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Sri Lankan execution video authentic, says newspaper

[AFP, Tuesday, 15 December 2009 10:57 No Comment]

Bodies of Tamil Tiger rebels killed by Sri Lankan police commandos in April 2009 Video footage that allegedly shows Sri Lankan troops executing prisoners during the final stages of its battle against Tamil Tiger rebels was not fabricated, a British newspaper said Tuesday.

The video, aired on Britain’s Channel 4 in August, was rejected at the time by the Sri Lankan military as fake to discredit security forces who defeated Tamil separatists in May after a bloody decades-long conflict.

The Times said an analysis by an independent forensic video specialist suggests no evidence of digital manipulation, editing or other special effects.

"This level of subtle detail cannot be virtually reproduced. This is clearly an original recording," said specialist Grant Fredericks.

Fredericks, previously the head of the Vancouver police forensic video unit in Canada and an instructor at the FBI National Academy, carried out the analysis for the newspaper.

The disturbing footage shows a man dressed in army uniform shooting a naked, bound and blindfolded man in the back of the head, while the bodies of eight others can be seen nearby in a muddy field.

A 10th man was also shot in the same way towards the end of the video with men in the background gloating over the killings.

Fredericks told the paper there was strong evidence to rule out the use of actors. "Even if the weapons fired blanks, the barrel is so close to the head of the ‘actors’ that the gas discharge alone leaves the weapon with such force it would likely cause serious injury or death," he said.

Channel 4 stressed in its original report that 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 United Nations said at the time that it was viewing the footage "with the utmost concern" but could also not verify the video.

The newspaper report comes just days after the former head of Sri Lanka’s army alleged that the defence minister had ordered the killing in cold blood of surrendering Tamil Tiger leaders at the close of the civil war.

The allegations prompted a furious denial from the human rights minister.

Sri Lankan authorities have resisted international calls for a war crimes investigation after the United Nations alleged that more than 7,000 civilians had been killed during the first four months of this year alone.

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