Sri Lankan prison authorities have recruited two hangmen ahead of planned executions that would end a 43-year-old moratorium on the death penalty, an official said Monday. The recruitment of the two hangmen comes as prison authorities are preparing to carry out an order by Sri Lanka president Maithripala Sirisena, who last week signed the death warrants for four drug convicts who will be hanged soon, amid alarm over drug-related crimes in the country. Sirisena told media last week that the dates of execution have been decided, but they have not been made public. An official at the Justice Ministry who spoke on condition of anonymity said the two selected hangmen—two males under the age of 45—are now reporting to work, the AP reports.
Sri Lanka last executed a prisoner in 1976. Currently, 1,299 prisoners are on death row, including 48 convicted of drug offenses. Prison authorities advertised to hire two hangmen in February, after the previously recruited two people quit—in 2014 and last year—without executing anyone. About 100 people applied, with the advertisement saying applicants should have "an excellent moral character" and must pass a test conducted to check the "mind and mental strength." Sirisena's move is facing mounting criticism from rights groups and foreign governments, including the EU, which say the death penalty is a cruel, inhumane, and a degrading punishment and that there is simply no evidence that the death penalty is an effective deterrent against the drug trade.
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