Channel 4 and Sky News both cited in UN report on war crimes in Sri Lanka

A UN special investigator has said that footage obtained and broadcast by Channel 4 in 2009 of executions in Sri Lanka depicts “crimes of the highest order”.

And a UN report on war crimes committed during the Sri Lankan conflict in 2009 also cites evidence brought to light by Sky News special correspondent Alex Crawford in an interview with a government minister. Mobile phone video taken apparently by Tamil civilians showed people being executed by Sri Lankan government forces. The footage was first broadcast by Channel 4 in August 2009, with more mobile phone video showing atrocities broadcast in December of that year.

UN investigator Christof Heyns said yesterday: “What is reflected in the extended video are crimes of the highest order – definitive war crimes…The overall conclusion reached by the experts is that the video is authentic and the events reflected in the video footage occurred as depicted.”

A one-hour Channel 4 News investigation called Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields is to be premiered in Geneva on Friday while the UN Human Rights Council is in session there. The film features war crimes carried out by both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger fighters.

Channel 4 head of news and current affairs Dorothy Byrne said: ” The footage is probably the most horrific the channel has ever shown. The decision to show it at length was made only after serious and careful consideration. “We believe this dossier of visual evidence combined with harrowing eye-witness testimony represents prima facie evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by forces of the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE.  It is of the greatest possible public interest and as such we have a duty to journalistically scrutinise it.”

The report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka published yesterday details the apparent war crimes revealed by the Channel 4 News footage, including evidence that dead civilians had been raped.

In an interview with Press Gazette magazine published in April, Sky News special correspondent Alex Crawford revealed that she had been asked by the UN to provide it with a copy of an interview she carried out with the Sri Lankan defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. That interview, from 2 February 2009, is cited in yesterday’s UN report as the first time the Sri Lankan government had admitted to deliberately shelling a hospital – contradicting previous denials.

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