President Maithripala Sirisena has commuted 187 death sentences to life imprisonment on recommendations by an expert committee headed by retired Supreme Court judge Nimal E. Dissanayake.
The decision has been announced in the wake of protests demanding the implementation of the death penalty on the person convicted by the Negombo High Court for rape and murder of a 5-year old girl in the Kotadeniyawa police area in the Gampaha District.
Justice Ministry spokesperson Harsha B. Abeykoon told The Island that President Maithripala Sirisena had endorsed Dissanayake committee's recommendations on 3 separate occasions (Dec. 2015, Apr. 2016 and May 2016).
The previous government established the committee in Oct. 2013 to explore ways and means of overcoming severe difficulties caused by suspension of death penalty in accordance with an understanding with the European Union. The committee included Secretary to the Justice Ministry, additional Solicitor General and Prisons Commissioner.
The Prisons Department has made repeated representations in respect of nearly 1,200 convicts on death row.
Abeykoon said that the committee had inquired into cases of nearly 400 convicts on death row and recommended the abolition of death sentence.
Foreign Ministry sources told The Island that FM Mangala Samaraweera assured the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council last September that Sri Lanka wouldn't implement the death penalty. He also said the government would abolish death penalty.
Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe told The Island yesterday that it would be a continuing process. Asked whether those on the death row, who had their death sentences commuted to life sentence, were eligible for release after serving 20 years behind bars, Minister Rajapakshe said that was a possibility. Minister Rajapakshe emphasised that death penalty had been converted to life sentence before the incumbent government came into being in January 2015.
Source: island.lk, May 28, 2016