Sri Lanka army chief says execution video doctored

AP News
Posted: Jun 02, 2011 10:28 AM
Sri Lanka army chief says execution video doctored

Sri Lanka's army chief on Wednesday dismissed as "doctored" a video clip that shows soldiers shooting bound, blindfolded prisoners and abusing corpses in the final days of the country's 26-year civil war.

A U.N. expert, Christof Heyns, concluded this week the 5-minute, 25-second video was authentic and contains enough evidence to open a war crimes investigation, but asked Sri Lanka to investigate the events first.

Army Commander Lt. Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya told reporters Thursday there are no clear details available on the video on the persons involved, place and day of the killings.

"We have said it's a doctored video," Jayasuriya said.

"These are general statements," he said of the allegations. "If somebody says so and so did this at this place and this day and time, we can find answers to that."

Heyns, a South African law professor who is also the U.N.'s independent investigator on extrajudicial killings, said that he viewed the video frame by frame with a team of technical and forensic specialists to determine it was authentic.

In the video, several men lie on a muddy track, bound and motionless. Another man is shown being forced to sit upright by a soldier in camouflage carrying a rifle. Another soldier steps up behind and shoots him in the back of the head, point blank. The prisoner slumps sideways as the camera pans across the road revealing nine bodies, most of them naked, with gunshot wounds clearly visible.

The uniformed men then force another blindfolded prisoner down into the dirt. A gunshot rings out and he, too, jerks and collapses. Later, the camera focuses on a young man, his skull blown open. Soldiers stand over the half-dressed corpse of a woman, gloating.

A partial U.N. count showed at least 7,000 ethnic Tamil civilians killed in the last five months of the conflict and relatives say a number of rebels surrendered or arrested at the end of the fighting are unaccounted for.

Also a U.N experts panel has said it has found credible allegations that serious human rights abuses took place in the final months of the civil war conducted away from public scrutiny, after evicting the U.N, independent reporters and aid workers.

The report said that government forces targeted civilians, hospitals and blocked food and medicine for hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in the war zone and deliberately undercounted the number of civilians in the conflict zone.

It also alleged Tamil Tiger rebels recruited child soldiers, held civilians as human shields and shot dead those tried to escape their grip.

The government has repeatedly denied the allegations and the rebels are virtually nonexistent as an organization to respond.

U.N has estimated between 80,000 to 100,000 people may have been killed in the civil war but human rights groups say the number could be much higher.