Sri Lanka might execute drug traffickers caught dealing from prison

Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said on Wednesday he might sign off on the execution of convicted drug traffickers still dealing from jail, as his country battles what officials say is a growing tide of drugs.

Drug trafficking carries the death penalty in Sri Lanka but no one has been executed for any crime since 1976. All death penalties have been commuted to life in prison since then.

From January 2015 to April 23 this year, police have seized 588 kg of heroin, 17,481 kg of hashish, and 1,800 kg of cocaine, according to government figures.

Sirisena, speaking at a public gathering, said there were convicted drug traffickers arranging drugs deals from prison.

“So, yesterday, I proposed to the cabinet that I will sign for the execution of prisoners who are already convicted of drug trafficking and still doing the business from prison,” he said.

More than 400 convicts are on death row in Sri Lanka. It was not known how many of them were convicted of drug offences.

International drug smugglers have increasingly turned to Sri Lanka as a transit hub here in Asia, authorities have said.

Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said the cabinet had also approved a proposal by the president to mobilize military on the war against drug.

Sri Lanka is the latest Asian country to crack down on drugs.

Thousands of people have been killed in a war on drugs in the Philippines and scores have been killed in a similar campaign in Bangladesh.

Sri Lanka, a predominantly Buddhist country, in 2015 voted in favor of a U.N. resolution for a moratorium on the death penalty.