LONDON [27 JUNE 2019] – Harm Reduction International and almost 120 human rights organisations from around the world – including Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists – published open letters today calling on the United Nations’ major drug control bodies to intervene and help stop Sri Lanka’s move to resume executions after 43 years.
President Maithripala Sirisena signed the execution warrants this week for four people convicted of drug-related offences.
The letters – sent to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) – underscore that the death penalty for drug offences violates international human rights law. The signatories state that “Remaining silent as Sri Lanka puts an end to a 43-year de facto moratorium on executions would strike a blow to the INCB’s and UNODC’s commitments to human rights compliance as a core principle of international drug policy.”
Giada Girelli, human rights analyst at Harm Reduction International, said: “There is simply no evidence that the death penalty is an effective deterrent against the drug trade. President Sirisena’s move is a gross violation of human rights – UN bodies must urge authorities in Sri Lanka to reverse this and work to consign the death penalty to the history books.”
Harm Reduction International’s latest research shows that global executions for drug offences fell by almost 90% from 2015-18, in large part because of judicial reforms in Iran. Of the 35 countries that retain the death penalty for drug offences, only four carried out executions in 2018 (China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Singapore).