Sri Lanka's Supreme Court has ruled that former Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and four other senior officials were negligent in failing to take the necessary preventive measures to thwart the Easter Sunday terror attacks that killed 279 people, despite well-founded intelligence warnings on April 21, 2019.
In a landmark ruling on January 13, the court ruled that Mr. Sirisena was specifically responsible for failing to try to prevent the attacks, which saw coordinated suicide attacks on hotels and Catholic churches and injured more than 500 people.
Sirisena, 71, was ordered to pay compensation of 100 million rupees (250,000 euros) to the families of the victims who filed the lawsuit. At his side, former Sri Lankan police, intelligence, and defense chiefs were held responsible and ordered to pay compensation to the relatives of the victims.
This is the first time that a Sri Lankan head of state has been held responsible for failing to prevent a terrorist attack. The verdict aroused great satisfaction among the Sri Lankan population. The Catholic community had criticized the government's inadequate investigation into the Easter attacks from the start and called on the United Nations for an international investigation.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, urged the government and public institutions to honor their commitment to bring justice to the victims and to “cleanse the country of all elements of terror.”
Nearly four years after the attacks, which caused death and damage, particularly within the Christian community, the investigations have proved to be insufficient and the recommendations of the specially created presidential commission of inquiry have not been implemented.
Bishops, priests, and lay Catholics have called for transparency and have supported the legal remedy required to establish the possible responsibility of the government or those in positions of power.
In recent weeks, the cardinal had painfully declared that “until today, justice has not been done for them, which shows that there are men who have not been prosecuted for the evil that they did.”
“As the Catholic Church, we have always asked and we will continue to ask for truth and justice, accountability. We need to understand the instigators and the undeclared objectives of these attacks,” Fr. Basil Rohan Fernando, priest of the Archdiocese of Colombo and national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Sri Lanka, told Fides.
“It is a necessary step,” he continues, “to take while our people are also suffering from one of the worst economic crises in their history. In recent years, we have been close to the families of the victims of the attacks and we always try to support them in this difficult journey of healing.”