Lankan execution tape authentic: UN expert

Video shows troops killing naked, blind-folded Tamils

However, Sri Lanka said the  video purportedly showing its troops killing blindfolded, naked Tamils during the civil war was a fabrication. The government dismissed the UN investigation confirming its apparent authenticity as biased.

“The conclusion (of analysis by independent experts) is that the video tape is authentic,” Philip Alston, the special rapporteur on extra-judicial killings, told reporters on  Thursday night. The investigation affirms the need for an independent inquiry into the persistent flow of allegations of extra-judicial executions committed by both sides during the closing phases of the war against the LTTE, he said.

“I call for an independent inquiry to be established to carry out an impartial investigation into war crimes, and other grave violations of humanitarian and human rights law allegedly committed in Sri Lanka,” he said.

‘Biased conclusions’

The Sri Lankan government, meanwhile, said the conclusions by the UN expert were biased. “We don’t accept his conclusions and we believe his conclusions are highly subjective and biased,” Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said of Alston. “We believe he is on a crusade of his own to force a war crime inquiry against Sri Lanka.”

Samarasinghe said the government’s own investigation into the footage showed it was filled with “discrepancies and shortcomings,” and he accused Alston of not following “proper procedures” before announcing his conclusions.

Footage telecast on Britain’s Channel 4 in August last year showed a Sri Lankan soldier shooting at point blank range a Tamil rebel who was bound and blindfolded.The video also showed eight bound corpses, reinforcing allegations about extra-judicial executions on part of the Sri Lankan army.

The Sri Lankan government initially declared that the video was fabricated, but later conducted investigations that were widely discredited.

Dissatisfied with the conclusions of the Sri Lankan probe, Alston commissioned a number of independent experts, including forensic pathologists, firearms experts and forensic video tape analysts, to study the tape. “Each of these experts subjected the video to a very careful and thorough examination and concluded that there was nothing to indicate that the video was a fake,” Alston said.

“My own interpretation of their conclusion is that they point very clearly to the authenticity of the video... In addition the various points raised by the Sri Lankan experts for the most part were systematically rebutted by these independent experts,” he said. Alston, however, pointed out that the investigation left some issues unresolved due to the lack of evidence available to the independent experts.

One grey area in particular is that the date encoded on the video shows July 17, 2009, but the conflict ended in May 2009.

The UN expert stated that this anomaly did not mean that “the video tape has been staged because every indication is that the killings were genuine,  were undertaken in the way depicted but it would certainly indicate that video was not taken during the final phases of the conflict as alleged by those who released the tape”.

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