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Sri Lanka rejects U.N. execution video report

[Reuters, Friday, 8 January 2010 13:48 No Comment]

Sri Lanka on Friday rejected as inconsistent the findings of a trio of U.N.-appointed investigators who said they doubted a video showing apparent executions by Sri Lankan soldiers was a fake.

The reaction came after Philip Alston, U.N. special reporter on extrajudicial executions, on Thursday urged an independent probe after a forensic pathologist, a forensic video analyst and a firearms expert concluded the video was likely real.

Britain’s Channel 4 television aired a video last year that it said shows government troops killing unarmed, naked, bound and blindfolded men during the army’s final assault to smash the Tamil Tiger rebels.

The government immediately rejected it as a fraud perpetrated by Tamil Tiger supporters angry the separatist group had been defeated, and said its own investigation, using Sri Lankan civilian and military experts, had found it was doctored.

"We reject these allegations," Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said. "In light of those continued contradictory findings, we can’t accept it."

He was referring to some details Alston said the experts were unable to explain, like the movement of certain victims, 17 frames at the end of the video and the fact that the date encoded in the video — July 17, 2009 — is a month after war ended.

Nonetheless, all three concluded the footage was probably genuine, Alston said.

Bogollagama said that the government was still probing the video and other allegations of war crimes through a presidential panel of Sri Lankan experts. Alston has voiced doubts that a Sri Lankan probe will be impartial.

"We are not instantly dismissing anything. That cannot done by a government," Bogollagama said. "The government is examining their allegations."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is considering setting up an expert panel to advise him on the matter and help the Sri Lankan government to address possible violations.

However, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has the responsibility for investigating any war crimes allegations, a spokesman for Ban has said.

Bogollagama also said that Alston had violated diplomatic protocol by making his findings public before discussing it with the Sri Lankan government.

[Full Coverage]

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