COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The Sri Lankan Supreme Court ruled Thursday that inaction by the country’s former president and four others led to the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings that killed nearly 270 people and ordered them to pay compensation for violate the basic rights of victims and their families. families
A bench of seven high court judges ordered former President Maithripala Sirisena to pay 100 million rupees ($273,300) from his personal funds. It also ordered the police chief, two senior intelligence officials and the secretary of the Defense Ministry at the time to pay a total of 210 million rupees ($574,000).
Two local Muslim groups that had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State group were accused of carrying out six near-simultaneous suicide bombings targeting worshipers at Easter services at three churches and tourists eating breakfast at three major hotels.
A communication failure caused by a rift between Sirisena and the then-prime minister was blamed on authorities’ failure to act on near-specific foreign intelligence received before the attacks, which also injured some 500 people.
The court said Sirisena, who was also defense minister and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, had failed to convene regular meetings of the national security council and had omitted key personnel from the meetings it held.
“All of this is a stark reality that strikes this court as a serious omission on the part of the then president,” the court said.
“This resounding failure on the part of former President Sirisena had disastrous consequences for this country. Not only were lives lost and property destroyed, but interracial tension and inter-ethnic hatred began to rear its ugly heads, causing the very fabric of this nation to tear,” he said.
“The due care with which the defense minister should have exercised his broad powers in the greater good of the country was totally lacking according to the evidence that has been brought before this court,” he said.
A presidential commission previously recommended criminal proceedings against Sirisena for alleged negligence, but there has been no follow-up.
The government has prosecuted several people in connection with the attacks, but the country’s Catholic church leaders say they suspect a larger conspiracy and are demanding that the leaders be revealed.