SRI LANKA: Death sentence requires the intervention of the Government of Sri Lanka

Mrs. Geetha Udugama, the wife of Mr. Edirisinghe, who is facing a death sentence in Saudi Arabia, strongly condemns the attitudes taken by many Sri Lankan authorities to her desperate plea regarding the fate of her husband.

She says that for the last six months she has been making visits to many influential institutions and persons but feels that no effort has been made by the Sri Lankan government to save the life of her husband.  She feels that authorities seem reluctant to intervene in the case, fearing that Sri Lanka may lose business contacts if such interventions are made.  She further says that on a recent visit by the brother of His Excellency the King of Saudi Arabia, she pleaded that this matter be addressed to him so that he could move the Saudi authorities to take a merciful attitude in this case.  However, this request was also rejected.

Mrs. Udugama stated that she made visits to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that it was only after several visits that she was referred to the person who is supposed to be dealing with her husband’s case.  She made her representation to this person.  However, she is unaware of anything that may have been done by the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry.  She also states that through various channels, including members of parliament, she made representations to the Honorable Prime Minister as well.

When death sentences are passed against citizens in foreign countries it is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that takes up the matter with the relevant authorities.  Many countries that send large numbers of migrant workers abroad, such as the Philippines, have developed mechanisms to receive complaints and to deal with them. Sri Lanka, however, has not.

Migrant workers are one of the major sources of revenue for Sri Lanka.  However, there are no mechanisms in Sri Lanka for careful and effective intervention on behalf of migrant workers who face legal actions in foreign countries.  At the time of trial and arrest, Sri Lankan consulates make no attempt to provide Sri Lankan citizens with legal counsel and other assistance.  Thus, these migrant workers are unable to defend themselves and are often found guilty despite the fact.  Even after convictions very little is done to win mercy for their citizens who are faced with cruel and inhumane punishments under particular types of criminal justice systems existing in some countries.  Where other governments have made such interventions, the lives of their citizens have been saved.

The Asian Human Rights Commission urges that the Sri Lankan authorities listen to the plea of the wife of this unfortunate person who may face death in as short a time as one week.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-31-2005
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Death penalty,