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Execution video aired by Channel 4 fake: SL

Reuters
Sep 08, 2009 at 05:01pm IST

Colombo: Sri Lanka on Monday said its technical investigations had shown a video purporting to show Sri Lankan soldiers executing Tamils was faked and challenged the British TV station that aired it to refute its findings.

The footage aired last month by Britain's Channel 4 shows men in military fatigues appearing to shoot dead naked and bound men, which Sri Lanka had already rejected as fabricated.

The broadcaster said the video may be evidence of potential war crimes by Sri Lankan soldiers against Tamils in the final act of a 25-year war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) separatists, which the government won in May.

MARCHING AHEAD: Sri Lanka army soldiers in the country's north after victory against LTTE in May.

Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said four investigations by military and civilian experts from Sri Lanka showed the footage was staged and had its sound manipulated - hallmarks of LTTE's longstanding propaganda operations.

"I call on Channel 4 to immediately retract what they had unfortunately broadcast without checking. We will make available the scientific findings to them," Samarasinghe told reporters.

Channel 4 had no comment except to say it stood by the original report.

In the report, Channel 4 said it was unable to independently verify the video but repeated allegations it said were made by a group that passed it the footage, called Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka.

The group runs a blog but has not made public its membership, except to say they are Sri Lankan journalists who have put themselves into exile in Europe.

Channel 4 in its report also used the phrase "war without witnesses", an expression popularised by a pro-LTTE propaganda group by the same name.

Asked why Sri Lanka had not sought outside investigators to remove any suggestion of partiality, Samarasinghe said, "All these investigations are done by professionals and people who have international credentials. Why should we always depend on international investigations?"

UN spokesman expelled

The video appears to be the latest in a long-running propaganda battle between the government and LTTE sympathisers.

Critics have accused both sides in the past of distorting photographs, video and accounts of events to their advantage.

In this case, it may be having the desired effect for LTTE supporters who have operated in Western countries for decades.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon discussed the video with Samarasinghe last week, the United States has expressed "grave concern" and a UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, has called for a probe.

LTTE supporters have pressed Western governments to bring a war crimes case against Sri Lanka, and brushed off charges the LTTE used child soldiers and civilians as human shields.

The government said it was revoking the work visa of UNICEF spokesman James Elder, accusing him of spreading propaganda for the LTTE.

"UN officials must not get involved in domestic politics, and certainly a UN official should not say or do things supportive of a terrorist organisation," Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona, a former UN official, said.

Chief of communications for UNICEF in South Asia, Sarah Crowe, rejected the charge. "

Whatever statements James has made, they have been approved by UNICEF and are on behalf of UNICEF and we stand by them," she said. "We can only try to imagine what horrors children went through in this conflict, just as they would in any other."

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