Channel 4 broadcasts a graphic footage, showed by a Sri Lankan soldier on a mobile phone, shows a naked Tamil minority man sitting blindfolded and bound in the dirt. A Sri Lankan soldier from the Sinhalese majority kicks the Tamil man before he is shot in the back of the head.
Channel 4 correspondent Jonathan Miller, who presented the video, said the material was obtained from the press freedom group Journalist for Democracy in Sri Lankan (JDS).
These scenes, captured on video, allegedly show extra-judicial killings of Tamils by Sri Lankan troops earlier this year in the bitter and bloody endgame of the country’s civil war.
The man is young, naked, bound and blindfolded; a corpse lying across his legs. A soldier approaches him in what appears to be Sri Lankan army uniform and shoots him at point-blank range, apparently amused at the death. “It’s like he jumped,” he says. After the murder the video, taken in daylight, pans out to show eight bound corpses, all shot in the head and all but one naked. Voices in the background speak Sinhalese; as the footage concludes, viewers see a ninth bound victim.
The significance of this footage – particularly shocking for the seemingly casual way in which the killings were carried out – is even greater given the way that journalists and independent observers were prevented by the government from reaching the war zone.
According to Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS), a multiethnic exile organization, the video was taken by a soldier with a cell phone in January 2009 at Kilinochchi. Sri Lankan soldier took this footage, which was then smuggled out of the country by (JDS) activists. It may constitute the first hard evidence for those who believe war crimes were committed by Sri Lanka in the effort to crush the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The summary execution of prisoners is a violation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and a war crime. This apparent atrocity makes nonsense of Sri Lanka President Mahinda claims of a clean war against the Tamil Tigers,” said Steve Crawshaw, UN director at Human Rights Watch. “An international inquiry needs to get to the bottom of this and other war crimes committed during the past years fighting. Human Rights Watch has long criticized the government’s failure to carry out impartial investigations and prosecutions of those responsible for the numerous human rights abuses committed by both sides during the conflict.
There have been serious ongoing violations of human rights, and the backlog of cases of enforced disappearances and unlawful killings runs to the tens of thousands. Only a small number of cases have ended in prosecutions. Past efforts to address violations through the establishment of ad hoc mechanisms in Sri Lanka, such as presidential commissions of inquiry, have produced little information and few prosecutions.
In interview with Time magazine, Sri Lanka president Mahinda said that during the war, “there was no violation of human rights. There were no civilian casualties.”
Human Rights Watch said “International Community (IC) should stop relying on the president’s promises of domestic action and make it clear that an international commission is needed if the victims of Sri Lanka’s bloody war are to find justice.”