Tamil Tiger video killing is genuine, declares the UN


Regular Member
Nov 25, 2009
Country flag
Tamil Tiger video killing is genuine, declares the UN


A leading United Nations expert called yesterday for a war crimes inquiry in Sri Lanka after his investigation concluded that a video showing soldiers summarily killing Tamil prisoners last year was authentic.

In a damning report citing top scientific experts, Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, dismissed the Sri Lankan Government’s claims that the footage shown by Channel 4 had been fabricated. He urged Colombo to allow UN experts to investigate “persistent” allegations of war crimes in the final stages of its three-decade civil war.

“In light of these conclusions and of the persistent flow of other allegations concerning alleged extrajudicial executions committed by both sides during the closing phases of the war,” Professor Alston wrote, “I call for an independent inquiry to be established to carry out an impartial investigation into war crimes.”

Professor Alston said that the best option was for Sri Lanka to co-operate and invite in UN investigators as part of an independent commission of inquiry. Human rights officials told The Times that Sri Lanka would be given an ultimatum to co-operate or face more decisive action.

The appointment of a commission would allow the UN to begin gathering forensic evidence required for an investigation or even future prosecution. There is already grave concern over the degradation of evidence in the nearly nine months since the conflict ended. No independent observers have been allowed into the former battle zone since May.

Sam Zarifi, the Asia-Pacific director at Amnesty International, told The Times: “Once again the available evidence has indicated that serious human rights violations and possible international crimes took place, and the Sri Lankan Government has to allow an independent inquiry. Now that the security situation has stabilised there’s no excuse left.”

The Sri Lankan Government vehemently denies that its military committed war crimes during the final offensive against the Tamil Tigers which obliterated the rebels last May.

Last month, however, the former army chief turned presidential challenger, Sarath Fonseka, lent further credence to allegations of war crimes when he said that Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Defence Minister, ordered that surrendering rebels should be killed rather than taken prisoner as the conflict drew to a close.

Sri Lanka avoided censure by the UN Human Rights Council in May last year after recruiting foreign allies to defeat a Western-backed resolution condemning its conduct during the offensive. Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, was roundly criticised for failing to take a harder line with Sri Lanka. Mr Ban said last night he was giving detailed consideration to appointing a Commission of Experts on alleged atrocities in Sri Lanka.

The 15-nation Security Council has the power to refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court but Professor Alston said he doubted that would happen “given the constellation of political support Sri Lanka has”. That was an apparent reference to China, which has veto power on the council and is Sri Lanka’s most powerful ally and key investor.

Professor Alston began his investigation into the execution video after the Sri Lankan Government first dismissed it as a fake. It eventually caved in and conducted its own inquiry, only to arrive again at the same conclusion.

The UN investigation, carried out by three experts in video technology, ballistics and pathology, systematically demolishes Sri Lankan claims that the footage was faked and upholds the findings of The Times’s investigation of the footage last month.

The video of the alleged battlefield executions, which was broadcast on Channel 4 in August, shows a naked man, bound and blindfolded, being made to kneel.

Another man, dressed in what appears to be Sri Lankan army uniform, approaches from behind and shoots him in the head at point-blank range. “It’s like he jumped,” the gunman laughs. The camera then pans to show eight similarly bound corpses.

Sri Lanka denied claims that the video was shot in January last year by soldiers using mobile phones, saying that it had been “established beyond doubt” that the footage was fake.

The UN report concluded that “most of the arguments relied upon by the Government of Sri Lanka to impugn the video have been shown to be flawed”. The experts “found no evidence of breaks in continuity in the video, no additional video layers and no evidence of image manipulation”.

Peter Diaczuk, a firearms expert, “concluded that the recoil, movement of the weapon and the shooter, and the gases expelled from the muzzle in both apparent shootings were consistent with firing live ammunition, and not with shooting blank cartridges”, as the Sri Lankan investigation claims.

Daniel Spitz, a pathologist, “found that the footage appeared authentic, especially with respect to the two individuals who are shown being shot in the head at close range. He found that the body reaction, movement, and blood evidence was entirely consistent with what would be expected in such shootings”.

“Together, the reports by these experts strongly suggest that the video is authentic,” the report concludes.

In a statement last night, the Sri Lankan Government criticised Professor Alston for not sharing his findings with its officials, and described the views of experts quoted by the report as “ambiguous”.

“There are no firm indications that [the] video footage is authentic,” it said.

Global Defence

New threads