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As Sri Lanka marks five years since hundreds of people were killed in the Easter bombings, the UN calls for justice

The dead included 45 foreigners, including tourists visiting the island a decade after the end of a brutal ethnic conflict that had claimed more than 100,000 lives since 1972.

“Sri Lanka suffers from an ongoing lack of accountability, whether for alleged war crimes, more recent human rights violations, corruption or abuse of power, which must be addressed if the country is to move forward,” Franche said.

He noted that the victims were still seeking justice despite the Supreme Court holding former President Maithripala Sirisena and his top officials responsible for failing to prevent the attack.

“Providing justice for the victims of these attacks must be part of addressing the systemic challenge,” Franche said.

A Sri Lankan soldier stands guard at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo in May 2019, a week after a series of bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels rocked the Indian Ocean island. Photo: AFP

He said the UN Human Rights Office has also called on Colombo to publish the full findings of previous investigations into the Easter Sunday bombings and to launch an independent investigation.

The Catholic Church of Sri Lanka has done just that claimed that military intelligence officers were involved with the Islamists carrying out the attack that aided the political ambitions of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a retired army officer who campaigned for security. Seven months later he won the presidency.

The leader of Sri Lanka’s Catholic Church, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, said Rajapaksa had systematically protected those behind the bombings since his victory.

Rajapaksa was forced from power in July 2022 after months of protests over an unprecedented economic crisis that caused shortages of food, fuel and medicine.

Sri Lanka will investigate allegations of intelligence complicity in the 2019 bombings

Sri Lanka’s Catholics were expected to hold a silent protest later on Sunday to demand a speedy investigation into the attacks.

Evidence presented in a civil case filed shortly after the attacks showed that Indian intelligence officials warned Colombo about the bombings some seventeen days earlier, but authorities failed to act.

Then-President Sirisena and his officials were ordered to pay 310 million rupees ($1 million) in compensation to victims and relatives.

But the ruling has yet to be fully implemented as Sirisena has appealed and a new hearing is scheduled for July.