Sri Lankan president under public pressure to resume executions

The assassination of a Sri Lankan judge two weeks ago has put pressure on President Chandrika Kumaratunga to consider signing death warrants and start hanging death-row inmates for the first time in 28 years. The assassination of a Sri Lankan judge two weeks ago has put pressure on President Chandrika Kumaratunga to consider signing death warrants and start hanging death-row inmates for the first time in 28 years. The murder of High Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya rocked this Buddhist nation and saw lawyers and judges demanding that existing death penalty convictions be carried out as a message to deter violent crime.

The government responded by announcing the “death penalty will be effective from today (November 20) for rape, murder and narcotics dealings.”

But similar declarations had been made on four previous occasions since 1999 by successive governments as a vote catching exercise and political observers expect the same this time.

Although executions have not been been carried out since 1976, Sri Lankan courts have continued to hand down death sentences with the public supporting the ultimate penalty because of rising crime.

Official figures show there have been nearly 800 murders i