“SRI LANKA ’S KILLING FIELDS” Part 1
Posted on May 24th, 2018

KAMALIKA PIERIS

The first’ war cry’ over the ‘war crimes’ of Sri Lanka  came from  Britain’s Channel 4” television station. In  25. August 2009, Channel Four” broadcast one minute long footage showing Sri Lanka army brutally executing naked persons during the final stages of the war. As further gunshots ring out, the camera pans to reveal other bound bodies, eight in total, and all but one naked”. This broadcast set off a train of events, leading to the call for a war crimes probe in Sri Lanka.

Channel News” said the footage was filmed in January 2009, when the international media were prevented by the Sri Lankan government from covering the conflict zone. The footage had been provided by ‘Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka’, a group of exiled Sri Lankan journalists, campaigning for press freedom. The footage was smuggled out of Sri Lanka two days before Channel 4 News broadcast it.. The existence of such footage had been rumored for months, said Channel Four .

The Channel 4 website explained how the film was made. ‘Our evidence of how it was done comes in the form of mobile phone footage, Tamil and government film footage, and mobile phone trophy footage” in which soldiers filmed themselves abusing and executing Tamils who had either surrendered or been captured.  one soldier apparently had a mobile phone. A  Sinhalese human rights investigator who watched the material on the day it was broadcast believed it to be genuine.

The Channel  News in its  home page, dated August 2009, admitted that It is impossible to independently authenticate the pictures in the video.   There is no indication of the ethnicity of the dead men either. But the group which obtained the pictures claim the victims are Tamils.   The killers are speaking Sinhala. they are wearing what appear to be Sri Lankan Army uniforms,. Tamil Tiger insurgents were known to masquerade in government uniforms,  admitted Channel Four. but the casual dialogue between the killers as they dispatch their helpless captives, seemed to indicate that they were Sinhala soldiers.

There were protests. Sri Lankans in Britain staged a demonstration opposite the Channel 4 Television Broadcasting Station on 6th September. They called the footage a highly concocted piece of propaganda and called Channel 4 a bogus news service .British Sri Lanka Forum handed over a petition to the television station.

There was a demonstration in Colombo as well. A protest against Channel 4 was staged On 16th September opposite the Colombo Fort Railway Station by the Joint Free Media Organization. They said  Channel Four had telecast  doctored video footage tarnishing Sri Lanka’s image and insulting the Security Forces. The demonstrators said Channel 4 should apologize to Sri Lanka. ‘No one can be permitted to discredit Sri Lanka’. Media personnel who participated in this demonstration pointed out that they cannot remain silent when such pressure was exerted by foreign TV stations. The demonstrators handed over a petition with many signatures to the British High Commission in Colombo.

Government of Sri Lanka took this video very seriously, since it affected the reputation and image of the country, its government, and the armed Forces. The government responded as soon as this telecast appeared.   ‘the video was a fabrication designed to discredit security forces, said the government . LTTE was operating dressed in Sri Lankan military uniforms.”  The LTTE possessed such uniforms having overrun Sri Lankan army installations in the past, the government  told the UN Human Rights Council  that  the videotape was fake, and  it would not   conduct any investigation of the allegations made.

The government issued a statement. ” The High Commission of Sri Lanka categorically deny that the Sri Lankan armed forces engaged in atrocities against Sri Lankan Tamil community. They were only engaged in a military offensive against the LTTE. The High Commission has noted that in many instances in the past, various media institutions used doctored videos, photographs, and documents to defame the Sri Lankan government and the armed forces. Therefore, we request you to verify the authenticity of the video footage before the telecast.

The government of Sri Lanka also took action to check on the authenticity of the footage. They got the video examined by four experts,  Siri Hewawitharana, an international expert on the subject who is also the former head of Cisco’s global broadcast and digital video practice, Dr. Chatura Ranjan de Silva,  senior lecturer on computer science and  Director of the Centre for Instructional Technology, University of Moratuwa, Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe,  Chief Signal Officer of the Sri Lanka Army and Major P.A Bandara of the Media Centre for National Security.

All four experts said the video was a fake. They said that the video had been filmed by a digital camcorder, not a mobile phone camera. The sound had been dubbed separately. Dr. Chatura Ranjan de Silva observed that if the video had been filmed by a mobile phone camera it should have jumping or discrete effects. Brigadier Samarasinghe said that a comprehensive investigation of the video had been done at the Signal Base Workshop of the Army. They had noticed a gap between the sound and the video film suggesting that the sound has been dubbed into the video footage. Further, the sound of gun firing had been recorded at a distance of some 102.4 meters. It was impossible to do this with a mobile camera.

Major  Bandara pointed out that some things in the video were  unnatural, such as non- spreading blood stains, the outward appearance of the victims and  the movements of the victims while being executed. Though  the video was not very color sensitive, the blood stains of the victims had clear margins, showing that the video  was heavily tampered or fabricated, observed Dr de Silva,

Major Bandara observed that the uniforms worn by the so-called soldiers executing those victims were not the usual attire worn by soldiers. Sri Lanka army soldiers do not wear a white coloured T-shirt with an olive green uniform.”   Defence Ministry had in the meantime,   held an investigation to see whether there were Security Forces personnel similar to the people appearing in the video footage. It has been established with finality that the people appearing in the video are not in the Armed Forces” said the Ministry.

These criticisms were brushed aside by the western powers meddling in the Eelam issue. They wished to use the Channel Four video to hit Sri Lanka at the UN. Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary or Arbitrary executions took on the task. He agreed with the video and dismissed the Sri Lanka analysis on the flimsy grounds that two of the Sri Lanka experts were from the army.

Sri Lanka   protested. Here is what Sri Lanka said.

”The Government of Sri Lanka welcomes the media statement issued today (17) by Prof. Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, in which he now acknowledges that the report which was shared with him by the Government leads him to the conclusion that the views expressed do indeed raise several issues which warrant further investigation before it could reasonably be concluded that the video is authentic”.

The Government of Sri |Lanka also welcomes Prof. Alston acknowledgement that the government’s investigation has been prompt. The government regrets however, that Prof. Alston has characterized the professional investigation as not independent merely because the experts concerned were Sri Lankan.

Prof. Alston does not appear to have carefully perused the Government’s Consolidated Response of 09 September in which a URL to Mr. Siri Hewawitharana’s experience and qualifications was included on page 4.

Contrary to Prof Alton’s assertion, the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, Mahinda Samarasinghe, contacted Mr. Hewawitharana on 05 September, several days after the short op-ed opinion piece in The Island newspaper appeared and requested him to provide the Minister with a more detailed analysis of the video in the form of a short report. The said report was received on 06 September.

 With regard to Dr De Silva, the sole reason for Prof. Alston’s characterization of his analysis as partial is that he appears to have been consulted by the Government of Sri Lanka on previous occasions. The Government is not of the view that it is quite legitimate to consult acknowledged experts from autonomous academic institutions and this in no way makes the expert part of the Government nor does it render the view tainted by bias.

Moreover, the fact that Prof. Alston now acknowledges that the video needs further investigation to prove its authenticity is sufficient to establish that the work of the experts consulted by the government of Sri Lanka is credible. This also confirms the governments concern that Prof. Alston was unduly hasty in issuing his original press statement concerning the contents of the video in the absence of any credible material.

 It would be pertinent to note that the High Commissioner for Human Rights welcomed the Sri Lankan delegation’s communication that a prompt investigation had been carried out into this matter. She also mentioned that, being a lawyer herself, she had thought it fit not to make a pronouncement on this issue until the authenticity of the contents of the video in question was established.

The Government is of the view that any further comment on this issue by Prof. Alston should only be consequent to the receipt of fresh and cogent evidence that will enable him to conclude that the video in question is genuine (end of statement)

It appears that the United Nations Human Rights Council, to which Alston reports, called on him to withdraw his call for an investigation and apologize to the Sri Lanka government. Alston instead appointed his own team to investigate the footage. he commissioned an analysis of the video from three ‘highly qualified and totally independent’ United States specialists, an expert in firearms evidence, a prominent forensic pathologist, and an expert in forensic video analysis.

Peter Diaczuk, an expert in firearms evidence, concluded that the recoil, movement of the weapon and the shooter, and the gases expelled from the muzzle were consistent with firing live ammunition, and not with shooting blank cartridges. Daniel Spitz, a prominent forensic pathologist, found that the footage appeared authentic, especially with respect to the two individuals who are shown being shot in the head at close range. He found that the body reaction, movement, and blood evidence was entirely consistent with what would be expected in such shootings. Jeff Spivack, an expert in forensic video analysis, found no evidence of breaks in continuity in the video, no additional video layers, and no evidence of image manipulation.  Together, the reports by these experts strongly suggest that the video is authentic, said Alston.

Alston’s team also rebutted most of the arguments relied upon by Sri Lanka’s experts in support of their contention that the video was faked. Sri Lanka had said that there was no recoil or movement of the weapon discharged. However, Spivack and Diaczuk described the recoil visible on the video, and the way in which the movement was consistent with firing live ammunition. Sri Lanka referred to the lack of audio synchronization. Spivack said that the video/audio synchronization in the video was well within acceptable limits, and that audio can be ahead or behind video, subject to various variables.

Sri Lanka had stated that the movement of the second victim after being shot was not consistent with the normal expected reaction. However, Spitz said that the movement was entirely consistent with the manner in which the individual was apparently shot. Sri Lanka had said that while wind could be heard it could not be seen. Spivack showed multiple places in the video where there is clear evidence of wind. Sri Lanka’s experts said the footage was likely to have been recorded on a digital camcorder and not a mobile phone. Spivack concluded that the metadata he retrieved from the video was entirely consistent with multimedia files produced by mobile phones with video recording capability and that it would have been very difficult to alter the metadata.

There are a small number of characteristics of the video which the experts were unable to explain. These included the movement of certain victims in the video, 17 frames at the end of the video, and the date of 17 July 2009 encoded in the video. In sum, while there are some unexplained elements in the video, there are strong indications of its authenticity. Together, the reports by these experts strongly suggest that the video is authentic,”  said Alston .

Alston declared,  Given these conclusions, and in light of the persistent flow of other allegations of extrajudicial executions by both sides during the closing phases of the war I call for the establishment of an independent inquiry to carry out an impartial investigation into war crimes and other grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law allegedly committed in Sri Lanka”.

Alston released the full text of the expert opinions in a “Technical Note” made public in New York on January 7.2010. On January 8, 2010, Reuters reported that Sri Lanka has rejected Alston’s report, maintaining that its own experts had determined that the footage was fake.

Sri Lanka told the Human Rights Commission in Geneva that they were concerned about the procedure adopted by Alston, in making the technical note’ available through a public statement. This violates the principles and practices governing the work of the UN Human Rights special procedures and mechanisms,  as given in the code of conduct and the manual which govern the exercise of the respective thematic and other mandates. Member state concerned should be given adequate time to respond. The government of Sri Lanka had only 48 hours to receive the report, send it to Colombo, and obtain a response.

The Foreign Ministry put out a statement on January 8.2010. This statement said that Alston should have first shared with the Government of Sri Lanka the opinions of the independent experts. Thereafter the Government should have been afforded adequate time to examine the same. The views of the Government should then have been among the factors determining what further action is to be taken. This did not happen and instead what took place is a violation of all accepted procedures of the United Nations and the norms of justice and fair play.

The Sri Lanka statement then went on to emphasis observations made by Alston’s team which supported the Sri Lanka position. Spivack had said that one file submitted for analysis cannot be authenticated without knowing what device was used. The most troubling from a file integrity standpoint is the text which appears in the final 17 frames of video.” Spivak also observed that there is no way to confirm the identity of the potential victims or the shooters. whether the shooters were actually Sri Lanka military members as opposed to Tamils dressed in Sri Lanka military uniforms, nor whether the potential victims were Tamils or instead innocent victims of another ethnic group Spitz, commented on the movement of the leg of the first victim at the time the second is shot. I would not expect his leg to remain in this position (upright position with knee flexed approximately 90 percent) if he were deceased (Full text of the statement is given in the Appendix.)

Palitha Kohona, then at the UN said, I have serious reservations about the manner in which Alston made presented the report. He went to New York to present it just at the time when the UN General Assembly and Security Council were meeting. That suggests to me that he was looking for political mileage. Moreover he chose to release the report on the Channel 4 video just two weeks before the Sri Lanka  presidential election. There are serious doubts about the conclusions drawn by him on the basis of report by  experts engaged and paid by him. We have contrary reports by experts engaged by the  government of Sri Lanka .

Christof Heynes, who succeed Alston as Special Rapporteur in August 2010 also supported Alston’s views, though rather tentatively. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon initially distanced himself from the controversy, telling reporters in New York at a UN press conference on  11 January 2010 that Alston  is ‘acting independently’ But on January 13, Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman Martin Nesirky “backed the need for such a probe, 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.  Under mounting pressure, Ban appointed a Panel of Experts in September 2010 to ‘advise him on accountability issues in Sri Lanka.’ This Panel released its report, known as the Darusman Report, in September 2011. (continued)

 

APPENDIX 1.

Full text of the statement made by Foreign  Ministry of Sri Lanka  on January 6.2010.

1. Special Rapporteur Alston had by his letter of 5th January 2010 to SriLanka’s PRUN/Geneva informed that he intends to make a Public Statement in New York on 7th January 2010. The said communication was received by PRUN/Geneva after office hours on 5th January and in turn sent to Colombo on 6th January 2010 when it came to their attention.

2. The matter of the Statement is the content of the Technical Note comprising the opinions of three independent experts”, who had been retained” by the Special Rapporteur on the so called Channel 4 video tape that purportedly shows an incident of extrajudicial killings in Sri Lanka.

3. The justification by the Special Rapporteur of the Public Statement in this regard was on the grounds that there had been a very public exchange of comments on this matter. It was pointed out by Secretary, Foreign Affairs, when he spoke to him over the phone in New York on 6th January that this is not an acceptable rationale since once the UK based Channel 4 telecast the footage the Government of Sri Lanka was compelled to refute the issue in the same manner. In fact it may be recalled that when Channel 4 aired this footage there was a public pronouncement by the Special Rapporteur on its authenticity. This rationale of the Special Rapporteur used to justify his Public Statement in New York therefore is questionable.

4. Moreover, the space between the receipt of the Technical Note in Colombo in the evening hours of 6th January and the scheduling of the Public Statement in New York in the morning hours of 7th January hardly afforded a reasonable amount of time for a considered response from the Government of Sri Lanka.

5. It should be emphasized that the least that could have been done would have been to first share with the Government of Sri Lanka the opinions of the independent experts. Thereafter the Government should have been afforded adequate time to examine the same. The views of the Government should then have been among the factors determining what further action is to be taken. This did not happen and instead what took place is violative of all accepted procedures of the United Nations and the norms of justice and fair play. This is exactly what my Ministry Secretary said to Prof.
Alston.

6. Special Rapporteur Alston without resorting to fair practice went ahead and made a Public Statement as scheduled on 7th January. While his statement concludes that (I quote) most of the arguments relied upon by the GOSL to impugn the video have been shown to be flawed”, (unquote) he has done so ignoring that his own position as articulated is contradicted in the context of the opinions expressed by the experts.

 

The following are noteworthy:

• Prof. Alston’s very opening line of his statement states that the (quote)
reports by three independent experts strongly point to be authenticity of a video tape released by Channel 4 in Britain which appears to show the summary execution of bound, blindfolded and naked Tamils by Sri Lankan soldiers”. (unquote)

However one of the experts J. Spivack, Forensic Multi-media Analyst categorically states that (quote)the multi-media file submitted for analysis, video DJ. 3 gp, cannot be authenticated to an absolute certainty without access to the device purportedly used”. (unquote). Further Spivack also states (quote) that there is no way to confirm solely
from this recording the identity of the potential victims or the shooters. Neither whether the shooters were actually Sri Lanka military members as opposed to Tamils dressed in Sri Lanka military uniforms, nor whether the potential victims were Tamils or instead innocent victims of another ethnic group can be determined from this recording”. (unquote) Further there are according to Spivack (quote) unexplained characteristics of this file, the most troubling of which from a file integrity stand point is the text
which appears in the final 17 frames of video.” (unquote)

• Further, another expert, Dr. Daniel Spitz, a Forensic Pathologist and
Toxicologist, has stated that questions remain following his review of the material relating to, what accounts for the movement of the leg of the first victim at the time the second is shot. Further, Dr. Spitz states that (quote) I would not expect his leg to remain in this position (upright position with knee flexed approximately 90 percent) if he were deceased”. (unquote)

Such are some of the ambiguities in the opinions expressed by the experts. It is therefore extremely regrettable that Rapporteur Alston’s statement amounts to the misrepresentation of the said opinions and brings into question his judgement.

• Despite these qualifications, the Special Rapporteur has proclaimed in his
overview to the Technical Note that (quote) in light of these conclusions, and of the persistent flow of other allegations concerning extrajudicial executions….. I called for an independent inquiry to be established to carry out an impartial investigation into war crimes and other grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law…” (unquote) It may be noted that this position has been reiterated by Prof. Alston in his Public Statement and is the crux of the issue.

• Prof. Alston’s position of a (quote) persistent flow of other allegations
concerning extrajudicial executions…..” (unquote) seem to emanate on the basis our mere newspaper report quoting one of the candidates for the current Presidential Election.

• Prof. Alston’s rush and determination to go public, ignoring accepted procedure and the very opinions of the experts leads for apprehensions to arise that he is pursuing a targeted campaign against the Sri Lankan authorities with the deliberate timing of his action to coincide with the current sensitive phase of national elections.

7. The Sri Lanka Government will firmly resist any endeavour negative to her interests posed from any quarter. Also the GOSL remains committed to continued engagement and dialogue with the UN, including on matters relating to the further protection and preservation of human rights.[1]( end of statement)

 

[1] http://info.gov.lk/news_update/Current_Affairs/ca201001/20100108sri_lanka_will_firmly_resist_endeavours_negative_to_her_interest_from_any_quarter.htm

2 Responses to ““SRI LANKA ’S KILLING FIELDS” Part 1”

  1. Christie Says:

    This rubbish was broad cast and eagerly watched by Indian Parasites in UK.

    When I contacted C4 and asked them about the film I was told by who ever answered me at the end that it was not made by them.

    Most of their shows are outsourced.

    What ever it is they should take the responsibility.

    UK has more thanthree million Indian parasites and more than 20 MPs.

    Some of the richest in UK are Indians and they provide funds to all political parties and politicians.

    PM May is Abisheked but Modi was not Baptised.

  2. Cerberus Says:

    The truth about the C4 video is that the LTTE killed captured soldiers and then made a video, dubbed it in Sinhala and showed it as the doings of the GoSL. The West went along with it because they wanted to humiliate and remove the Rajapaksa Govt. Please see the original video undubbed and the dubbed one in the link below under CH4 – UK. Please download the videos since the link will be removed soon.

    http://www.terrorinlanka.com

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