Several religious denominations, professionals and public interest activists are looking to initiate litigation on the much-debated decision to implement the death penalty.
The fundamental rights petition is in the public and personal interest of citizens and taxpayers, they said, and the implementation of the death penalty exacerbated the colossal cost of miscarriages of justice as the potential damage done was irreparable.
Ven. Galkanda Dhammananda Thera, Anglican Emeritus Bishop Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera, Shahul Hameed Mohamed Faleel Moulavi, Rev. Dr. Pedurupeirisge Jayasiri Thidas Peiris, Rev. Dr. Sister Rasika Pieris, Dr. Tara Vinodanee de Mel, Chartered Accountant Thumbe Dhura Sri Harsha Gunasena, Medical Practitioner Dr. Mohamed Ghouse Saiful Islam and Prof. Hemantha Senanayake in their petition filed through Gowry Shangary Thavarasha, plead to the leaders of the Opposition, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) to oppose the death penalty.
They said the government had not changed its policy of position on the death penalty and that the President, in the circumstances, had no power to order the imposition of capital punishment.
“Some 1,600 prisoners are condemned to death by hanging by the court of law. One of the basics of fundamental rights is the right to life and from time immemorial, all civilized societies have recognised the right to life of human beings. Sri Lanka is one of the very few countries where major religions of the world, namely Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, are practised and all of them recognise the right to life. No human being and/or government is entitled to take away the life of an individual except under the most exceptional circumstances and imposing the death penalty at this stage in Sri Lanka does not fall within such circumstances.
From 1976 onwards, it was the policy of successive governments not to impose the death penalty and there is no justification whatsoever to carry out capital punishment. The incumbent administration headed by the President has affirmed unequivocally and/or held out and/or published the fact that it is a government policy to not carry out the death penalty,” they said.
They said from 2018 onwards -- contrary to published policy -- various government functionaries had taken steps towards the re-implementation of the death penalty.
“On the basis of information released, they are the prisoners convicted of drug-related offences who will be executed. Death sentences on any prisoner will amount to torture, cruelty, inhuman treatment and punishment,” they said.
They seek a court order preventing the implementation of the death penalty and an interim order preventing the implementation of the same until the final hearing and determination of this application.
The Centre for Policy Alternative, Prof. Camena Guneratne and Dr. Kalana Senaratne, too filed public interest litigation. Attorney Deanne L.A. Uyangoda petitions on behalf of condemned prisoners M.S.M. Mifthar and S. Punyamoorthy. Attorneys Kavinda Hewa Geeganage and Yohan Peiris filed their petitions on behalf of condemned prisoners M.H.P. Nawas and S.A. Suresh Kumara respectively. (S.S. Selvanayagam)