Saturday, March 13, 1999 Published at 11:54 GMT
World: South Asia
Sri Lanka revives death penalty
Buddhist values are opposed to the taking of any life
Capital punishment is to be an option again in Sri Lanka, in a bid to control rising crime, the government said on Saturday.
Death sentences have instead been commuted to life imprisonment.
Announcing the change, a statement from the office of Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga said: "The death sentence imposed by court in cases of murder and drug trafficking will be carried out, and will not be commuted to life imprisonment."
At least 12 people are facing a sentence of death in Sri Lanka.
The BBC Colombo Correspondent, Susannah Price says the move will inevitably raise protests from human rights groups, and adds that there are already fears that the range of offences could be extended by emergency decree.
Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist society, a religion which teaches the sanctity of all life, but correspondents say pressure for the return of the death penalty has been mounting over recent years.
Police say the country is suffering from a crime wave and last year the gruesome murder of a honeymooning Indian woman seems to have persuaded many people that a change was needed.
In future, prisoners whose sentences have been commuted to life imprisonment will now serve a minimum 20 years in jail. Until now a prisoner could expect to be considered for remissions after serving four years of a life sentence.
Further changes mean an end to amnesties granted to commemorate religious festivals and other social occasions. Only Independence Day will continue to be marked in this way.
"In any event this remission will not be granted to persons convicted of serious crimes, such as rape, child abuse, robbery, unauthorised possession of firearms, acts of terrorism and drug trafficking," the statement said.