'Charge Sri Lanka police chief with crimes against humanity'

Attorney general says the police chief and ex-defence secretary should be charged for failing to prevent Easter attacks.

    A view of St Sebastian's Church damaged in blast in Negombo, north of Colombo [File: Chamila Karunarathne/AP]
    A view of St Sebastian's Church damaged in blast in Negombo, north of Colombo [File: Chamila Karunarathne/AP]

    Sri Lanka's police chief and a top defence official should be charged with "grave crimes against humanity" for failing to prevent the attacks on churches and luxury hotels that killed more than 250 people in April, the country's attorney general has said.

    The bombings, claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), took place despite repeated warnings from Indian intelligence that an attack was imminent.

    Attorney General Dappula de Livera wrote to the acting police chief urging him to bring charges against his predecessor, Pujith Jayasundara, and the former defence secretary, Hemasiri Fernando.

    190625061328541

    "There is sufficient information to prove negligence of official duties ... and criminal negligence. It is also considered a grave crime against humanity under international law," Livera said in the letter.

    For lesser charges of negligence leading to damage of property, the two officials could face up to 52 years in prison, the AFP news agency said.

    'Criminal suspects'

    Both should be treated as "criminal suspects", de Livera said, strongly hinting that the two should be arrested. He ordered acting police chief Chandana Wickramaratne to record statements from both men and produce them before a magistrate without delay.

    Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has accused Fernando and Jayasundara of failing to act on an April 4 intelligence report about an attack planned for April 21, Easter Sunday.

    Jayasundara and Fernando have denied all allegations.

    Jayasundara last month told a parliamentary committee led by allies of Sirisena's rival, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, that the president had asked him to take the blame for the bombings and resign, promising him a diplomatic posting in return.

    Jayasundara refused to quit and was later asked to go on leave, with his deputy standing in for him.

    Fernando, who resigned as defence secretary, told parliament that Sirisena had given instructions to keep Wickremesinghe, with whom he fell out in October, out of security council meetings. The defence secretary reports to the president, who heads the defence ministry.

    190620103401901

    Sirisena has not publicly addressed the accusations but said after the testimonies last month that he would not accept the committee's conclusions.

    Sri Lankan authorities have admitted that warnings sent by India of an impending attack by a local group, the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), were ignored.

    Three churches and three luxury hotels across the island nation were hit by suicide bombers who pledged allegiance to ISIL. Some 45 foreign nationals were among the dead and 500 people were injured.

    The South Asian tourist hotspot has been under a state of emergency since.

    SOURCE: News agencies