Conflict & Justice

Britain presses Sri Lanka over war-crimes allegations after watching "horrific" video (VIDEO)


A Sri Lankan policeman looks at the wreckage of a vehicle in the village of Karadiyanaru near Batticaloa , a day after an accidental explosion where 25 people were killed in the first major explosion since the end of a decades-long civil war.


Ishara S.Kodikara

Sri Lanka must investigate allegations of atrocities committed during its civil war, Britain said Wednesday, after additional video footage was aired on TV that reportedly shows "horrific scenes" of bound prisoners being executed, Reuters said.

The Channel 4 documentary, titled “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields,” which aired on British television on Tuesday, contained footage of what it said were prisoner executions, according to AFP. It also showed the bodies of female Tamil fighters who appeared to have been sexually assaulted by government forces. The film included images captured by mobile phone, official army and Tamil footage, satellite imagery and stills shot in the Sri Lankan army's battle against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam separatists in 2009.

British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said, "I was shocked by the horrific scenes," according to AFP:

"The recent UN Panel of Experts' report, this documentary and previously authenticated Channel 4 footage, constitutes convincing evidence of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

"The whole of the international community will expect the Sri Lankans to give a serious and full response to this evidence," he warned in a statement.

Burt said a failure to probe the claims of human rights abuses at the end of the 25-year war with Tamil separatists could lead to international action against Colombo, Reuters said.

Both the Sri Lankan army and Tamil Tiger rebels have been accused of human rights abuses during the conflict, which ended in 2009 and killed an estimated 100,000 people, according to BBC News.

Last month, other footage obtained by Channel 4 which apparently showed soldiers executing naked men and women, led to condemnation from Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, according to BBC News.

Heyns said the video was, on the face of it, convincing evidence of "serious international crimes".

Two UN investigators have confirmed the video as authentic, according to AFP, but Sri Lanka's defense ministry dismissed the video footage as fabricated, saying it was intended to discredit the army, BBC said.

Burt said Britain had been calling for an independent investigation into claims of war crimes since the conflict ended, according to Reuters. He said the government now expected to see progress by the end of the year.

"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 fulfill its obligations," he warned.