an execution, we need to send the new recruits abroad for training,” the official, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP, adding that Colombo was also yet to identify a country to provide training.

“The rope [used for hangings] has not been used at all since it was imported [in 2015], it will have to be tested and certified.”

Rights group Amnesty International meanwhile said resuming hangings would not end drug-related crime and that innocent people could be executed due to flaws in Sri Lanka’s criminal justice system.

Sirisena has said that he was inspired by the anti-drug war in the Philippines and was keen to replicate the success of his counterpart Rodrigo Duterte. Sirisena has since deployed security forces in his battle against drugs.

In a nationally televised event in Colombo, Sirisena pledged to end the spread of narcotics within two years.

Restoring capital punishment is a centrepiece of his anti-drugs policy.

Criminals in Sri Lanka are regularly given death sentences for murder, rape and drug-related crimes but until now their punishments have been commuted to life in jail.

Sri Lanka’s last judicial hanging was in 1976, but an executioner was in post until his retirement in 2014. Three replacements since have quit after short stints at the unused gallows.

On Monday, Sirisena witnessed the destruction of nearly 800 kilos (1,280 pounds) of cocaine seized between 2016 and 2018.

In February, police seized nearly 300 kilos of heroin worth $17-million, the island’s biggest haul, at a Colombo shopping mall. In 2013, police seized 260 kilos of heroin brought into the country hidden inside tractors imported from Pakistan.

Sri Lanka’s biggest drug haul, by weight, was in December 2016 when police seized 800 kilos of cocaine. Six months earlier, authorities discovered 301 kilos of cocaine inside a shipping container.

Authorities believe the Indian Ocean island is also being used as a trafficking transit point.

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