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TV anchor among naked men,women ‘killed’ by Sri Lanka soldiers on video

The video,shot with a mobile phone,shows naked prisoners shot by soldiers with assault rifles.

Written by Gopu Mohan | Chennai |
December 3, 2010 5:24:57 am

As Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa toured the UK,Britain’s Channel 4 aired stomach-churning footage of men in uniform alleged to be his soldiers executing naked,unarmed,tied-up and blindfolded men and women said to be members or sympathisers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The pro-LTTE Tamilnet website identified one of the women as Shoba alias Isaippiriya,a journalist.

Channel 4 said the video was shot shortly before the final triumph of the Sri Lankan army over the Tigers in May 2009,and is an extended version of another video it aired last year.

The video,apparently shot with a cellphone camera — one of the frames has a soldier holding up a cellphone — shows naked prisoners with their hands tied behind their backs being shot from behind by soldiers with assault rifles. The killings take place in a field littered with naked,bloody corpses,some with their heads blown off.

The soldiers are heard talking among themselves,and Channel 4 said the “lewd and callous comments seem strongly to suggest that sexual assaults took place before their deaths”.

“…We have received hundreds of photographs and many more shocking videos depicting summary executions and rape,” Channel 4 News Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Miller said. “We’ve now sent this five-minute 30-second video to the UN panel convened to determine whether or not there should be an independent international war crimes inquiry.”

Channel 4 said it could not independently verify the authenticity of the video.

The Sri Lankan High Commission in London issued a statement saying it “categorically denies that the Channel 4 News TV video is authentic”. Agency reports quoted President Rajapaksa telling the British media,“I deny this whole thing. Most of the civilians were killed by the LTTE. Sri Lanka never killed any civilians as such. Our instructions were,‘You must not touch any civilians. This is a humanitarian operation’.”

The airing of the footage Wednesday coincided with the release by WikiLeaks of a secret cable written by the US Ambassador to Colombo,Patricia A Butenis,on January 15,2010,in which she said that “responsibility for many of the alleged (war) crimes rests with… President Rajapaksa and his brothers and opposition candidate (former army chief) General (Sarath) Fonseka”.

A large group of Sri Lankan Tamils had protested with LTTE flags as Rajapaksa landed in London on Tuesday. On Thursday,as the outrage spread,the celebrated Oxford Union cancelled a scheduled talk by Rajapaksa — the high point of the president’s visit — because the “sheer scale of the expected protests” made it doubtful that “the talk can reasonably and safely go ahead”.

Tamilnet said its correspondent in Wanni had identified one woman figuring prominently in the video as Shoba alias Isaippiriya,a 27-year-old LTTE “media specialist” who reported for the Tigers’ Oliveechchu magazine. Tamilnet quoted its correspondent as saying Shoba was a non-combatant who carried no arms,and who had lost her six-month-old baby girl Akal in the final phase of the war.

In the video,the camera lingers on the female bodies lying in the field,including on the one identified as that of Shoba. It pauses for lengths of time over certain body parts,and at one point,a soldier removes a last bit of cloth covering a woman’s chest as the recording continues.

“Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa,his brothers,and all others connected to the war are guilty of war crimes,evidence for which was collected from those who managed to came out of Lanka,and presented to the People’s Permanent Tribunal that met in Dublin early this year,” said P Nedumaran,leader of the Tamil Desiya Iyakkam and a longtime supporter of Eelam and LTTE.

The Dublin Tribunal — of which former Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajinder Sachar was a member — found the Lankan government guilty of war crimes. But Sri Lanka rejected the verdict and condemned the “unaccountable organisation” for “irresponsibly distorting events and seeking to selectively pass judgment from afar”.

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