COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka's president said the government will still end its 42-year moratorium on capital punishment despite requests by the European Union and other diplomatic missions not to do so.
President Maithripala Sirisena said the decision to implement the death penalty for drug smugglers "will not be changed under any circumstance and despite the objections raised by some factions against the move," according to the president's website.
Rising crime in Sri Lanka, including gang-related killings, narcotics, robberies and sex crimes have led to a public outcry for executions.
Last week, Sirisena said convicted drug traffickers will be hanged as a part of a crackdown on narcotics. The government has said it will execute prisoners who have allegedly taken advantage of the moratorium to continue their drug trade from prison. Drug trafficking carries the death penalty in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has maintained the moratorium since its last execution in 1976.
No date has been set for the first new execution. More than 400 convicts now in prison were sentenced to death, although many have had their sentences commuted to life or are appealing. Of them, 18 were sentenced for drug-related crimes.
Sirisena said he would summon judiciary, prisons and law enforcement heads this week to appoint a committee to decide who should be executed.
The government's decision to end the moratorium drew reaction from the European Union delegation and embassies of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Canada and Norway which asked Sirisena to maintain the moratorium and to uphold Sri Lanka's tradition of opposition to capital punishment.
The embassies stressed they oppose capital punishment "in all circumstances and in all cases" and that the death penalty is incompatible with human dignity, does not have any proven deterrent effect, and allows judicial errors to become fatal and irreversible.