Saturday, January 09, 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

Sri Lanka still insists the footage, released by Journalists For Democracy and obtained by Channel 4 News in August 2009, is a fake, and it categorically denies any atrocities against the Tamil minority.

But there are other disturbing videos, some of which are shown in the accompanying report by Channel 4 News foreign affairs correspondent Jonathan Miller.

Alex Thomson spoke to the Sri Lankan ambassador to the UN, Dr Palitha Kohona. Dr Kohona said there was nothing to indicate that those who appeared in the video were Sri Lankan soldiers or that the alleged victims were Tamils - or that the video was shot in Sri Lanka itself.

And he said there could be no direct answer when questioned about Sri Lanka's readiness to cooperate with any UN investigation.

He went on: "You know very well there are allegations about various countries around the world at this very moment - countries which have intervened in distant places. But are there inquiries into that sort of allegations? No, because this is not the way the world operates.

"You do not appoint commissions of inquiry simply because there are allegations or there are suggestions or innuendos."

Alex Thomson then asked Dr Kohona: "We've seen other video which we have in our possession which certainly shows men in Sri Lankan army uniforms, kicking the head in one case of a dead Tamil Tiger soldier. And in this position at the same time, all the Tamil, the female Tamil Tiger fighters, are all stripped naked. Can you explain what that could all be about?"

Dr Kohona replied: "I have no idea what you are talking of because I have not seen such a video - nor has anybody else. The video that you're talking about, which was aired on Channel 4, had no women in it."

Alex Thomson explained that this was a new video. "Well, I haven't seen that," said Sri Lanka's UN ambassador.

The background
When the images were first broadcast the High Commission of Sri Lanka immediately and categorically denied troops had taken part in atrocities against the Tamil community.

Officials from the country's government continued to maintain the soldiers had only been involved in fighting Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels.

They said the video has been "doctored" to "defame the Sri Lankan government".

In September 2009, Sri Lankan officials said they had commissioned four separate investigations, and that they had "scientifically established beyond any doubt that this video is a fake".

This claim has now been refuted several times; by an independent video analysis expert, a forensic pathologist, and a firearms expert all cited by Special Rapporteur Philip Alston in his report commissioned by the UN.

He said: "Together, the reports by these experts strongly suggest that the video is authentic."

Mr Alston added that he hopes the UN Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon take the assessment of the video footage seriously.

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said a "full and impartial investigation is critical" but that an investigation into war crimes allegations should be handled by the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

Martin Nesirky says Mr Ban is considering setting up an expert panel that would advise him on the matter and "assist the (Sri Lankan) government in taking measures to address possible violations."

The Sri Lankan government has accused Mr Alston of "breaching diplomatic procedures".

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has released a new statement. He said: "My Ministry has communicated in this regard both to the special rapporteur as well as to the UN secretariat in New York that the public statement is a violation of all the accepted procedures of the United Nations and the norms of justice and fair play."

He accuses Channel 4 News and the wider media of "a deliberate and sinister attempt to cause embarrassment and bring disrepute to the Government of Sri Lanka".

The row over the video's authenticity has been widely reported around the world. The Sri Lankan press is focusing on the latest rebuttal by the country's authorities. The headline in the Lanka times reads: Lanka slams Alston over remarks.

Human rights organisations have insisted an international inquiry is needed.

© Channel 4

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