Friday, January 08, 2010


Click here to read Technical Note prepared by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions
Click here to read the Appendix to the Technical Note

An independent United Nations human rights expert said today there are strong indications that the video of alleged extrajudicial executions by Sri Lankan soldiers that aired last August on British television is authentic, and called for an inquiry into possible war crimes committed during the conflict with Tamil rebels.

Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, commissioned three experts in forensic pathology, forensic video analysis, and firearm evidence to examine the video, after concluding that the investigations carried out by the Government had not been thorough or impartial.

“The conclusion clearly is that the video is authentic,” he told a news conference in New York. “I have therefore called on the Government of Sri Lanka to respond to these allegations.”

The Government – which earlier this year declared victory over the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after years of fighting – has categorically denied the allegations raised by the video, which purportedly depicts the extrajudicial execution of two naked and helpless Tamil men by the Sri Lankan military and the presumed prior executions of others.

It had commissioned four separate investigations which concluded that the video was a fake. However, Mr. Alston had pointed out that two of the Government’s experts looking into the matter were members of the Sri Lankan Army, the body whose actions have been called into question.

Meanwhile, the reports by the three experts from the United States commissioned by Mr. Alston to examine the video “strongly suggest that the video is authentic,” according to a note prepared by the Special Rapporteur.

Peter Diaczuk, an expert in firearms evidence, 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.

Daniel Spitz, a prominent forensic 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.

Jeff Spivack, an expert in forensic video analysis, found no evidence of breaks in continuity in the video, no additional video layers, and no evidence of image manipulation.

“Given these conclusions, and in light of the persistent flow of other allegations of extrajudicial executions by both sides during the closing phases of the war against the LTTE, I call for the establishment of an independent inquiry 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,” stated Mr. Alston.

He added that there are a small number of characteristics of the video which the experts were unable to explain, including the movement of certain victims in the video, 17 frames at the end of the video, and the date of 17 July 2009 encoded in the video (the conflict was officially declared over in May 2009).

“Each of these characteristics can, however, be explained in a manner entirely consistent with the conclusion that the videotape appears to be authentic,” noted a news release also issued today.

“In sum, while there are some unexplained elements in the video, there are strong indications of its authenticity. In addition, most of the arguments relied upon by the Government of Sri Lanka to impugn the video have been shown to be flawed.”

© UN News Centre

Related Links:
UN expert calls for an independent war crimes investigation - Relief Web
UN expert concludes that Sri Lankan video is authentic - Office of the HCHR
Sri Lanka video report findings - Channel 4
Sri Lanka execution video 'authentic' - Al Jazeera
Sri Lankan execution video authentic: UN envoy - AFP
Sri Lanka execution video appears authentic - U.N. - Reuters
UN Expert Cites Video in Call for Sri Lankan Probe - New York Times

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Friday, January 08, 2010


An investigation commissioned for the United Nations says that a video broadcast on Channel 4 News showing Sri Lankan soldiers apparently executing naked Tamils 'appears to be authentic'.

The video, which contains extremely disturbing images, was obtained by the group Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka and it was shown on August 25.

It provoked an angry reaction from Sri Lankan army spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, who said the footage was a fabrication designed to discredit security forces.

It also sparked a passionate debate on our World News blog, where several posters thought it was fake, a view shared by the Sri Lankan government.

However, the report commissioned by the UN's Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, examined the video frame-by-frame and a group of experts said they could find no evidence that the video was a fake.

Channel 4 News foreign editor Ben de Pear said: "Since we broadcast the video on August 25, the Sri Lankan government has called press conferences, released technical investigations (which they said proved the footage was faked or doctored) and dispatched senior civil servants and politicians to London, New York and Geneva to publicly defend their position and criticise Channel 4 News.

"Thousands of phone calls, emails, blogs and postings have further questioned the authenticity of the video and the motivation of Channel 4 News running it and thousands more have called emailed and blogged to praise us for, they say, having told the truth.

"Whilst the furious debate that broadcast of the execution video has prompted continues unabated the vitally important questions it poses remain unanswered about what is happening in this grainy but horrific video.

"Questions the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch would like to try and answer. But without access to Sri Lanka and a full independent investigation, they say it is impossible to do so."

© Channel 4

Related News:
Sri Lanka execution video 'authentic':UN envoy - BBC News
Alston says probe proves Channel 4 video is authentic - Daily Mirror
Sri Lankan execution tape is authentic:UN expert - Zee News
Alston’s conduct breach of diplomatic procedures: Sri Lanka - Daily Mirror

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Past year confirms government responsibility of Lasantha Wikrematunge assassination - JDS

8th January marks the first anniversary of the assassination of Lasantha Wikrematunge, the senior journalist and founding editor of “The Sunday Leader” newspaper. Lasantha Wikrematunge was on his way to his office when four motorcyclists wearing black followed him for several miles before gunning him down during the morning hours on a busy road in a Colombo suburb – apparently without any fear of being apprehended. By committing this horrendous crime in broad day-light and leaving the scene ‘miraculously’ without being stopped at any of the security road blocks in Colombo, the assassins proved two important facts: first, that they were well experienced killers and the second, that they had a ‘special’ capability to evade detection.

Lasantha Wikrematunge sacrificed his life for his treasured ideals – that is the practice of fearless critical journalism. All political and social forces of the country condemned the assassination and promised to bring culprits to justice.

But long before he was killed, Lasantha frequently received threats against his outspoken criticism of government. Reflecting his awareness about the growing threats, he wrote in his last note to his newspaper that "[i]n all these cases, I have reason to believe the attacks were inspired by the government. When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me." No one else other than Lasantha Wikrematunge could have made a better judgement on who was behind those threats. But so far government has done nothing to absolve itself from this serious accusation other than by staging a pseudo arrest to hoodwink the country.

As things stand now, this cowardly assassination which shocked the country and became a fatal blow to media freedom in Sri Lanka will remain as another unresolved killing, reflecting the deep rooted and well preserved culture of impunity. The inability of the police to submit an investigation report to the court even after 26 hearings and after one full year had elapsed clearly shows the Sri Lankan Government’s intention of covering up the murder. The efforts of the Government during the past year to drag investigations deliberately without making any significant breakthrough has reconfirmed Lasantha Wikrematunge's fateful prediction that ‘it will be the government that kills him’.

But one year after the death of Lasantha, instead of apprehending the killers who murdered him and many other journalists, their tragic fate has been turned into a mere political slogan simply to be used for propaganda purposes in hostile election campaigns. For example, the person who held the highest office in Sri Lanka's military has repeatedly claimed on political platforms, that he is aware of the identities of the perpetrators in the killings and committed the atrocities against journalists. He even went further to implicate the Defence Secretary as the person responsible for many such crimes. On the other hand, the Defence Secretary himself has publicly claimed that he knows the identity of those who attacked the media and intimidated the journalists.

All these statements amount to evidence that all these parties are withholding information. Apart from that it provides ample proof that Lasanthas’ killing and other atrocities were in fact carried out by parties attached to the government. Therefore, both the Army Commander and the Defence Secretary should be held responsible for their statements, and must be forced to divulge the information, since they have openly proclaimed their knowledge of the identity of the responsible parties. The plight of the media and the danger that Sri Lankan media workers face should not be allowed to be made part of any political propaganda by either by those in power or those who aspire to be in power. We strongly believe that initiating such an investigation will enable those others who feel apprehensive of divulging information in an atmosphere with no witness protection mechanism to come forward.

We, Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, reiterate strongly the words of Lasantha Wikrematunge at his first death anniversary which falls on this day. We feel that this will be the judgement of our peoples' conscience as well. The burden of proving the contrary is with the Government of Sri Lanka. So far the Government of Sri Lanka has failed in this challenge issued by fallen journalist Lasantha Wikramatunge.

History has written its judgement. Regardless of newly found electoral divisions, the Government of Sri Lanka should bear the responsibility of the murder of Lasantha Wikrematunge.

Executive Committee
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka
08th January 2010

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