The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Sri Lankan government seeks applicants with ‘excellent moral character’ to be executioners

A man reads an advertisement of a vacancy for executioners in a newspaper in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Feb. 12. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

If you’re a man between the ages of 18 and 45 with a “very good mind and mental strength,” the Sri Lankan prison system may have just the right job for you.

The state-run Daily News paper published an advertisement from the country’s Department of Prisons on Monday, calling for all interested executioners to apply. According to the job description, which was located in the classifieds next to a post for an assistant librarian at a nearby university, applicants should be young to middle-aged and “have an excellent moral character" and adequate physical strength to carry out the task. The pay? $203 a month.

Until now, executioners in Sri Lanka haven’t had much work to do. The death penalty, while legal in Sri Lanka, has not been carried out there since 1976, even with more than 1,000 people on death row.

But last week, President Maithripala Sirisena announced he wanted to bring back capital punishment, particularly for drug offenders. The president praised Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent crackdown on drugs during a visit to the country in January.

“The war against crime and drugs carried out by you is an example to the whole world — and personally to me," Sirisena said while dining with Duterte, according to Rappler, a Philippine news site. "Drug menace is rampant in my country, and I feel that we should follow your footsteps to control this hazard,”

Approximately 5,000 people have been killed in Duterte’s drug war in the Philippines, according to his government. But rights groups estimate the death toll could actually be higher than 12,000 — and say that many of the killings have been extrajudicial.

Now that Sirisena is calling for the death penalty to be used more often in Sri Lanka, the government is running into a shortage of qualified people to carry out executions. According to the BBC, Sri Lanka has a history of recruits dropping out of hangman work. In 2014, one hired executioner resigned from the job because he was “shocked and afraid" by the sight of the gallows. Since then, the country has not been able to find a permanent executioner.

This week’s job posting wasn’t entirely well-received, sparking outrage among human rights activists in the region.

“This is one job advert that should never have been put out," Biraj Patnaik, South Asia director for Amnesty International, wrote on Twitter. "There is no place for the death penalty in a civilised society.”

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