Screen grab from Channel 4’s Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields

(New York) – The Sri Lankan government continues its diplomatic offensive, denying and dismissing the growing evidence of war crimes during the final bloody battles between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that ended in May 2009.

Last week, at a panel presentation of the Channel 4 film, the ‘Killing Fields of Sri Lanka’, Sri Lanka’s United Nations Ambassador Palitha Kohona said, “To suggest that the Sri Lankan military was so foolhardy as to deliberately target the civilians, I think is a blatant lie… We had no intention of creating martyrs, we had no intention of creating more volunteers for the LTTE.”

If the killings of civilians were not deliberate, the Sri Lankan army attacks were clearly indiscriminate, which is no less a war crime. The recent findings of the panel of experts set up to advise UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon concluded that up to 40,000 civilians were killed in the final stages of the conflict, many as the result of indiscriminate shelling by government forces. The report also concluded that both government forces and the Tigers conducted military operations “with flagrant disregard for the protection, rights, welfare and lives of civilians and failed to respect the norms of international law.”

The Channel 4 film adds even more weight to the UN report, providing devastating and graphic footage of possible war crimes by Sri Lankan soldiers. It shows summary executions of prisoners by soldiers in uniform, half-naked corpses of women that raise questions about sexual abuse and includes revealing interviews with ethnic Tamils who described indiscriminate shelling that killed many civilians.

It is true that the LTTE committed horrific abuses against the civilian population by using them as human shields, forcibly conscripting children, and deploying artillery close to civilians. Human Rights Watch documented abuses by the LTTE for years.

It is also true that in the final stages of the war it was difficult to verify facts and corroborate evidence, especially when the government deliberately shut out foreign media, the United Nations, and humanitarian and human rights groups from the battle zone.

But it is wrong for the Sri Lankan government to dismiss this compelling footage as “fake.” The most vehement dismissals have been directed against a clip of several executions of naked, bound and blindfolded men by men in military uniforms. But the executions footage has been authenticated by four independent experts who have no connection to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s own examination of the video, by contrast, carries no credibility. All the experts commissioned by the government were either Sri Lankan military experts or Sri Lankan nationals living abroad. All of the government’s objections had been addressed by the UN-commissioned experts in their recent reports.

Since the screening of the film for diplomats in Geneva and New York, Sri Lankan government officials have said that they will investigate any credible allegations of wrongdoing. But it is hard to imagine more concrete evidence of war crimes than this execution video. In addition to the video, several photographs of the same bodies, all publicly available, add information that should allow the government to find those responsible for these crimes if it wants to.

First, we know the identity of one of the victims. Human Rights Watch interviewed several people who identified one of the female victims as Isaipiriya, a LTTE media worker.

Second, there are strong indications that the incident took place on the evening of May 18– the final night of the war. The army said on the Defense Ministry’s website that Isaipiriya was killed on May 18; this information is consistent with meta-data on many of the photographs.

Third, regarding the identity of the perpetrators, the army itself said that its 53rd division killed Isaipiriya. Yet, the government has not taken even the most rudimentary steps for a criminal investigation, such as questioning those in the 53rd division who reported Isaipiriya’s killing.

After initially dismissing the footage as “fake” and “made with LTTE money,” the government is now, perhaps with the growing body of evidence, asserting that it is waiting for its domestic truth mechanism, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, to conclude its investigations. The government now asserts that the Commission will look into some of these incidents if it deems them credible.

This is nothing but a delaying tactic. As noted by the UN panel of experts, the LLRC is not an accountability mechanism, is “deeply flawed” and its mandate is “not tailored to investigating allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

Only a prompt, thorough and objective criminal investigation will fulfill the government’s obligations under international law. The government’s failure to open such an investigation, almost two years after the footage surfaced, is a clear indication that the government has no intention to meet its international obligations.

The government’s shallow show-and-tell exercise with the LLRC reflects a long history in Sri Lanka of setting up government commissions in response to serious allegations of abuses such as enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings that ultimately fail to adequately investigate or to hold those responsible to account.

Since 1977, Sri Lanka has set up at least 15 commissions in response to international criticism of its human rights record. The work of many of these commissions has been tainted with political interference and mainly served to exonerate the government security forces. But even in cases in which the commissions conducted thorough investigations, established numerous cases of abuses, and identified the perpetrators, the authorities failed to act on the commissions’ recommendations or to establish a meaningful accountability process.

Justice for Sri Lanka’s war victims is crucial. If Ambassador Kohona really wanted to avoid making martyrs of the LTTE, then he would support an independent international investigation into the allegations of war crimes. Based on the government’s track record, anything it produces is likely to be just another whitewash. What is really needed is to establish a full international investigation of the executions in the video and other numerous credible allegations of war crimes.

Elaine Pearson is the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

  • Elaine and HRW,

    We applaud your thirst for justice and commitment to truth and reconciliation amongst the people of Sri Lanka.

    But where were you and what were you doing when deliberate attacks were being carried out on the civilian populations in Colombo, Kandy, Aranthalawa, Anuradhapura and numerous villages throughout Sri Lanka not far from the offices of the UN and the world media?

    Why were you complicit in your silence when money was being raised under your very noses in Europe, North America and Australia to fund these attacks on civilians? Why did you not speak for us then?

    Why are you silent about major Financial institutions that fund those who manufacture cluster bombs?

    It is not our dictatorial regime that threatens neither our democracy nor the emasculated opposition that makes us helpless, or even the incompetent media that stalls our path to reconciliation. Sri Lankans – for all our weaknesses and shortcomings – are appreciative of the challenges before us. The present generation that fought the war and suffered most from it may pass just on their burden, but there is an awakening of our youth – though feeble at times – to the light of inspired leadership.

    No, it is the rudeness, insensitivity and invasiveness of your inquisitions, the duplicity in your advocacy, the hypocrisy in your activism and your complicity in the very crimes you protest of that undermines our fight for freedom and dignity for all Sri Lankans.

    We are a people and a generation that was born into war and survived it. We know what war is. It was the generation that preceded us that chose war not knowing what it is and how there is a world economy built around it by the rich and powerful to exploit its impoverished victims. We know the differences between sincere friends and the hypocritical parasites.

    Your exploitation of the principles of human rights only serves to entrench a despotic government in power by people who are far more weary of you than those you allege to be war criminals. Your actions only serves as a renouncement of the right of Sri Lankans to decide our own future, choose our own leaders and shape our own destiny.

    We did not cry out for you when bombs were blowing off our busses, banks and places of worship, and we do not cry out for you now. Thanks you for your concern, and goodbye! May you those you seek to serve, be well.

    • rajah

      the answere to your question is very simple. if a big bully is bullying a weak person for long period, whom will you protect? the bullied right?

    • Civilised Citizen

      Dear Mr. Citizen,

      Your comments and attitude confirms to me that you are another apologist for murderers. It is completely beyond me how you can call yourself “Citizen”. If you believe in been a civilised human-being and a citizen of a civilised nation, you should support all actions to establish the rule of law and prosecution of wrong doers, who ever they may be.

      If we do not do this Sri Lanka is very likely to become an uncivilised nation. There are many Sri Lankans who still hold and believe in decent human values. As a nation we failed to up hold decent human values in 1959. Then we failed again in 1971 and in 1983. Let us take this opportunity this time and take the first steps towards reconciliation and join hands with ALL our fellow “Citizens” to build a Nation that upholds decent Human Values. This is the ONLY way to becoming a decent civilised nation.

      I am sure when that happens, like me you too would be proud to be a “Citizen” of such a nation.

    • Akootha

      1. Place all crimes against humanity done in Sri Lanka. Then all, be that be the LTTE or Sri Lankan officials. No one is aboe the law.

      2. Sri Lanka is a signatory of UN and manay international laws and it should obey.

      3. Should Sri Lanka continue to deny allegations, it will only hurt its people in the long run.

    • Bharathi

      @citizen: Because of the majority of the Sinhala people like you, there is no peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Sinhala thuggish mentality burned down Jaffna public library in 1981, killed innocent civilians in 1953, 1956, 1958, 1977 and 1983 triggered the civil war. Your murderous politicians even killed your Sinhala youths in 1971 and 1987-89 in thousands. How could civilized people expect thuggish people to treat fellow citizens with dignity and respect? Rajapaksa & Co. must face war crimes inquiry in Hague.

    • @Mr. Civilised Citizen,

      My comments do not confirm to you or anyone that I am an apologist for murderers. In fact I am questioning the credibility of anyone who would apologise for murderers – only when it is convenient for them to do so.

      I can call myself a “Citizen” because I prioritise my civic duty and national identity above those of my race and religion. I do not call myself a ‘nationalist’ because I do not believe in any race or religious group that has a higher claim of ownership to land or preferential treatment over any other.

      I do support all actions to establish the rule of law. I also support the prosecution of wrong doers where it serves the cause of justice. I do not support prosecution motivated by hatred and vengeance because that is often counter-productive to the objectives of serving justice.

      There are elements within Sri Lanka that can be termed ‘uncivilised’ because of a lack of tolerance, mutual respect and failure to uphold human dignity – 1959, 1971, 1977, 1983, 1989 being prominent examples. There are also honourable elements within Sri Lanka that are committed to preserving decent human values. I do not subscribe to the notion that Sri Lanka needs an external ‘civilising’ influence – least of all one that is sponsored by racist organisations that fester conflicts in the name of preserving human rights.

      Pride in my “Citizenship” is dependent on the kind of nation i contribute towards building. No nation can be perfect – hence the need for righteous laws, forthright governance, equitable treatment and access to opportunity, justice and overall economic as well as moral prosperity.

      @Akootha: I agree!
      As for your last point however, i’d put it slightly differently; “Should Sri Lanka fail to understand the actors, their duplicity and disgraceful motives behind these allegations, it will only hurt its people in the long run”

      You do not know what race i belong to and frankly, that’s not even relevant here.

      There is relative peace and space reconciliation in Sri Lanka now that it did three years ago. Whether we make use of the opportunity of squander it like all the many opportunities we had in the past is what’s at stake.

      Agreed: Sinhala thuggish mentality burned down Jaffna public library in 1981, killed innocent civilians in 1953, 1956, 1958, 1977 and 1983 triggered the civil war.

      Politicians’ Murderous instincts are not the only responsible factor to be blamed for killing youth in 1971 and 1987-89 and 1972-2009 in hundreds of thousands. History offers richer lessons than that.

      Politicians and terrorists have been able to exploit our racial and religious differences because of the insecurities and fears within us; that still prevents us from reaching out and empathizing with our fellow citicens. We are unwilling to compromise, listen and respect others who are different from us because we fear that any such concessions may be mistaken for weaknesses on our part.

      “How could civilized people expect thuggish people to treat fellow citizens with dignity and respect?” you ask…?
      There are enough ‘civilised’ Sri Lankans – Tamils, Muslims Sinhalese, Burghers, Malays and others among them who have the courage and inner peace to reach out to one another and be a civilising influence on our nation, region and the world. Here’s hoping they will be able to outnumber and outwit the remaining thugs!

      • Manabharana

        It is precisely because of the attitude of racist apologists like “Citizen” than I am ashamed to call myself a Sri Lankan and even more so, feel cringeworthy to call myself a Sinhalese. You, Mr. Citizen, is a racist living in denial.

      • Tissa Muwa


        What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander

        Citizen is highlighting duplicity of West

        That’s not racism the way I see it.

        Besides some countries whose police officers unleashed dogs at unarmed protesters, practiced Segeregation to this day,lynched minority races and continue to do, herd a section of people to ghettos based on the color of the skin, have a massive disparity in income distribution ,have neo natzi thugs attacking immigrant on the streets, have no right to pass judgment on a country that was plagued by terrorism for 30 years.

      • I clearly under-estimated how organised the proposition was going to be. If Manabharana can quote a single sentence of mine as evidence of my ‘alleged’ ‘racism’, i will affort his allegation the dignity of a reply.

      • Lanka Liar

        citizen you are a true citizen of Sri Lanka cannot be of any other country in the world. Murdering is not good enough in Sri Lanka they dance around the corpse. We need more like you for that dance, the dance of the devil or shall I say dance of the evil. You speak the Sri Lankan language which is Lankan. We need more like you Keep it up.

      • Thank you Lanka Liar. Your sarcasm – though stupid and in bad humour – is not lost on me. Weldone on towing the line of a diaspora that has sponsored many constructive and well thought out projects in Sri Lanka that has led us to where we are now as a country.

      • Looking at the irrational comments above – of those trying to cover up the duplicity of the “Sri Lanka war-crimes project” and acusing moderate voices that are promoting reconcilliation on grass-root level in Sri Lanka as being “racist” and stifling any inteligent discussion of the real issues – it is quite clear who is pulling the strings behind these self-proclaimed ‘Human rights champions’ and sponsoring their racist agenda.

        While the UN itself has exposed how Australia is blatantly violating human rights including its obligations to protect refugees, Elaine Pearson calls on Australia to put pressure on “Asian countries” who have poor human rights records! HRW justifiably condemns China for imprisoning political opposition without fair trial, but remains unjustifiably silent on Guantanamo!

        Do they think “Asians” have “Idiot” tattooed on their foreheads?

      • Civilised Citizen

        Dear Mr. Citizen,
        Answers to your responses and some questions for you to answer in your own conscience:

        You say you are “questioning the credibility of anyone who would apologise for murderers – only when it is convenient for them to do so.”
        Are you questioning whom? Elaine Pearson? HRW? I do not see any comment by any one of them to suggest that they are apologising for murderers. But I see your comments as doing exactly that. So don’t just utter rubbish just because your brain is saturated with Sinhala-Racism. Leave that to our Sinhala leaders. They do that much better than you.

        You say that you “support all actions to establish the rule of law. I also support the prosecution of wrong doers where it serves the cause of justice. I do not support prosecution motivated by hatred and vengeance because that is often counter-productive to the objectives of serving justice.”
        If you support all actions to establish the rule of law, you should be the first to support an inquiry to establish if any wrong doings happened during the war. And if it did happen that the wrong doers are prosecuted. Prosecution of wrong doers are not done with a motivation of hatred or vengeance in the civilised world. That may be the case with the Sinhala leaders doing the prosecutions eg. case of General SF. But you should not judge the whole world from the Sinhala leadership’s standards. The majority of humanity are decent people with civilised values. There is still a chance for you to take off your Sinhala-Racist blinkers and join the decent civilised world, and join in calling for the truth to be established. I am sure everyone of us would welcome you with open arms.

        You say “I do not subscribe to the notion that Sri Lanka needs an external ‘civilising’ influence – least of all one that is sponsored by racist organisations that fester conflicts in the name of preserving human rights.”
        When you talk about an ‘external civilising influence’ you talk as if in Sri Lanka people are born with these civilised values. Like it is a genetic thing. But remember that all these civilised values we hold today were taught to us. Most of these values came from “externally” to Sri Lanka. Racism, Feudalism, Nepotism, Caste system, and even human sacrifices etc. were values your Sri Lankan forefathers held, but were over time got discarded because of “external civilising influences”. So it is not a new thing or a shameful thing to do to take on these civilised values, particularly when we as a Sri Lankan nation, have failed so many times in the past when the opportunity was there. There is no shame in learning from somebody else. That’s how all species (including human beings) evolve and progress. Think about it and it won’t be that hard. One essential characteristic for a civilised progressive Nation, is it’s ability to self-criticize.

        As you say “No Nation can be perfect”. But we must not stop striving for it even if it is painful in the short-term. That has been our downfall for the last 63 years as a nation.

      • Mr. Civilised Citizen,
        There are more issues we can agree on than fight over. If you can find a more rational and humane space in your mind that is not prejudiced and convinced despite the lack of any evidence that moderate voices like mine are not motivated by racism, and if you can share with me a love for humanity – including the heroes and vilains among us – you will find in me a respectful ally.
        But as long as glorify “War” – in itself and by itself is the “wrong doing”, that the generations who chose war, those who spawned the seeds of violence by the imoral treatment of their brethren, those who sacrificed an unborn generation on the alter of violence, those who blindly funded that violence out of vengence, those who profited from war and fed their children the spoils of riches bought with blood of inocents – regardless of what their race, religion or political affiliation was, you will find in me an adversary.

        What is there to investigate when it is obvious that War itself was the crime we are all guilty of – either by proxy, sponsorship, vengeful ignorance, subconscious triumphalism or active participarion?

        If there is any humanity in you – and a little intelligence – you would not find it difficult to understand that it is only a shameless hypocrite who would calll for an “investigation of wrong doings that happened during a war” – when it is blatantly obvious that WAR itself – and all our complicit support for it (regardless of the myriad excuses we may come up with as justification for it) – is the only wrong doing.

        Did not the LTTE cadres and Government soldiers have loved ones and friends, their own dreams and ambitions??? What twisted, corrupt and immoral logic would enact laws that legitimise their deaths and criminalise the deaths of others??? Who will speak with one voice for all of humanity – without cowardly posturing behind dubious notions that the humanity of combatants is in some way different or inferior to that of their civillians brethren?

      • Manabharana, I am still waiting for you to point out at least a single sentence I have written anywhere, that would have convinced you I am a racist… still waiting…

  • silva

    fortunately sri lanka has no oil deposits like Libya otherwise the international community would have taken actions against the sri lankan government long time ago.

  • B.R.Fernando

    The situation arising out of this channel four movies are pathetic. Some people who are so obsessed with humanity has become Voice of Tigers. The Killing Field is a movie like 2012, do you want to believe whole thing??

    The fact is that War itself is a crime. Terrorism is a crime thousand fold to the legitimate war and the LTTE was a terrorist organization which waged its terror on civilians. They bombed Temples, UNESCO heritage sites, Mosques, Churches, buses, Trains, and brutally killed thousands of civilians while on sleep crossing into Sinhala and Muslim Villages. They only wanted Tamils to live in North and East and Ethnic cleansing was on the top of their agenda. LTTE used child soldiers extensively by grabbing the children while on the way to school and training them in Jungle camps. HRW and UN records tells the truth. LTTE killed more Tamil politicians than they killed Sinhalese politicians because they oppose the Idea of Terrorism and separatism.

    Channel four movie has completely and deliberately avoided this part out of the movie to give the impression to the audience that there was only one thing Sri Lankan Army attacked civilians and committed crimes. When you talk about the final stages of the war you must consider these points too.

    LTTE kept about 200,000 people forcibly as human shield for the protection of their own cadres.

    Government gave considerable time and warning for citizens to leave but LTTE deliberately kept them by shooting whoever tries to leave.

    Its a hostage situation that had arrived and its not like someone taking a bus or bank with people hostage. But its whole chunk of land with 200,000 people while the LTTE having Artillary guns, Paddle Guns Battle tanks etc.What do you expect that a legitimate Army will do when they are fired by Artilarry from a hospital or a church filled with civilians. No one can say take the beating and retreat. you fire some warning shots and neutralize the targets.

    I do not accept the idea of having Zero civilian casualty but the plus point is defenitly if there were some civilians were killed the number would be lover than that of killed if the war continued. That is how rational the media has to think and present the matters.

    I regret the world being so biased and politically motivated to maintain states quo which is the reason to all these indiscriminate complaints. To rationale this please note the below,

    Wasn’t there any bombing in civilian areas while US invasion of IRAQ ? Wasn’t there any civilian deaths? Or is it that because US is powerful these UN,HRW guys do not want to talk about it? Or is it because only the US and some Western countries that has the right to fight terrorism or wage terrorism?

    Didn’t you see the pictures and videos of attacked carried out by Israel on Lebanon?? how many civilians killed? Were the mouths of UN, HRW people are shut them by powerful West and US? Did anyone in Channel Four presented those matters which are thousands times horrific than in Sri Lanka in horrific way they present killing fields?

    We as citizens of a still developing nation who has won the impossible win against world most ruthless terrorist can come to conclusion that,

    The UN and some NGO’s, HR Organizations in the west are working with the vested interests and have a hidden political agenda which needs to to be exposed.

    • Don’t be an ostrich

      Mr. Fernando, please don’t digress from the topic by bringing in unrelated issues like Libya etc. Only the LTTE and the SLA were the combatants in the conflict. The LTTE leadership has been wiped out which leaves the only the SLA to answer for their crimes. Even if you claim that the shelling of the civilians was collateral damage, how would you explain the footage of the deliberate executions by Gunshot of prisoners/civilians. Can you explain why the bodies of all the females are naked in stark contrast to the bodies of many of the males who are fully clothed. In fact I didn’t see a single frame of a dead female in full clothes.

      And please don’t complain that the world didn’t take note of the LTTE. The LTTE is banned in India and all the Western countries. Strangely only your newfound friends Russia and China haven’t banned LTTE. If the West wanted to protect the LTTE, it wouldn’t have been banned and you would have seen bombs dropped from Western planed like what is happening in Libya. Probably because Sri Lanka doesn’t have anything worthwhile like oil……

      • Off the Cuff

        The LTTE leadership has been wiped out

      • Off the Cuff

        Dont be an Ostrich,

        Are you trying to be one?

        “The LTTE leadership has been wiped out which leaves the only the SLA to answer for their crimes.”

        But Adele a very high ranking member of Prabhakaran’s inner circle, the Tiger Terrorist who founded the Baby Brigade and the first leader of the Terrorists women’s wing is living comfortably in the UK.

        Arms procurer Rudrakumaran and Office bearers of WTM etc are still at large.

      • Bakamoona

        But Mr. Ostrich, Those who contributed to and collected funds for the LTTE and those who bought weapons for them are still very much alive.
        We can prosecute them can’t we?

    • myil selvan

      The Sri Lankan government did not ask the Thamil people to leave. Instead asked them to go into the “No Fire Zone” which they happily shelled and bombed from the air.

      There was no military point in bombing and shelling after mid January. The International community should have been allowed to get the surrender of the LTTE leaders. This would have saved tens of thousands of Thamil lives. But since we live in a racist country, we shouldn’t expect much.

  • rita

    Senanaykes, Bandaranaikes, Jayawardene, Premadasa, Rajapakses all have to oppress the ethnic minorities to get the votes of the ethnic majority to come to power and to stay in power:
    “If I make any devolutionary concessions to the Tamils, 13A Plus, Minus, Divided or Subtracted, it will be curtains for me.”

    63 years have seen destruction of socio-economic-environmental fabric of Northeast.

  • There is no video of Issipriya being executed; only of her body being examined. The assumption by Elaine Pearson (and many others, either deliberately or ignorantly) is that the execution clip and the Issipriya clip are filmed by the same person.

    • jansee


      Well, let’s have an independent investigation to find out the truth.

  • rita

    Our education system is so poor (only good at instigating hatred for the ‘other’) that people are scared by visible violence and not by structural violence of government institutions.

  • silva

    Illogic (and therefore ignorance)is oozing(and even gushing) out of some comments.
    The Education Department, National Institute of Education and teachers(universities and schools) should read Justice Weeramantry’s submission to LLRC and respond urgently. Similar things have been said by many others in the last 5/6 decades.

  • Davidson

    citizen, state terrorism that created LTTE has also wiped it out but goes on unabated.

    Please think of the future generations and let’s SOLVE the problem before we leave the planet.

  • How lovely to see HRW back in action. We remember well, their efforts during the war to prevent a SL govt victory, with Brad Adams being particularly noteworthy. Elaine simply continues a strong tradition of being economical with the truth, just like GoSL.

    “…UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon concluded that up to 40,000 civilians were killed.. Nope. That’s just a made up number created by the Jeremy Page Dept of Fake Statistics who also gave us ‘1,400 dead Tamil civilians/week’ in IDP camps.

    “Justice for Sri Lanka’s war victims is crucial.” HRW is unable to tell us which victims and where to start. 1971? 1988? Eelam Wars 1-4?

    I’d like HRW to serve justice on Aunty Adele B, groomer of Tamil child soldiers, currently enjoying the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

    “..making martyrs of the LTTE…” To those who support the LTTE, all of their dead cadres are already martyrs. A few more or less won’t make any difference. You can pay your respects to the last batch of LTTE martyrs, along with Aunty Adele, in London, ever year 🙂

    Bobby Sands (IRA hunger striker) was a major martyr to the IRA, who still lost the war of Irish unification to the duplicitous Brits.

    “… support an independent international investigation into the allegations of war crimes” I’m with you all the way Elaine, as soon as you manage to establish an “independent international investigation into the allegations of war crimes” committed by key western powers in the last 15 years.

    ..”female victims .. Isaipiriya, a LTTE media worker…. Oops. ‘Lt Col’ Isaipiriya was a self-acknowledged, long-serving LTTE cadre and groomer of suicide cadres and not just a ‘media worker’. She was a casualty and not a victim. She made her choice when she joined the LTTE, unlike many genuine Tamil civilian victims of this war, who had no choice but to protect the LTTE with their bodies.

    Some of the execution clips are obviously genuine. GoSL should follow best-practice from the UK & US by finding and prosecuting a few identifiable low rankers, reduce their sentences after 1-2 years and let them go.

    “…anything it [GoSL] produces is likely to be just another whitewash.” That’s what legitimate, elected governments do when they’re threatened with war crimes trials by unelected, self-serving, hypocritical international human rights organisations.

  • Akootha

    The war might have ended, but the cause remains even stronger today than before armed struggle began. A political solution where Tamils could exercise their freedom can only be the solution from continued prosecution. Even after 8 rounds of talks, today the political leaders left empty handed and feel betrayed. This has been the cause for armed struggle and we cannot let Colombo fool.

    • wijayapala

      Dear Akootha

      Even after 8 rounds of talks, today the political leaders left empty handed and feel betrayed. This has been the cause for armed struggle and we cannot let Colombo fool.

      If that is really true, then how come the armed struggle did not begin in 1958 or 1965?

      • pissu

        I beg your pardon

  • ordinary lankan

    Please look again at Article 1 of the UDHR 1948

    It is relationships that define our rights – not the other way around. Whatever rights we have in this country are the result of our relationships. The only way is to build peace with justice – to build relationships with rights.


    There are questions to be answered – but I dont see either the LLRC or the UN mechanisms succeeding in the long run. They will both be miserable failures. In fact the measure of their ‘success’ will be the measure of their failure.

    None of these agents have the true interests of our people at heart. We have still not found a way through these issues – but we will come to them – the sovereignty of the people is in the making and when that happens those western powers will be racing each other to support us – esp if they discover some oil off Mannar.

    So HRW – take a long hard look at Article 1. Does the criminal process respect the duty of brotherhood? No. Only a truth and reconciliation process will and that must be promoted in the long term. The current craze is only setting us back with regard to the whole truth – and the best interests of all sri lankans.

    • ravana

      Well said Ordinary Lankan. However, organisations like HRW does bring to bear the sort of pressure which ultimately results in the compromise of credible Truth Commissions.

  • Vallu

    Dear Elaine Pearson of the Human Rights Watch God has blessed you with empathy

    The Sri Lanka Killing Fields brought tears to my eyes and was very painful to watch.

    The humanity has long gone from Sri Lanka…

  • Simon

    Lets see where we are now. According to CH4, AI, HRW etc..

    1) Sri Lanka and the LTTE are both guilty.
    2) On the Sri Lankan corner, we have three who funded and continued this war, and one service personnel who was involved in active duty:

    Mahinda Rajapaksa
    Gotabaya Rajapaksa
    Palitha Kohona
    Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva

    Could any of you experts name three from the LTTE side?

    I do not recollect the war being escalated to the UK, USA etc… they cannot be all dead.

  • Neckar

    Killing Field!!!

    Killing fields are everywhere in the world today. Begin with so called supper power USA, More than 1% of the total population are in the prison. 33.000 people are killed every year just in domestic violence. So, why channel 4 cannot make a film on domestic killing in USA? Are US citizens less worthy than Sri Lankans?

    Since creation of Israel in the middle of Arabic world in 1951, how many Palatines died? How many Israelis died? Is this not a Killing field sponsored by westerners?

    Vietnam, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya killing fields created by Western forces are still on the way for filming by channel4 for next decades.

    My opinion is that whoever pays, they will do the job. “My friend is my purse. My theory and methodology are getting in to the scene”. This is what Franz Fanon talked in this book “The wretched on the earth”, 1958.

  • podi malli

    When ever there is an accusation appeares against the goverment, commiting crimes against tamil people (war crime and genoside), it is shame to read that these accusations are countered accusing LTTE for what they did in Srilanka.
    Please remeber,LTTE is a terrorist organisation and rightly condemed by the right thinking world community for which reason they seized to exist today.But you cannot compare what LTTE did to what a our goverment did (Goverment is chosen by the people and there for it is responsible for every one in Srilanka including the innocent tamils who were killed)

  • Candidly

    Perhaps Elaine Pearson might like to reflect on the fact that if she has relative freedom in Australia today, it’s only because 70 years ago a previous generation of Australians, together with their allies in the USA & Britain, were prepared to fight and kill millions of Japanese soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians who wanted to impose a ruthless military regime on South East Asia. Well at least that’s what Western hisorians tell us.

    But perhaps HRW assumes that it’s OK for white people to fight for their freedom in this way, but black & brown people shouldn’t be allowed to do it, except under white supervision?

    • Sarath Fernando

      Dear Candidly,

      So you point is yes, we killed Tamil soldiers and civilians, but that should be O.K. becasue 70 years ago Australian’s “were prepared to fight and kill millions of Japanese soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians who wanted to impose a ruthless military regime on South East Asia?”

      Does that correctly reflect your position?

      • Candidly

        Sarath Fernando asked: “Does that corrctly reflect your position?”

        No it doesn’t, the necessity for Australians to fight the Japanese military machine was just an example of what happens in the real world we live in. I wish it was otherwise, but we do not live in a perfect world and humans have to sometimes use violence, even kill, in order to maintain a limited freedom, in my view. This happens particularly when facing a fanatical political movement that puts the value of its ambitions and dreams way, way above the value of human life itself.

        That doesn’t make killing in war “OK”, my friend, but it is sometimes a necessary evil to preserve our limited freedom, in my judgement.

    • myil selvan

      Dear Candidly,
      Unlike the Japanese the LTTE did not want to impose a military regime on the sinhalese. They wanted to create a separate state for the Thamil people so they can enjoy freedom and equality, which was not possible under the sinhala governments of SL. So your analogy is a little flawed. I do agree, very sadly, that war might be necessary sometimes to defend freedom or gain freedom. LTTE were fighting to gain freedom for Thamils. While the sinhalese say they were defending their freedom. But the sinhalese freedom was not under attack by the LTTE. If the GoSL had allowed the Thamil people a state of their own or a reasonable power sharing, there would have been no LTTE. It is because the GoSL started attacks(riots 1956, 58, 77, 83,2006) against Thamils that this problem flared up.

      Don’t start blaming white people for the problems that the Browns and Blacks started. It is a deflectionary measure that is not working.

      • wijayapala

        Dear myilselvan

        They wanted to create a separate state for the Thamil people so they can enjoy freedom and equality,

        Don’t forget how the LTTE murdered any Thamils who disagreed with Prabakaran, or how the LTTE forcibly recruited children to serve as cannon fodder, or really stupidly assassinated Rajiv Gandhi making it impossible for India to do anything for the Thamils afterwards.

  • Samuthra

    It seems UN report and C4 documentary has generated a very polarised debate and argument among Sri Lankan and others. On one side Tamils, from outside the country (no one inside country will dire to raise the issue ), Human Rights organisations and host of Governments around the world wants Sri Lankan Govt. to account for the events leading up to May 2009. On the other hand, Sri Lankan Govt. and majority of the Sinhalese going on override to ridicule the massager ( UN and C4 producers) and the observations provided by UN expert panel and C4 team. Govt. and its supporters are also accusing all those who want to know what happened during those days as conspirators against Sri Lanka , orchestrated by LTTE rumps.
    We all are sucked into this vortex of emotional debate of international conspiracy, genocide, war crime, mass murder and others, forgetting a series consequence, if we don’t investigate and account for the events. The history will repeat over and over again. Over past 35 years, there had many mass killing and atrocities against ordinary citizen of the country; starting with JVP insurrection ( twice), sri Lankan military bombing and killing innocent Tamils in the north and east, LTTE killing, execution and bombing of civilians, IPKF indiscriminate shooting and killing in North and East during their occupation, paramilitaries intimidation, killing and torture, and finally the events leading to May 2009.
    If we look back those incidents before the May 2009, not only the Govt. at the time didn’t investigate these very gruesome events, we justified these in the name of war against terrorism in the case of SL Govt.,Indian Govt. and Govt supported paramilitaries while LTTE justified in the name of freedom struggle ( to protect the Tamils from the aggressor ). If these justifications are not enough, when the chips are down, the perpetrators joined the ruling elite and hold ministerial and senior political party positions with powers, saying I was misled and we didn’t commit any crime. Conveniently, the ruling elite accept this self-made confession as long as these perpetrators are useful to them to hang on to power. There are numerous examples on both side of the ethnic divide and these perpetrators continue to commit crime under the cover of Govt. While ordinary misguided youngsters are “ rehabilitated” by the perpetrators or languishing in the prison for years without justice.
    What is the future hold if we don’t investigate and people to account for these events: these events will repeat very soon and more horrendous crimes will be committed as many of the perpetrators are in powerful positions and they will hang on to the power by whatever means.
    Accountably is essential not just to get justice for all those lost their lives, suffered and suffering, but to prevent such events happening again. How do we account ( investigation, truth commission etc.) is not that important as along it is independent, transparent and conducted in a civilised manner with all sides respecting others view point.

  • wijayapala

    Dear Civilised Citizen

    There is no shame in learning from somebody else.

    I agree, however the question remains who is best-suited to teach us?

    Despite living in western countries for decades, it is rather pathetic to see the number of imbecilic flag-wavers prancing about as if they could bring back Prabakaran to life. They are still like ostriches burying their heads with all their misdeeds.

    How come they have not become civilised?

  • ordinary lankan

    I take ravana’s point and would also reiterate what candidly says above.

    The use of inflammatory terms like “killing fields” and “war crimes” is akin to a trial by media.

    One key function of the criminal process is to make the context irrelevant and zoom in on what has been chosen as the noteworthy crimes.

    So long as we do not lose sight of the context and keep a sane perspective every war crime is relevant.

    there is a Buddhist response to this as well which i can outline with 4 key principles

    ? Individual responsibility
    ? Collective responsibility
    ? Critique of the criminal process
    ? Understanding of consciousness that defines action

    here is a useful text by Elizabeth Harris on Violence and Disruption in Society that shows the limitations of generalizations that depart from empirical truth.

    Anglo saxon Criminal justice was introduced to us by the British coloniser and then used very freely by neo colonial human rights advocates. The latter actually promote prosecutions as a panacea to every social/political problem in the 3rd world including child abuse, domestic violence – trafficking etc etc.

    These operate as a convenient dis-engaging mechanism from a broader reality of which we are all a part. Blaming cannot be a foundation for peace – it is only a very narrow form of justice – even revenge. So blaming is a definite side track that only upholds the existing structure without challenging a single root cause.

    Like ravana says – it may be good to bring some pressure on – but there seems a cost in terms of keeping our society divided once more. All blaming processes will incur this cost.

  • ordinary lankan

    This is the link to Harris – Violence and Disruption in Society – a study of the early Buddhist texts.

    The Buddhist critique of the criminal process is found here – and i will respond to any questions on this issue. I have had a life long exposure to and interest in the criminal process – so this is not a mere academic point.

  • Observer

    “But the executions footage has been authenticated by four independent experts who have no connection to Sri Lanka.”

    Of course Sri Lanka had no connection! The UN does!

    There were blatant gaps in the UN expert analysis like the date of the video footage being several months after the war’s end than the people who released it claimed was taken.

    The problem lies in the fact that authenticity of digital creations cannot be verified unless if and only if the content is signed with a public private key system.

    Or at least the perpetrators be identified. If someone can positively identify a perpetrator in the video, provide name, rank, etc and we can establish that he/she is in fact army personnel then we can start talking.

    Then the SL GOV can arrest the persons and start interrogating them and hopefully hand them down the capital punishment.

    Until then HRW, you can stop being so melodramatic…. Far as we are concerned what we have atm is a fake video with no verifiable information that any propagandist could create and distribute tarnishing a country’s image. And we’re not going to be sullied by such efforts.

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