Comment by UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Jeremy Laurence on Sri Lanka Supreme Court ruling
The Human Rights Office notes the decision by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka directing senior government officials, including a former President, to compensate the families of the victims of Easter Sunday attacks in 2019, and urges Sri Lanka to provide full reparations to the victims, including to establish the truth and to ensure justice.
The Court unanimously held that former President Maithripala Sirisena, the former defence secretary and two other former security and intelligence officials had violated the fundamental rights of the victims by failing to prevent the attacks, and ordered them to pay personally into a victims’ fund to the value of nearly USD 850,000. More than 270 people were killed in the series of explosions at churches and hotels across the country. In a previous decision, the Supreme Court found that proceedings against the current President, who was the Prime Minister at the time of the attacks, could not continue given the immunities that he enjoys while in office.
Whilst no amount of compensation can ever erase the suffering and pain of the victims and families, this judgment marks a step in the victims’ struggle for recognition of the harm suffered and their rights to truth, justice and reparation. The UN Human Rights Office calls on the Government to ensure that victims receive adequate compensation and that they and their representatives are fully consulted in the disbursement of the funds.
In its judgment, the Court expressed “shock and dismay” at the lack of “oversight and inaction” by the security and intelligence officials – ruling that the former President and his top security officials had failed to prevent the attacks, despite detailed intelligence suggesting such attacks were imminent.
The UN Human Rights Office reiterates its recommendations to the Government of Sri Lanka to release the complete findings of previous inquiries into the Easter Sunday bombings and to establish a follow-up independent, thorough and transparent investigation with international assistance and the full participation of victims and their representatives and to hold all those responsible fully to account.