Pressure is growing on the Sri Lankan government to fully investigate alleged war crimes committed in the final months of civil war in 2009.
Horrific footage that was aired on British television on Tuesday night has prompted UK government ministers to ask their Sri Lankan counterparts to launch an urgent and thorough probe.
The one hour documentary shown on Channel4 presents apparent mobile phone images purporting to show summary executions of bound and naked prisoners, shelling of civilian hospitals and what the channel says is evidence of sexual assault by government forces. The documentary was shown earlier this month on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and the footage examined by UN appointed experts who concluded it was authentic.
Citing its own expert, the Sri Lankan government claims on its Defence Ministry website that the pictures are fake.
The dying months of the civil war
25 years of conflict against Tamil Tiger insurgents demanding an independent homeland had already left tens of thousands of people dead. In September 2008, an offensive by Sri Lankan troops brought them to the gates of the Tigers’ last remaining stronghold, Kilinochchi. Rebel fighters and hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians were surrounded. Sri Lanka’s government warned UN workers in Kilinochchi that it could no longer guarantee their safety and asked them to leave the area. The UN staff left and what followed in the following months could not be independently verified. A former UN spokesman for Sri Lanka says in the Channel4 documentary that he believes the government “intended to remove independent witnesses to what was coming.”
The documentary-makers say they have spent two years collecting images taken on mobile phones “both by Tamils under attack and government soldiers as war trophies.” Eye-witness accounts also suggest civilians were deliberately targeted by government troops while receiving treatment in hospitals. Tamil fighters are accused of using civilians as human shields.
Investigating accusations of war crimes
The UN’s special rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions has said the footage is evidence of “serious international crimes” and that the case “should go to the next level of investigation on a domestic and an international level.”
Sri Lanka’s government has launched what it calls the ‘Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Committee’ to investigate the operation in and around Kilinochchi.
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been criticised for not ordering an investigation. A spokesman for Ban has said that without either the consent of Sri Lanka’s government or a decision taken by an internationally-recognised UN body such as the Security Council, there can be no formal UN probe.
Following Tuesday’s broadcast of the film in Britain, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said from London that the UK had been calling for a thorough and independent investigation since the end of the conflict, warning that “if the Sri Lankan government does not respond we will support the international community in revisiting all options available to press the Sri Lankan Government to fulfil its obligations.”
- 1Saakashvili warns of Odessa region’s importance to Ukraine
- 2Greece: with referendum looming ‘Yes’ vote ahead, opinion poll suggests
- 3Finland tops European countries in latest happiness survey
- 4Thousands rally in France in support of Greek “no” vote
- 5Tsipras: ‘no’ vote will mean a better deal with lenders
- 1euronews live TV - News | euronews : the latest international news as video on demand
- 2Spain’s first case of diphtheria in 30 years: parents of six-year-old ‘oppose vaccines’
- 3Greek debt crisis is “absolute supremacy of capital over humans”
- 4[Live updates] NGO flotilla bids to break Israeli blockade of Gaza
- 5[LIVE UPDATES] Greek debt deadline looms
- 6Large Hadron Collider ready to embark on an unprecedented voyage of discovery
- 7Istanbul Gay pride quashed by riot police, rubber bullets and water cannon
- 8[LIVE UPDATES] France: man decapitated, several wounded in chemical plant attack
- 9Israel prepares to repel boarders as ‘Freedom Flotilla 3’ tries to run Gaza blockade
- 10Greek debt summit – Live updates
- 11‘Distractingly sexy’ scientists hit back in lab chemistry polemic
- 12Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria focus of EU cash fraud probes
- 13NewsWires : euronews : the latest international news as video on demand
- 14Summit up in Brussels as Greek proposals give food for thought and rumours fly
- 15Interpol issues ‘red notice’ for accused ex-FIFA bosses
- 16Battle of Waterloo, live-tweeting 200 years on
- 17Greek PM faces day of crucial bailout talks in Brussels
- 18Citizens take power in Spain’s largest cities as a political revolution sweeps the country
- 19Italy discovers biggest illegal waste dump in Europe
- 20Greek debt: who will pay if Greece fails?
Wires > News
- 21:57 CET Gunfire heard on outskirts of Nigerian city of Maiduguri
- 21:30 CET U.N. offers help on simmering Guyana-Venezuela territorial dispute
- 21:27 CET Islamic State’s Egypt affiliate says it fired rockets at Israel -…
- 21:14 CET Colombia’s ELN rebels likely behind Bogota blasts – president
- 20:28 CET Ecuador, first stop on Pope tour, highlights environment…
- 19:49 CET Boko Haram steps up attacks in northeast Nigeria
- 19:19 CET Tunisian militant chief probably died in U.S. air strike – source
- 19:08 CET After Tunisia attack, sun-seekers switch to Spain, Bulgaria and…