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Sri Lanka: 'We are investigating the war'

Sri Lanka: 'We are investigating the war'

2010 Dec 09

As calls for an international probe into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka increase, the Sri Lankan Government tells Channel 4 News its domestic inquiry must be allowed to "achieve its objectives".
The Sri Lankan Government says its investigation into its civil war must be allowed to achieve its objectives.

Human rights charities have reacted strongly to a Channel 4 News investigation into the Sri Lanka 'war crimes' video evidence, which has managed to identify one of the victims for the first time as Tamil Tiger journalist, Isaipriya.

The investigation also shed new light on the possible date and location of the video, which shows apparent executions and was screened by Channel 4 News last week.

Top war crimes lawyer Julian Knowles told Channel 4 News the Sri Lanka video was "astonishing evidence" and the United Nations must act to set up an international investigation. The UN told said it is considering the evidence sent by Channel 4 News.

Today, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International backed the calls - but the Sri Lankan High Commission said its domestic inquiry should be allowed "to achieve its objectives".

'Horrific evidence'

Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, Brad Adams, said: "This horrific new evidence demonstrates graphically that the Sri Lankan army engaged in summary executions of prisoners during the final days of fighting in May 2009.

"The government's failure to investigate these serious war crimes in the face of overwhelming evidence shows the need for an independent, international investigation."

The Sri Lankan Government has maintained that the video - a longer version of one broadcast last year by Channel 4 News, and authenticated by the United Nations - is a fake.

Sri Lanka is 'looking into matters relating to the conflict'

Last night, however, in response to the new evidence presented by Channel 4 News, the Sri Lankan High Commission said it looking into events that happened during the war, and stressed that its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was taken seriously by Sri Lankans.

In a statement, it said: "The High Commission of Sri Lanka wishes to reiterate that 'Lt. Col. Issei Piriya' was engaged in a hostile operation against the Sri Lanka Security Forces when she met her end.

"Sri Lanka has established the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission the mandate of which is to look into matters relating to the conflict from 2002 to 2009.

"The testimony being presented to the Commission by people from all walks of life, especially from the North and from the East is proof of their confidence, in the workings of the Commission.

"Therefore, it is important that we allow this domestic mechanism to achieve its objectives."
Sri Lanka 'end battle' infographic

Investigation

Channel 4 News established the identity of Isaipriya with the help of her friend and former colleague. Human Rights Watch has separately obtained a positive identification of Isaipriya from multiple sources, including family members.

Identifying Isaipriya helped Channel 4 News pin down the date the video may have been shot, as separate photographs which show Isaipriya's body are date-stamped 18 May 2009.

See more photographs obtained by Channel 4 News of the 'end battle' in Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence also lists her death, and attributes it to 53 Division Troops, on its own website as taking place on 18 May 2009.

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