A right to information (RTI) request, filed with the Secretary to the President, Udaya Ranjith Seneviratne, seeking information pertaining to those facing execution, was denied. An appeal has since been filed.
Previously, information requests filed by two journalists, on 13 February, were addressed to Seneviratne, the Attorney General (AG), President’s Counsel Jayantha Jayasuriya, and Minister of Justice Thalatha Atukorale.
Information Officer – Additional Secretary to the President , B.K.S. Ravindra stated that as per the provisions in Section 5(1)(h) of the RTI Act, No. 12 of 2016, the request had been denied.
Section 5(1)(h) holds that access to information may be refused if the disclosure of such information would – (i) cause grave prejudice to the prevention or detection of any crime or the apprehension or prosecution of offenders or (ii) expose the identity of a confidential source of information in relation to law enforcement or national security.
The information sought includes the names and particulars of prisoners sentenced to death upon conviction for drug-related offences who the relevant authorities allege are yet engaged in committing drug related crimes whilst incarcerated on death row, several of whom are proposed to be subjected to the implementation of the death penalty. The latter has been mentioned publicly on several occasions by President Maithripala Sirisena.
Presently, although the death sentence imposed on certain convicts by Courts of law, there is a moratorium imposed on the implementation of the capital punishment. Further, Articles 12(1) and 12(2) of the Constitution guarantees the right to equality and equal protection of the law, and non-discrimination.
Section 285(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP) Act, No. 15 of 1979 notes that when a person is sentenced to death, it is the President that decides when and where the said convict is to be hanged till the person is dead. According to Section 286 of the CCP Act, upon the pronouncement of a death sentence, the presiding trial Judge (High Court and above) which passed the sentence has to forward his/her notes of evidence and a report to the President which sets out his/her opinion as to whether there are any reasons as to why the sentence should or should not be carried out, and spell those reasons out . The President would inform Court of the Order (stay the warrant of execution or state the date, time and place of the execution).
President Sirisena recently stated that he had already decided on the date of execution. Presently, shortlisted applicants for the post of the hangman (two vacancies) are being interviewed by the relevant authorities.
–By Ruwan Laknath Jayakody