SRI LANKA: Killing Fields

Documentary films continue to mount pressure for international inquiry into alleged human rights abuses

Will Channel 4’s documentary series: Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields be a successor in terms of media momentum to the Kony 2012 campaign?

Gathering media pressure is helping to build the case for an independent international inquiry into war crimes allegedly committed during the latter period of Sri Lanka’s war.

The growing interest in the events, including burgeoning digital media coverage, is building around two landmark investigative documentaries by Channel 4 that have helped to bring the human rights issues to a wider audience…

Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished was first broadcast on Wednesday March 14 2012, exposing evidence of alleged atrocities committed in the last days of the war in Sri Lanka.

The investigative film, presented by Jon Snow, is a follow up to the earlier documentary, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, also presented by Snow, first shown in June 2011, which uses documentary evidence to expose the war crimes that look to have been committed on both sides of the conflict…

The earlier film, welcomed by the non-profit The Centre for War Victims and Human Rights and other human rights orgs, is an investigation into the final weeks of the decades long civil war between the Sri Lanka government and the rebel Tamil Tigers.

In 2009 the Sri Lankan government announced victory over the LTTE, or Tamil Tigers as they are known, ending a 26-year conflict. Human rights groups including Human Rights Watch have since drawn attention to the alleged war crimes during the latter period of the conflict, especially unnecessary civilian suffering and casualties.

Channel 4’s documentary investigations into alleged executions and atrocities including the shelling of civilians, are backed up by a UN panel report identifying up to 40,000 civilians were killed in the final weeks of the war… and 290,000 people displaced.

Jon Snow the veteran campaigning journalist and broadcaster who presented the graphic films has called the story one of the most important he has worked on his career.

Footage showing abuse of civilians has acted as a catalyst for a demand for the creation of an independent investigation into the violations of international law allegedly committed by sections of the government forces and the Tamil Tigers….

The investigative films provide various evidence of terrible behaviour, including interviews with eye-witnesses, photographic evidence, Sri Lankan army video footage and satellite imagery.

In effect the latest documentary and its predecessor are an urgent call for the world to take notice and force an independent enquiry, backing a call for an enquiry made in 2011, following the UN-appointed panel of experts report.

The resulting publicity generated by the films is gathering impetus and showing the power of no holds barred investigative film-making.

The first film Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields has gathered two prizes at the One World Media Awards, a non-profit org celebrating progressive filmmaking, the documentary scooping both the best Television and Documentary Awards.

Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields is also thought to be the front runner to win a BAFTA, the British Oscars, in the Current Affairs category.

Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields has been shown to diplomats in Washington DC, to the European parliament and other international governments as well as being broadcast around the world to public audiences. The film has also received backing from British Prime Minister David Cameron who has called for the Sri Lankan government to be investigated.

The US Foreign Affairs Committee is expected to view Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished in Washington later this week.

Based on the documentary evidence from Channel 4, Amnesty International is another non-profit calling for an international investigation into the atrocities allegedly occurring two years ago in Sri Lanka… The slow burn effect of the films is building…

The World Media judge panel described: "an extraordinary and powerful piece of television testimony that forensically analysed a terrible atrocity and built a compelling case to be answered".


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