• January 18, 2023

Sri Lanka must ensure compensation for victims of 2019 terrorist attacks

Last week, the Supreme Court ordered the former President and three other senior officials to compensate the families of the victims because they had failed to prevent the tragedy. 

More than 270 people were killed in the series of explosions at churches and hotels across the island nation. 

A step forward 

OHCHR urged Sri Lanka to provide full reparations to the victims, including to establish the truth and to ensure justice. 

“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,” said Spokesperson Jeremy Laurence. 

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled 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. 

They were ordered to personally pay nearly $850,000 into a victims’ fund. 

Lack of oversight 

“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,” said Mr. Laurence. 

In a previous decision, the Court found that proceedings against current President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was Prime Minister at the time, could not continue given the immunities he enjoys while in office. 

Compensation and consultation 

The UN human rights office called on the Sri Lankan Government to ensure that victims receive adequate compensation and that they and their representatives are fully consulted in the disbursement of the funds. 

Mr. Laurence also reiterated OHCHR’s recommendations to the authorities, who are urged to release the complete findings of previous inquiries into the Easter Sunday bombings. 

The Government also should establish a follow-up independent investigation, with international assistance and the full participation of victims and their representatives, and to hold all those responsible to account, he added. 

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