A UN expert has called for an investigation into mobile phone footage of what appears to be Tamil prisoners, hands bound and stripped naked, being shot dead by Sri Lankan soldiers.
UPDATE - 8/01/2010: following the investigation by three experts, a UN envoy announced on Thursday that the video footage is authentic and urged for a war crime enquiry. Colombo however denied the findings on Friday, claiming that one of the UN experts was leading a personal crusade against the country.
The images are thought to have been filmed during the final stages of Sri Lanka's quarter century battle against separatist activists Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The bloody conflict, which claimed over 8,000 lives in 2009 according to unofficial UN figures, came to an end in May following a final military push and the subsequent death of Tamil leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
Warning, these images may be found very upsetting.
The video was released on August 25 by Europe-based activists "Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka" (JDSL), a group of majority Sinhalese, but also Tamil, exiled Sri Lankan journalists. They said it had been filmed in January, but were unable to release further details in order to protect their sources.
Two days later, on August 27, the army responded to the footage by saying it was fake, staged by members of the Tamil Tigers, and that the JDSL was a "front" to the group. The following day however, UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, urged an independent investigation into the video, calling it "horrendous".
On Monday, the Sri Lankan army again responded by reporting that, after investigating the video further, they were able to confirm it was staged, and suggested that it was probably Tiger members killing abducted soldiers rather than vice versa. Verifying the footage is almost impossible, due to the media blackout placed in the region during the conflict.
X, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a member of Europe-based activists Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, the group that released the video. He says he spent 17 years working for Sinhalese publications before being exiled, along with dozens of others, for reporting "wrongly" on the war against the Tamils.
If it were false we would not have taken the risk of putting our name on it. The government says that it can't be real because the soldiers have long hair and are not wearing badges; and the Tamils have short hair. Well I can show you plenty of photos of soldiers with long hair and no badges! And do they seriously believe that no Tamil civilian has short hair?! These claims just show how helpless the government has become, how desperate their argument. If the video were doctored, then it means we would have inserted the audio after, and that is something which could be proved technically. We can't do it ourselves because it would be an expensive procedure, but the government could. Why don't they?
Why it was filmed, we can't be sure. But in the past 30 years and especially during the 1990s, taking photos of detained alleged LTTE members seems to have become quite popular with the Sri Lankan army. Their favourites are women, stripped naked after they've been killed.
The UN already knows what's going on in Sri Lanka, which is why they're so confident in their accusations. We are hoping there'll be an independent investigation. But considering our past experiences, we're not very optimistic."