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Sri Lanka execution video appears authentic – U.N

[Reuters, Thursday, 7 January 2010 20:16 No Comment]

A trio of forensic experts believe that video footage that a Sri Lankan advocacy group says shows Sri Lankan soldiers summarily executing Tamils appears genuine, a U.N. investigator said on Thursday.

Channel 4 television aired a video last year that, according to the Journalists for Democracy group, shows government troops killing unarmed, naked, bound and blindfolded Tamils during the army’s final assault to smash Tamil Tiger rebels last year.

Philip Alston, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, told reporters a forensic pathologist, a forensic video analyst and a firearms expert had all concluded that the video showed no evidence of having been doctored or staged and appears to be genuine.

"In light of these conclusions and of the persistent flow of other allegations concerning alleged extrajudicial executions committed by both sides … I call for an independent inquiry to be established to carry out an impartial investigation," Alston said.

Sri Lanka’s government has repeatedly denied that its forces were guilty of war crimes or human rights breaches in the last months of its 25-year war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The government declared victory over the LTTE in May 2009.

The government has dismissed the Channel 4 video as a fake, though it did announce the creation of what it described as an independent inquiry to look into allegations of possible war crimes raised by the U.S. State Department and Alston.

U.N. INVESTIGATION?

Alston, asked about the Sri Lankan inquiry, said he had no information about it. He voiced scepticism about the ability of the Sri Lankan government to conduct a proper probe.

He said the allegations of war crimes committed by both sides should be investigated by a genuinely independent authority such as the United Nations, which has carried out similar inquiries elsewhere, most recently into a massacre in the West African nation Guinea.

Alston, a human rights lawyer who teaches at New York University, said it was not his place to demand specific action by the United Nations. But he said he hoped the U.N. Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would take the experts’ assessment of the video footage seriously.

Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky said that a "full and impartial investigation is critical" but indicated that an investigation of war crimes allegations should be handled by the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, Navi Pillay, and not U.N. headquarters in New York.

Nesirky added that Ban had informed Colombo that he was considering setting up an expert panel that would advise him on the matter and "assist the (Sri Lankan) government in taking measures to address possible violations."

[Full Coverage]

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