Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sri Lanka claims UN probe on execution video biased

Photo courtesy: UN News & Media

AFP | Google News

Sri Lanka sought Tuesday to discredit the findings of a UN expert who concluded that a video allegedly depicting Sri Lanka troops executing Tamil Tigers was authentic.

"It is respectfully submitted that the process adopted in regard to the publication of the videos and subsequent steps taken ... is tainted with the fundamental vice of bias and partiality," said Mohan Pieris, Sri Lanka Attorney-General.

"The facts that the contents of the video were not made available to the Sri Lankan government by Channel Four lends support to the suspicion that the broadcast of the videos was for a collateral purpose," he added.

Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, had concluded after examining a video provided by Britain's Channel Four, that the footage was authentic.

His investigation drew from findings by a forensic pathologist, two forensic video analysts, as well as a firearms expert, and came to the same conclusion as that of his predecessor Philip Alston, who had earlier looked at extracts of the video.

Pieris drew attention to the experts consulted by Heyns, noting that three out of four were the same as those used by Alston. The attorney-general claimed that engaging the same experts could have led to a "general reaffirmation of the conclusions" of Alston.

He took aim particularly at one of the experts, saying that he is a technical representative for a software brand "which was used to enhance the 2009 video."

"This procedure does not augur well for the concept of independence as after all justice... should not only be done but should appear to be done," he said.

Pieris also complained that the images contained in Heyns' report were "blurred and illegible" and "not of a quality that could be examined and therefore precluded the government from making a proper assessment."

The footage shot during the final stages of the Sri Lankan army's battle against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) separatists, is available online on the special rapporteur's webpage.

It depicts naked, blindfolded men being executed by soldiers in an open field.

The disturbing images also pan over bodies of several men, as well as showed a soldier removing the cloth covering the upper body of a female corpse. Another segment has the camera focusing around the genital area of another partially naked female corpse.

Asked how he could be sure that the video was indeed shot in the conflict area in Sri Lanka, Heyns noted that the language spoken by the soldiers in the video is Sinhalese, and that one of the victims is a known Tamil journalist.

In addition, the Sri Lanka government has not disputed the location where the footage was claimed to have been shot.

"The only thing that has been placed in dispute in interaction with the government, is aspects of the reports of specialists.

"If there are issues with, say the background that is being used, the vegetation, those sort of things could be picked out if it is not authentic to the particular area.

"None of that has been placed on the table. The only thing placed in dispute is comparison of what the experts say and of what they say on their side," said Heyns.

"The combination of all these different factors together indicate to us that there is at least a prima facie case, a case that must be answered, that this happened indeed as it has been claimed in that particular conflict," he added.

The UN expert also urged Sri Lanka to carry out a credible probe into the video, saying that it has thus far done little more than poke holes at the UN's report.

"The approach of the government has largely been to look for holes in our report. What we're certainly asking is for the government to undertake its own investigation," said Heyns.


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