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Easter bomb victims had a right to life, says cardinal

Sri Lankan prelate slams attempts by 'powerful individuals' to interfere with investigations

UCA News reporter, Colombo

UCA News reporter, Colombo

Updated: May 25, 2020 07:57 AM GMT
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Easter bomb victims had a right to life, says cardinal

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith arrives for a service attended by Easter Sunday attack survivors on the occasion of the reopening of St. Anthony's Church in Colombo on June 12, 2019. (Photo: Ishara Kodikara/AFP)

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Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has called on the powerful to understand that the Easter Sunday bomb victims had a right to life.

"Although investigations into the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks have proceeded well, certain powerful individuals have attempted to weaken the findings and investigations. We have received information about this," he told the media in Colombo on May 22.

"Some individuals may be very rich or extremely powerful, but they should realise that the Easter bomb victims had a right to life, just as certain powerful people have a right to life.

"It is wrong to hide behind human rights and threaten and discourage those officers who are trying to find out who is responsible for the Easter bomb attacks.

"They should not have a special status in the legal field. The law of the country is common to all. Just because they are lawyers, it is wrong to try to use unnecessary influence on the judiciary too. It is also the duty of the judiciary to find out who is guilty of wrongdoing. If somebody is trying to belittle this, we have to strongly condemn it."  

On April 21, 2019, nine suicide bombers affiliated to Islamist extremist group National Thowheed Jamath targeted three churches and three luxury hotels, killing at least 279 people including 37 foreign nationals and injuring at least 500.

The public and religious leaders blamed politicians and government officials for failing to prevent the attacks despite receiving intelligence reports about attacks being planned.

Some of those injured in the Easter bomb blast are still hospitalized. Some 381 families in Katuwapitiya and Kochchikade were affected and 32 children from Katuwapitiya were killed. Ten people remain bedridden and unable to do anything one year after the attack.

Hejaaz Hizbullah, a prominent Muslim lawyer, was arrested on April 14 and has been detained without charge. His family believe he has been targeted for his work advocating for the rights of the Muslim minority. His arrest has been widely condemned for being arbitrary and without due process.

Some 150 lawyers have petitioned the Bar Association of Sri Lanka about the unlawful detention and lack of access to Hizbullah, who was arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department.

"A free, fearless and independent legal profession being one of the most important features of a democracy to protect rights of individuals, it is the duty of the leadership of the professional body to do its utmost to defend the ability to function as lawyers, without obstruction, fear or favor," the lawyers said in a letter.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and Amnesty International have expressed serious concern over Hizbullah's arbitrary detention.

"No one questions the government's need and obligation to investigate the horrendous Easter Sunday attacks, but these investigations must be conducted in a way that is consistent with international law and the Sri Lankan constitution," said Frederick Rawski, ICJ Asia-Pacific director.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka has reiterated its calls for justice for the dead and wounded, demanding that those who organized and financed the attacks be identified and prosecuted.

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