- The risks of executing the innocent outweigh the reason
- Eye for an eye, not the remedy when hangman’s noose dangles over our heads
“. ... any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in Mankinde, And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee..” —John Donne, Meditation: XVII. The list of 18 inmates for execution including pending appeal cases have been submitted to the President. Wele Suda and Susei, accused of continuing ‘business’ from prisons are included too. The Government will hang them, or instead, will they work on revitalizing our judiciary and law enforcement mechanisms in keeping with the modern scientific approach?
Heroin dealers within civil society members!– - Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera
Mangala Samaraweera, the mature politician donning the crucial Finance and Media Ministry had alleged key members of civil society as the major heroin dealers in Sri Lanka.
He emphasized that they included some Buddhists Society hierarchy as well. Addressing a media conference at his office, Samaraweera, whose father, Mahanama, the Deputy Minister of Justice in the S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike Government  introduced the Capital Punishment Act No. 20 in Parliament, replacing it with life imprisonment, declared that among those in Welikada’s death row as major dealers there were members of civil society organisations.
Narcotics menace couldn’t be eradicated by executions:
Sasanka Perera of the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners says Courts impose death penalty based on evidence and documents presented by the Police who were famous for obtaining confessions under duress from the suspects. Dr Deepika Udagama, Chairperson, HRC observes that the Capital Punishment as an irrevocable extreme and a form of punishment, which has proven unproductive in curbing crime.
The Finance Minister emphatically opposed Cabinet Approval and President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to recommence hangman’s duty or judicial executions, saying only the second tier traffickers were behind bars at Welikada. However, he will stand by the cabinet decision on the principle of ‘Collective Responsibility’
Running a head office of a Narcotics Hub within the four walls of a prison is not an easy task unless there is substantial protection from Authorities in charge of the premises.
Why Hang the drug dealers only?
Can we also extend this to cover those crooked politicians of past and present who have committed corrupt business deals ignoring tender procedures; corrupt public officials who connive with their political masters in plundering public funds; the unscrupulous elements who syphon out state funds when it suffers from a disastrous economic and financial situations?
Police are famous for prosecuting criminals who have committed crimes but they think cannot be proved in a court of law due to lack of evidence by charging them under ‘possession of a packet of kudu’, a commodity available in the station as productions.
A businessman who once visited his driver’s house got an idea after enjoying a cup of tea served by his beautiful wife. A few days later the Police caught the driver with a packet of ‘kudu’ and got him remanded for two weeks, within which period the boss visited the victim’s family to ‘inquire about the well-being of the young wife and his little kid’.
In the Police force of 85,000, it is quite possible, as in any other organisation for a few unscrupulous characters to exist too.
There had been quite a few cases recorded in the annals of the Judiciary, both here and abroad, where innocents were condemned to execution due to fallacies in the legal procedure.
Since 1992 in the United States, DNA evidence has helped the exoneration of more than a dozen condemned to death. A publication by Death Penalty Information Centre provides a list of ten innocent people executed. The study reveals one in every 25 or four per cent punished are innocent.
We in Sri Lanka lacks such sophisticated apparatus or technical know-how to trace forensic evidence using DNA tests of past cases. In all developed nations where such advanced methodology is practised, they have made shocking revelations in this regard. 25-Year Imprisonment of Innocent
On Sep 21, 2008, Adrian Thomas was convicted for the murder of his son, four-month-old Matthew and was sentenced to ‘25 years to life’ in prison.
The infant was rushed to the hospital by Adrian after finding him insensitive. During the questioning, investigators notified him that it had been established the child passed away from blunt force trauma and that they made out someone in the family had done it. They intimidated to detain his wife if he did not plead guilty.
This interrogation technique is called the Reid Technique, which is a nine-step process used by most Police officers in America.
The technique to get a confession out of Thomas was subject to severe criticism. [--”Police ‘Science’ in the Interrogation Room: Seventy Years of Pseudo-Psychological Interrogation Methods to Obtain Inadmissible Confessions” --Hastings Law Journal: Vol. 61]
A few years later, the girl , confessed that since her mother left her-that is a few months before she was sent to Ex-SSP’s house-the drunkard father had repeatedly ..…her, and she broke down in POSTHUMOUSLY exonerating the great man who she described as both a mother and a father to her during her stay at his house. […retrieved from writer’s memory] Hang the…?
Adrian was convicted based on his own confession. It was later established that the cause of death was Sepsis. Thomas was exonerated after spending the first six years of his term in jail. What if he was executed?—New York Times: March 29, 2012 It Happened in Sri Lanka -Posthumously Exonerated
A retired SSP ran a social service organization to help poor and down-trodden people were convicted of raping an eleven-year-old girl-servant some 15-20 years ago. The convict met a father-daughter pair who approached him for some financial assistance at his centre: after a long chat, the father suggested to the SSP to take the motherless girl to his bungalow as a domestic helper for he was unemployed.
The father who frequented the master’s house to collect money for his booze witnessed the daughter, instead of doing house chores, was learning English from the master. When it became a real nuisance, the father was asked to take back the child. This prompted the man to try a dirty trick on the retired Policeman.
He blackmailed him by claiming that the girl had been raped and that legal action would be instituted if he failed to make a handsome compensation package as ransom. The 65-year old ex Police officer, a father of two educated and well-employed son and a daughter and a grandfather too had little options.
Adrian was convicted based on his own confession. It was later established that the cause of death was Sepsis. Thomas was exonerated after spending the first six years of his term in jail. What if he was executed?
Medical evidence favoured the prosecution that the victim has been repeatedly raped over a period. All attempts by the well-connected and highly influential man to explain his innocence to authorities were in vain as the strong NGO based ‘Women and child protection civil groups’ and HR organisations lobbying for his blood became more effective.
They created an unprecedented voice at the national level, with media playing their usual role. Backing by volunteers from the legal fraternity enhanced the ‘campaign’ for the public to react against the law enforcement authorities for the delay in arresting the ‘rapist’. School children were instigated and mobilised making each child send a postcard addressed to The President requesting stern action against the ‘criminal’—Police had no alternative but arrest, prosecute and get their former colleague remanded.
The unfortunate girl was trained or rather brainwashed by the self-proclaimed ‘For a Few Dollars More..’ type ‘activists’, that she gave evidence in open court describing with clarity, word by word, the specific details of how the crime was committed on her by the suspect. Her story was accepted by everybody who followed the case including the writer, without creating an iota of doubt. People hailed the verdict of jail term; some wanted him hanged too, while the then religious leaders comprehended the matter with equanimity and refrained from commenting.
The benevolent senior gentlemen, a highly respected, virtuous man who earned a reputation for his integrity, honesty, gentleness and calm disposition remained in the hearts and minds of former colleagues and subordinates in the service, who held him in high esteem, who were hesitated and resisted prompt action, which delayed legal process.
A few years later, the victim [the girl] now a teenager , confessed that since her mother left her, that is a few months before she was sent to Ex SSP’s house, the drunkard father had repeatedly ..…her, and she broke down in POSTHUMOUSLY exonerating the great man who she described as both a mother and a father to her during her stay at his house. […retrieved from writer’s memory] Hang the…?
Since 1992 in the United States, DNA evidence has helped the exoneration of more than a dozen condemned to death. A publication by Death Penalty Information Centre provides a list of ten innocent people executed. A study reveals one in every 25 or four per cent punished are innocent.
Dr Colvin R de Silva speaking on the bill for ‘Suspension of Death Penalty’ in 1956 presented by Minister Mahanama Samaraweera, professed a permanent removal of the hangman: he said, “…of all things that state may take away from a man there is one thing that which if you take away you can not only not return, but can never compensate him for and that is his life…the idea is punishment instead of creating an opportunity for healing…it is an old and outmoded utterly unreasonable approach. Let us move away from the principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. - Hansard-1956: col. 548/554