Film accuses Sri Lanka of war crimes

President rejects alleged actions by military forces


The Sri Lankan military committed numerous war crimes during the final months of the country’s 26-year-long civil war, according to a documentary aired for the first time Friday, amid vigorous protests from Colombo.

However, in an interview published Saturday, President Mahinda Rajapaksa firmly denied the allegations made in the documentary and also denied that government troops executed the 12-year-old son of separatist chief Velupillai Prabhakaran in 2009.

Rajapaksa told India’s Hindu newspaper in the interview: “Had it happened, I would have known (it). It is obvious that if somebody (from the armed forces) had done that, I must take responsibility. We completely deny it. It can’t be.”

Using graphic video and pictures taken both by retreating Tamil Tiger rebels, civilians and victorious Sri Lankan troops, “No Fire Zone — The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” presents a chilling picture of the final 138 days of the conflict that ended in May 2009.

Filmmaker Callum Macrae insisted before the screening that the film at U.N. headquarters in Geneva that it should be seen as “evidence” of the “war crimes and crimes against humanity” committed by Sri Lankan government troops.

“The real truth is coming out,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Geneva, Ravinatha Aryasinha, strongly protested the screening of the film on the sidelines of the ongoing U.N. Human Rights Council meeting.

He described it as “part of a cynical, concerted and orchestrated campaign” to influence the debate in the council about his country.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which hosted the screening, are calling for the council to order an international probe.

They charge that Sri Lanka’s domestic Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission has glossed over the military’s role.

The film, for instance, alleges that a “no-fire zone” set up by the government in January 2009 basically functioned as a trap for the hundreds of thousands of civilians who flooded into it in hopes of finding safety.

The area was heavily shelled, and in the film maimed and bloodied bodies, of men, women and children could be seen strewn around.

Peter MacKay, a U.N. worker who was trapped inside the zone for two weeks, questioned in the film why the government would set up the “no-fire zone” within range of all of their artillery.

“Either you don’t care if you kill the people in that safe zone or you are actively targeting them,” he said, adding that he believed the latter was true.

He and others describe how aid centers and makeshift hospitals were shelled soon after U.N. or Red Cross workers informed the government of their coordinates, which is ironically standard practice to ensure that such places are spared in bombing campaigns.

The footage provided by the retreating Tamil Tigers and civilians is devastating, showing parents wailing over their dying and dead children, but the images provided by the government forces are perhaps even more shocking.

Video of a Tamil commander first being interrogated, and then a picture of his mutilated body in the dirt; naked and bound prisoners coldly executed; dead, naked women, who have clearly been sexually abused filmed amid degrading comments by onlooking soldiers.

And then there is footage of Tamil Tiger leader Prabhakaran’s son, Balachandran, whose body is seen with five bullet holes in his chest.

He was not caught in cross-fire: a separate video shot two hours earlier shows him in military custody eating a cookie.

The Sri Lankan government has cast doubt on the authenticity of the footage, with Aryasinha insisting Friday it was of “dubious origin.”

Macrae, however, insisted that all the footage had been carefully checked and analyzed to ensure none of it had been tampered with.

“All of it is, I’m afraid, genuine,” he said.

Rights groups say up to 40,000 civilians were killed by security forces in the final months of the no-holds-barred offensive in 2009 that ended Colombo’s years-long war with Tamil separatists.

  • GypsyOwl

    It’s a shame that even after all these facts have come out, Japan has
    joined the likes of China and Russia in supporting the Genocidal regime
    of sri lanka. It will taint the image of culture and decency of Japan

    • Ron123

      Dear GypsyOwl, by that same count how would you rate some of the other nations which have killed people in the order of millions; yet yourself choose to remain only a Blind observer ? Is it only when your kith is killed it is genocide and other times you can be stupid enough to conveniently ignore ?

      I think Sri Lanka has done a whole lot of good to the humankind by
      eliminating this most Ruthless Terrorist outfit of the world – as designated by
      none other than the FBI. Do not even for a moment forget that that Al Qaida crimes are paltry in comparison to that committed by the LTTE – use of child soldiers, women in warfare, suicide bombing; killing of monks; hacking to death of civilians; ethnic cleansing just to name a few.

  • GypsyOwl

    It’s a shame that even after all these facts have come out, Japan has
    joined the likes of China and Russia in supporting the Genocidal regime
    of sri lanka. It will taint the image of culture and decency of Japan

  • Kumar1938

    It is true that Japan aided Sri Lanka to wipe out the Tamils in North & East. Sri Lanka is very friendly with China, and in the event of any resolution regarding the dispute of an island between Japan and China, Sri Lanka will vote in favour of China. If Japan would have helped the Tamils in creating a separate state for them the Tamils will be very grateful and faitjhfull to Japan and vote in favour of Japan. It is not too late for Japan to realize the truth.

  • Japan, one of the largest donor to Sri Lanka, should help to bring truth and justice to the victims. Then only peace is possible.

  • vel

    Japan also guilty of the mass atrocities since it provided unlimited financial aid to Sri Lankan State terrorism. Every Tamil and human rights aware person know that Sri Lankans are the worst inhumane. To providing aid to those criminal, Japan also guilty. At least now, it should apply sanction on Sri Lanka and support international investigations..

  • pandorascircle

    Thank you for bringing this story to light.

    Human rights groups have asked the Japanese government to speak out against the atrocities —its response has been absolute silence.

    Sadly Japan may now be actively playing a part in whitewashing Sri Lanka’s war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    Japan’s point man in Sri Lanka, Yasushi Asashi, has brought great dishonour to the country.

  • Masa Chekov

    Shame that there is such finger pointing towards the government of Sri Lanka yet not a moment of criticism towards the LTTE.

    For those who seem to have forgotten, the LTTE pioneered the use of suicide bombers against civilian targets, and used them indiscriminately for decades. The civil war would have been over in the 80s were in not for the atrocities committed by the LTTE and the support for these terrorists by the Tamil diaspora. It’s quite disingenuous to blame the Sri Lankan government exclusively for atrocities committed there.

    • Waran Vaithilingam

      Masa Chekov, Do you know the history, Do you know Tamils went thru Genocides in 1958, 1975,1977. LTTE was not there, Do You know 1983 after the Srilankan Government sposored Genocide, Madam Indra Gandhi called 1983 Incident a Genocide at the Indian Pariment ?.. Do you know Srilanka has never convicted a single culprit since 1948? LTTE is the symptoms of Srilanka’s State Terrorist 146,000 Tamils under the cover of “State Actor”. Please Masa Let us talk the truth as worshipers of Lord Buddha. Please and Kindly.

      • Ron123

        Dear Waran Vaithilingam, I think you are grossly misrepresenting facts here. Riots did happen in 1958 & in 1983 & regret very much that dark era in Sri Lankan history. The number of persons killed during the conflict (excluding the last stages) is estimated at 64,000 and half of them could be Sinhalese & not Tamils. By the same count “Srilanka has never convicted a single culprit since 1948” it is also true that no LTTE cadres have not been convicted in spite of them having committed the most heinous crimes against humanity (read the
        aforementioned comments).

        While I agree that there would have been civilians killed (although the numbers given by the NGO’s are highly exaggerated) unfortunately that is inevitable in a theatre of war. After all you know very well that this was brought-about by the LTEE by hording their own civilians against their will to keep them as a Human Shields to prolong their inevitable defeat.

        I think after a long lapse of 30 yrs. Sri Lanka is now rid of Terrorism and all those who fail to recognize the fruits of that should visit the North-East of this island to witness the remarkable resurgence that is taking place. After that I think we can discuss more, if necessary.

    • Yes but the LTTE are terrorist but now there is no difference between the Govt of SL and LTTE. Both are terrorists, except that one is elected by people.

    • Sily Billy

      Agreed that nothing is mentioned towards LTTE. It is a terrorist outfit. What do you expect from them?. But If the Govt of SL does the same thing in the name of war. I see no difference between SL Govt and LTTE.

      • Masa Chekov

        I’m not sure anyone would argue against the government of Sri Lanka having committed war crimes. But there seems to be an effort recently to point ALL the blame at the Sri Lankan government and none of it at the people who were deploying suicide bombers in public places, killing thousands over the years.

        Balanced reporting – that’s what is needed, not finger pointing at one side exclusively.

      • Renj

        Almost 1 lakh innocent people targeted and killed in no war zones and hospitals, I am talkung about innocent Tamil women and children but not LTTE, and nobody talked about that till this channel4 report, not India, not UN, not China, not Russia, not US…none cared. So much for balaned reporting, so much for equality, so much for peace efforts of UN, even Red Cross was providing longitude and latitude to Srilankan Army toshell hospitals.
        It was a genocide in the name of an anti-terror war. That was it.

      • laksman

        The Government of Sri Lanka saved 300,000 Tamils from their demise. The S.L Govt. never committed barbaric, inhuman, demonic actions like the Tamil terrorist outfit with their suicide bombers and allowing little children to carry cyanide capsules round their necks and kill themselves when they are caught. The damage done for four decades by the Tamil LTTE terrorists cannot be compared with anyone in the history of the world.

      • Ron123

        Don’t forget the heinous crimes LTTE has committed against humanity – some against it’s own people :

        – Use of Child Soldiers
        – Use of Women in war fare
        – Highest number of Suicide Bombing carried-out by any Terrorist Organization in the World
        – Hacking to death of innocent civilians by use of swords & knives
        – Rush hour Bus & Train Bombs to targeting civilians
        – Killing of 2 Presidents of Sri Lanka (Premadasa) & India (Ghandi)
        – Indiscriminate bombings targeting the civilians & killing of Monks
        – Bombing of most sacred Religious places for provocation

        I am saying the Sri Lankan Govt. is innocent but against the backdrop of this there was no other alternative but to eliminate this vicious, brutal terrorist organization. After all FBI has designated LTTE as the most ruthless terror machine on earth.

      • Renj

        Do you know when LTTE was established?? Genocides against Srilankan tamils happened many times before that. Govt. funded properly executed genocides. I can name at least four such genocides against tamils within last 60 years. LTTE was their last stand against complete termination. Well, LTTE lost the war and history is repeating. Almost 100000 innocent people killed in 138 days. However, what pains me is that, all those people who branded LTTE as a terrorist organization is not talking about any genocides before LTTE. The criminal who ordered these attrocitoes is governing Srilankan President. How you can expect justice or a free and fair investigation or at least the rehabilitation of victims from him??

  • pandorascircle

    Thank you for bringing this story to light.

    Human rights groups have asked the Japanese government to speak out against the atrocities —its response has been absolute silence.

    Sadly Japan may now be actively playing a part in whitewashing Sri Lanka’s war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    Japan’s point man in Sri Lanka, Yasushi Asashi, has brought great dishonour to the country.

  • Ron123

    I’m not postulating that Sri Lankan govt. is a saint.
    However this video & the timing of it raises more questions than what tries
    to portray ….. Just a few for the discerning mind to ponder :

    Are the so called Human Rights organizations sincere in their approach for in todays’ digital age anything possible – all what you need a bit of video editing to make or break a nation ?

    Are they so BLIND as to conveniently disregard at will the daily
    man- slaughter that is happening in the Middle East unabated ?

    Why have they been silent for almost 4 yrs. after the end of
    the war & coming-up with this SENSATIONAL news just before UNHR sessions in Geneva to discredit the majority of the good, peace-loving people in Sri Lanka ?

    Frankly can’t they better the serve the Society by focusing
    their attention at RECONCILATION rather than digging old wounds which can only create more Hatred ?

    As portrayed in this move, does Prabakaran’s son have a
    special place more so than others just because he is the chief’s son ? How
    about the many other children who would have perished ?

    Doesn’t this movie very conveniently disregard the grave & un-pardonable Human Rights violations perpetrated by the LTTE which in the first place brought-about this situation ?

    Why doesn’t the movie even for a glimpse show the 320,000 civilians
    rescued from the so called “Killing Fields” where such citizenry were held
    against their will by the LTTE ?

    If it was a fair movie, why couldn’t they say even a word of
    the re-habilitation & development happening which one can strikingly see in
    the former war zones in Sri Lanka ?

    Finally who is behind the funding of this movie as we know well that the LTTE diaspora is well organized & having colossal amounts of cash extorted from their own people ?

    In hindsight, we cannot discount the fact that the so called HR organizations need this kind of HEADLINE News to make their LIVING.

    Otherwise they simply would not be EXISTING, would they ?

  • Samarasinghe

    The LTTE terrorist group or tamil tigers were responsible for massacring villagers by hacking them with axes and shooting them with machine guns in a large number of incidents spanning many years, massacres of civilians in temples, villages, mosques, blasting civilians to pieces using IEDs, bombs again spanning many years. Entire populations in the north of the country were driven out by wholesale ethnic cleansing practiced by the LTTE terrorists. The LTTE was responsible for recruiting child soldiers on a large scale and for placing bombs and IEDs everywhere and blasting to bits civilians. They had no qualms about killing any of their critics and hardly any critic was spared.

    I agree fully that the civil war would have been over in the 80s were in not for the mindless atrocities committed by the tiger terrorists or LTTE and the support for these terrorists by some in the diaspora and indirect tacit support of so called ‘human rights’ groups who today seem to have forgotten all these atrocities committed by the tigers.