Sri Lanka: UN Official Calls for Investigation of Executions of Tamil Rebels
Posted by Ka Frank on January 17, 2010
This article was published in Al Jazeera on January 8, 2010.
UN official urges Sri Lanka inquiry
A UN human rights official has urged Colombo allow an impartial investigation after he concluded that video footage allegedly showing Sri Lankan troops executing Tamil Tiger fighters last year is authentic. Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, told Al Jazeera that Sri Lankan arguments used to dismiss the video, aired on Britain’s Channel 4 in August 2009, were flawed.
“Sri Lanka has consistently denied the authenticity of the footage, but two of their investigators were members of the Sri Lankan military,” Alston said on Thursday. “That is why I decided to commission an independent report by experts with no connection to the conflict.”
The mobile phone footage was shot during the final stages of the Sri Lankan army’s conflict against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Alston said three US-based independent experts commissioned by him to conduct an impartial evaluation, established the authenticity of the video after four Sri Lankan specialists had concluded that it was a fake. He named the three as Daniel Spitz, a prominent forensic pathologist; Peter Diaczuk, a firearm evidence expert; and Jeff Spivack, a forensic video analyst.
“The independent experts’ analyses also systematically rebutted most of the arguments relied upon by Sri Lanka’s experts in support of their contention that the video was faked,” Alston said. “In light of these conclusions, I call for an independent inquiry to be established to carry out an impartial investigation into war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian and human rights law allegedly committed in Sri Lanka.”
Colombo should ask the UN to set up an independent commission of inquiry, he said. Martin Nesirky, a UN spokesman, backed the call for an inquiry, saying that Alston’s conclusions show “the need for a credible, independent and impartial investigation into allegations of violations of human rights and international law by all sides in the conflict in Sri Lanka”.
The footage shows a man dressed in army uniform shooting a naked, bound and blindfolded man in the back of the head, while eight other bodies can be seen nearby in a muddy field.
Alston said Spitz found the footage appeared authentic “especially with respect to the two individuals who are shown being shot in the head at close range”. And he said that Spivack’s forensic video analysis “found no evidence of breaks in continuity in the video, no additional video layers and no evidence of image manipulation.”
“While there are some unexplained elements in the video, there are strong indications of its authenticity,” Alston said. “In addition, most of the arguments relied upon by the government of Sri Lanka to impugn the video have been shown to be flawed.”
The Sri Lankan military has said the video was faked in order to discredit the security forces. Sri Lankan authorities have resisted international calls for a war crimes investigation after the UN alleged that more than 7,000 civilians had been killed during the first four months of 2009 alone.
The Tamil separatists were finally defeated in May after nearly four decades of ethnic bloodshed that left between 80,000 and 100,000 people dead. The government victory ended the LTTE’s four-decade struggle for an independent Tamil homeland in the island’s northeast, one of Asia’s longest-running ethnic conflicts.