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Execution video worries UN

[AFP, Monday, 31 August 2009 23:34 No Comment]

THE United Nations is viewing ‘with the utmost concern’ a video clip aired in Britain allegedly showing Sri Lankan troops executing prisoners, a UN spokesman said on Monday.

However deputy spokesman Marie Okabe added that officials could not confirm its authenticity.

‘We have always viewed with utmost concern the reports and information received from various sources of serious human rights violations including those related to war crimes,’ she said.

The video footage broadcast last week by Channel 4 in Britain ‘is no exception,’ she said.

However Ms Okabe added that the United Nations was ‘not in a position to ascertain the authenticity… and have noted its rejection by the Sri Lankan authorities.’ The video footage was allegedly shot during the final stages of Colombo’s defeat of Tamil Tiger separatists.

The rebels were finally vanquished in May after nearly four decades of ethnic bloodshed that left between 80,000 and 100,000 people dead.

Sri Lanka’s military previously claimed the video was a fabrication designed to ‘discredit’ its armed forces.

On Friday Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, urged an investigation into the footage and what it showed.

‘There is no justification for not moving ahead with such an investigation in view of the government’s confidence that such atrocities were never perpetrated by its armed forces,’ he said.

The images, which he described as ‘horrendous,’ indicate a serious violation of international law if found to be authentic, he added.

In its report, Channel 4 stressed it could not verify the authenticity of the video, which it received from a group called Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka. The group claims the video footage was taken in January by a soldier using a mobile phone.

The footage showed a man dressed in army uniform shooting a naked, bound and blindfolded man in the back of the head, while the bodies of several other men were seen nearby in a muddy field. Another man was also shot in the same way towards the end of the video.

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