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Press

UN premiere for Sri Lanka war crimes film

CorporatePortal

Channel 4 is to screen Sri Lanka's Killing Fields, a special one-hour investigation which features devastating new video evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Sri Lankan government forces and the Tamil Tigers at the UN this Friday 3 June.

The film will be screened on the margins of the UN Human Rights Council session. It will air on Channel 4 on 14 June.

Featured in the film will be a video first aired by Channel 4 News which shows government troops executing Tamil prisoners - described today by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heynes, as reflecting "definitive war crimes."

Presented by Channel 4 News journalist Jon Snow, the film features footage captured on mobile phones, both by Tamil civilians under attack and government soldiers as war trophies. It shows: the extra-judicial executions of prisoners; the aftermath of targeted shelling of civilian camps and dead female Tamil Tiger fighters who appear to have been raped or sexually assaulted, abused and murdered. Also examined in the film are some of the terrible crimes carried out by the Tamil Tigers, including the cynical use of Tamil civilians as human shields.

Channel 4's Head of News & Current Affairs Dorothy Byrne, who commissioned the programme, says: "The footage is probably the most horrific the channel has ever shown. The decision to show it at length was made only after serious and careful consideration. We believe this dossier of visual evidence combined with harrowing eye-witness testimony represents prima facie evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by forces of the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. It is of the greatest possible public interest and as such we have a duty to journalistically scrutinise it."

The film, directed by Callum Macrae, provides powerful evidence - including photographic stills, official Sri Lankan army video footage and satellite imagery - which contradicts the Sri Lankan government's claims of a policy of ‘Zero Civilian Casualties'. The film raises serious questions about the failures of the international community to intervene and prevent the deaths of up to forty thousand people and lends new urgency to the UN-appointed panel of expert's call for an international inquiry to be mounted.

Macrae said: "The Sri Lankan government wanted a war without witness - deporting journalists and pressurising UN representatives to leave - but it didn't allow for the extraordinary power of mobile phone and satellite technology. We have trawled through hours of painfully raw recordings of the some of the most awful events I have ever seen in many years of war reporting. Sri Lanka's Killing Fields raises serious questions about the consequences if the UN fails to act - not only for Sri Lanka but for future violations of international law."

In a world exclusive, Channel Four News first revealed the existence of and broadcast the footage which is the subject of the report published yesterday by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heynes.

The video was first broadcast on 2nd December 2010, edited versions were replayed on 4th and 5th December during President Rajapaksa's visit to London.

Channel 4 News' Head of Foreign News Ben De Pear said: "The authentication of the footage by the UN which, as Christof Heynes says, could be important evidence of war crimes is of major international significance. We would like to pay tribute to the bravery of those who risked everything to get the footage out to the world, and to the relatives and friends who identified the victims in the video."

Ends

Press Contact: Channel 4 - Marion Bentley; mjbentley@channel4.co.uk, +44 20 7306 3747/ +44 7914 381 803

NOTES TO EDITORS:

The UN investigator, South African law professor Christof Heyns said of the footage first shown by Channel 4 News: "What is reflected in the extended video are crimes of the highest order - definitive war crimes...The overall conclusion reached by the experts is that the video is authentic and the events reflected in the video footage occurred as depicted."

The original shorter version of this footage is referred to throughout the report of the UN Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka as the ‘The Channel Four footage'.

SCREENING

Sri Lanka's Killing Fields will be shown at 11:00 (Geneva) in Room XXII (22) of the Palais des Nations on Friday 3rd June at an HRC side event hosted by Amnesty International.

Interviews will be available with director Callum Macrae following the screening.