'Sri Lanka's Killing Fields' (Page 2 of 3)

Footage originated from a variety of sources; civilians, LTTE cameramen and footage shot by soldiers as ‘trophy footage’ as they committed war crimes such as summary executions and the abuse of bodies. One of the reasons I believe this footage has emerged is that there are many people of conscience within the Sri Lanka military and they are extremely unhappy and deeply ashamed by some of the actions documented by the footage. The footage has been extensively analysed by a number of independent experts both for the United Nations and Channel 4, and they all agree that there is no reason to believe it’s anything other than genuine footage depicting genuine executions.

The film acknowledges that the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) also bear a measure of responsibility for some of the violations we see in the documentary – can you expand on that?

The LTTE bears serious responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity and we make that absolutely clear in the film. The surviving LTTE leadership should be brought to justice in the same way that those responsible on the Sri Lankan government side should.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

The footage shot by LTTE cameramen was clearly originally intended to show the ‘heroic exploits’ of the Tamil Tigers, but in reality they succeeded in filming the misery of their own people – which was compounded by the LTTE themselves using the civilian population as a human shield.

The US and EU countries have responded to the UN Panel of Experts report by putting the ball into Sri Lanka’s court and calling on them to hold credible investigations and trials, where appropriate. Do you see any evidence that the Sri Lankan government will respond?

The Sri Lankan government has had two years to investigate allegations and has shown absolutely zero evidence of a desire to genuinely attempt a thorough investigation. The Sri Lankan government is dominated by the Rajapaksa family, who control most aspects of military and political policy, have refused to work with the UN investigations, and have maintained that there were zero civilian casualties in the final military campaign. So it doesn’t surprise me that domestic investigations so far have been so inadequate – there is always a huge structural problem when a government investigates itself.

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), set up by the Sri Lankan government, is deeply flawed and hasn’t conducted anything like an impartial investigation. They haven’t done so over the last two years and I see no suggestion that will change in the coming months. What’s disturbing is that it seems to have been left to a British TV station to investigate and produce evidence related to these crimes. It’s quite clear that government forces were shooting the footage, therefore if the Sri Lankan government genuinely wanted to investigate these crimes, they would have recovered this footage a long, long time ago and submitted it to open, transparent and objective scrutiny.

Now, clearly the United States and United Kingdom appear to have put the Sri Lankan government on notice that if they don’t deliver a convincing, genuine, impartial investigation, then certainly the UK has said that it will look to alternative international measures. I believe the Sri Lankan government has to take that prospect seriously.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief