Latest Channel 4 News:
Row over Malaysian state's coins
'Four shot at abandoned mine shaft'
Rain fails to stop Moscow wildfires
Cancer blow for identical twins
Need for Afghan progress 'signs'

Execution video: is this evidence of 'war crimes' in Sri Lanka?

By Jonathan Miller

Updated on 25 August 2009

Channel 4 News shows footage claimed to show Sri Lankan forces executing Tamils earlier this year. Jonathan Miller reports.

Screen shot from footage

Just three months after the Sri Lankan government declared the country liberated from the Tamil Tigers, video footage has emerged apparently showing government troops summarily executing Tamils.

Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, which obtained the material, said it was filmed in January - when the international media were prevented by the Sri Lankan government from covering the conflict zone. The images in Jonathan Miller's report contain extremely disturbing images.

Tonight, the Sri Lankan High Commission denied the government had carried out atrocities against the Tamil community. A Sri Lankan army spokesman also called the video a "fake". Read the response here.

Blog: investigating claims of war crimes

"What makes the video credible is that telltale casual dialogue between the killers as they dispatch their helpless captives..."

Read Jonathan Miller's blog in full here.

For Sri Lanka's Sinhalese majority, the end of 26 years of war was something to celebrate. The rebel Tamil Tiger army vanquished. It had been a brutal war - upwards of 80,000 dead. Soldiers, civilians, Sinhalese and Tamil traumatised and brutalised by what they has been through.

By January this year, government forces were closing in on a shrinking conflict zone with unknown thousands of Tamil civilians being killed.

But independent journalists and observers were prevented from getting anywhere near the combat. There were rumours terrible things were happening, but this was a war without witnesses.

However one soldier we now know had a mobile phone. And eight months on, his footage of a callous execution has emerged. There is no indication of the ethnicity of the dead men, but the group which obtained the pictures claim the victims are Tamils.

280,000 Tamils remain incarcerated in camps for displaced people. The government says it needs to screen the civilian population for suspected Tamil Tiger militants.

Three months ago Sri Lanka's victorious president Mahinda Rajapaksa promised equal rights for Tamil and said they would be protected.

If the killing field footage is authenticated, it will do little to reassure Tamil civilians.

Sri Lanka High Commission response

"The High Commission of Sri Lanka categorically deny that the Sri Lankan armed forces engaged in atrocities against Sri Lankan Tamil community. They were only engaged in a military offensive against the LTTE.

"The High Commission has noted that in many instances in the past, various media institutions used doctored videos, photographs and documents to defame the Sri Lankan government and armed forces. Therefore, we request you to verify the authenticity of the video footage before the telecast".

Send this article by email

More on this story

Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Watch the Latest Channel 4 News

Watch Channel 4 News when you want

Latest Asia Pacific news

More News blogs

View RSS feed

Pakistan floods

A boy puts cream on in his face during the Pakistan floods (Reuters)

Powerful reports from Jonathan Miller inside Pakistan.

Living with the Taliban

Taliban on the Afghan frontline

A rare film of Taliban fighters on the Afghan frontline.

Fears over Taliban deal


Lindsey Hilsum reports on the cost of a Taliban deal.

Tamil killings 'ordered'


Sri Lanka commander says killings were 'ordered from the top'.

Most watched


Find out which reports and videos are getting people clicking online.

How to tweet

How and why to follow the Channel 4 News family on Twitter.

Channel 4 © 2010. Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.