Channel 4 News reveals new footage of the alleged massacre of Tamil prisoners which promoted a UN investigation last year, as the Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse arrives in London.
Now damning material concerning the behaviour of government troops in the country’s civil war has emerged.
The video shows the same incident as one aired 16 months ago by Channel 4 News which the Sri Lankan government maintains was fake. It showed the execution of bound men on a muddy track, purportedly defeated Tamil prisoners. A UN investigation later found that the video “appeared authentic”.
The new video seems to show the same incident but rather than stopping after the execution of a second bound man, it continues and the camera pans left to reveal the naked and dead bodies of at least seven women, with accompanying dialogue from onlookers who make lewd and callous comments which seems to strongly suggest that sexual assaults have taken place before the death of the women.
Channel 4 News Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Miller said: “The rest of the video is too gruesome to broadcast: women bound, shot dead, undressed; callous comments from onlookers laden with sexual innuendo. Since Channel 4 News received and broadcast the executions video over a year ago we have received hundreds of photographs and many more shocking videos depicting summary executions and rape.
“We’ve now sent this five minute 30 second video to the UN panel convened to determine whether or not there should be an independent international war crimes inquiry.”
The video emerged as the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse prepared to speak at the Oxford Union later this week. The President arrived in London yesterday on a private visit to the UK.
Amnesty International told Channel 4 News the new footage was important to revealing the truth.
“This video will help show whether that other video was verifiable, credible or not,” Sam Zarifi told Channel 4 News.
“Perhaps the most important part of what we’ve seen with this new video is there are more prisoners who seem to have been killed, there are more army personnel who are present.
“Very troublingly there are indications that deserved to be looked at about possible sexual violence. At least two of the bodies seen in this video seem to be of women, prisoners of war and some of the back and forth chatter is of a sexual nature.”
In a statement the Sri Lanka High Commission denied the new video was authentic.
“The High Commission of Sri Lanka categorically denies that the Channel 4 News TV video is authentic. Last year when Channel 4 News telecast a similar video the Government of Sri Lanka clearly established, by reference to technical considerations, that it was not genuine but fake.
“The present video is nothing more than an elongated version of the same video.”
The High Commission goes on to accuse separatists of being behind release of the video: “It is no secret that the anti-Sri Lankan separatist lobby which is behind these moves live in the comforts (sic) mainly in the West, and have not contributed towards restoration of normalcy and livelihoods of the deprived people affected by the conflict. Instead they continue to resuscitate the separatist ideology.”
The statement can be read in full below.
The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Professor Christof Heyns told Channel 4 News further investigations were needed in light of the new video.
“It is shocking indeed and clearly deserves more investigation,” Prof Heyns told Channel 4 News.
Channel 4 News has sent the new video to the UN panel investigating allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka.
It has also emerged that the Defence Secretary Liam Fox is to meet the Sri Lankan President privately during his visit to Britain, Channel 4 News understands.
A spokesman for Dr Fox told Channel 4 News: “Dr Fox will be meeting President Rajapaksa in a private capacity. This reflects Dr Fox’s longstanding interest in Sri Lanka and his interest in, and commitment to peace and reconciliation there.”
As President Rajapakse is currently visiting the UK, Amnesty International called on the UK police to investigate the allegations.
“We are calling on the police and UK judiciary to examine any of the evidence alleging war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka…to see whether any of the members of the Sri Lankan government who are represent in the UK have run afoul of international laws which would trigger UK jurisdiction,” Mr Zarifi told Channel 4 News.
In August 2009 Channel 4 News broadcast another video of the alleged executions which provoked an angry reaction by Sri Lankan officials and led to a UN investigation.
The video appeared to depict the execution of nine bound, blindfolded men who, Channel 4 News was told, were Tamils.
The group who obtained the video – Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka – claimed it was evidence of extra judicial executions. The video was filmed by a Sri Lankan soldier on his mobile phone in January 2009, the group said.
It is shocking indeed and clearly deserves more investigation. UN Special Rapporteur Professor Christof Heyns
The decision to broadcast the pictures caused a controversy which embroiled Channel 4 and went as far as the UN Secretary General and the top echelons of the US government.
Sri Lankan officials publically branded the video a fake and lodged a series of complaints with British broadcasting regulator Ofcom.
However, a report commissioned by the UN examined the video frame-by-frame and a group of independent experts said the video appeared “authentic”.
“I call for independent inquiry to be established to carry out an impartial investigation into war crimes and other grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law allegedly committed in Sri Lanka,” he said.
The Sri Lankan government cast doubt on the UN’s findings, telling a Colombo newspaper they were ambiguous. The foreign minister accused the UN special rapporteur of playing politics, releasing his findings just before a presidential election.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has appointed a panel of experts to look into alleged violations of international law towards the end of the Sri Lankan conflict.
The three-person panel will be chaired by Marzuki Darusman, former Attorney General of Indonesia, who had served in the UN independent commission to investigate the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhuto. The other two members are Yasmin Sooka of South Africa and Steven Ratner of the United States.
The panel has requested submissions by the 15th of December.
Sri Lanka’s 26-year war ended in May 2009 when the Sri Lanka army defeated the LTTE – Tamil Tigers – in an area dubbed the “no-fire zone”.
The UN has officially maintained that an estimated 7,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the last five months of fighting – although credible estimates have put the figure much higher.
Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and now the President of the International Crisis Group told Channel 4 News earlier this year she believed that it was “not implausible” that more than 30,000 civilians had been killed.
Sri Lanka High Commission statement
The High Commission of Sri Lanka categorically denies that the Channel 4 News TV video is authentic. Last year when Channel 4 News telecast a similar video the Government of Sri Lanka clearly established, by reference to technical considerations, that it was not genuine but fake. The present video is nothing more than an elongated version of the same video.
It is observed that there is a common pattern in these sinister moves. Some sections were replete with photographs of alleged war crimes when Sri Lanka’s application for the extension of GSP+ facility was being considered by the European Commission. A leading British newspaper had received photographs of alleged war crimes when the Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister visited the United Kingdom last October. The suppliers themselves had admitted that they were not in a position to confirm the authenticity, place or the veracity of the material supplied by them.
The latest move coincides with the visit to the United Kingdom of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
It is no secret that the anti-Sri Lankan separatist lobby which is behind these moves live in the comforts mainly in the West, and have not contributed towards restoration of normalcy and livelihoods of the deprived people affected by the conflict. Instead they continue to resuscitate the separatist ideology.
Defeat of the LTTE has opened up democratic freedoms to the entire country. An eight member Lessons Learn and Reconciliation Commission appointed after the end of the conflict which is tasked to report on the lessons to be learnt from the past events and recommend measures to ensure that there will be no recurrence of such a situation. The Commission has sat many times including in the former conflict zones and made interim recommendations. The support for the extremists who seek resurgence of violence in order to incite hatred is fast diminishing.