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Film on Lanka war crimes makes UN debut

Colombo tried to halt screening of No Fire Zone

A documentary purporting to show the execution of civilians and other war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan army had its first public screening on Friday but was swiftly rejected by the government as part of an “orchestrated campaign” against it.

The documentary No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka is the third by British journalist and director Callum Macrae about the final stages of the nearly 30-year civil war. “We see it as a film of record,but also a call to action,” Macrae told a news briefing. “All of it is genuine. It is evidence of war crimes and I have to warn you it is pretty horrific.”

Tens of thousands of civilians were killed in 2009 in the final months the war,a UN panel has said,as government troops advanced on the ever-shrinking northern tip of the island controlled by Tamil rebels fighting for an independent homeland.

The film depicts terrifying scenes from the territory held by the Tamil Tiger rebels just before their defeat in May 2009. In the so-called “No Fire Zone” declared by the army,rights groups say soldiers killed thousands of Tamil civilians by heavy shelling and massacres,and yet perpetrators have gone unpunished.

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“The Tigers are guilty of war crimes,of using child soldiers and preventing civilians from leaving,so they are complicit in some ways in what happened,” Macrae told reporters.

Sri Lanka’s government this week formally protested against the film’s screening on UN premises on sidelines of Human Rights Council. The event,organised by activist groups seeking an international inquiry into atrocities,was allowed to proceed.

“By providing a platform for the screening of this film which includes footage of dubious origin,content that is distorted and without proper sourcing and making unsubstantiated allegations,the sponsors of this event seek to tarnish the image of Sri Lanka,” Ravinatha Aryasinha,Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva,told the audience on Friday.

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Colombo considered the film as “part of a cynical,concerted and orchestrated campaign strategically driven and aimed at influencing debate in the council on Sri Lanka,” he said.

Some footage of troops executing naked and blindfolded prisoners are from “trophy videos” taken by government soldiers on mobile phones,according to Macrae,whose two previous films on Sri Lanka’s civil war were broadcast by Britain’s Channel 4.

Balachandran Prabhakaran,a 12-year-old son of the slain Tamil Tiger founder Velupillai Prabhakaran,is shown in a series of photographs in the last hours of his short life. He is first shown eating a biscuit while held captive by soldiers,then shot dead along with other men presumed to be his bodyguards.

First published on: 03-03-2013 at 12:59:35 am
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