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Is this evidence of Sri Lankan ‘war crimes?’

Channel 4 News shows footage claimed to show Sri Lankan forces executing Tamils earlier this year. Jonathan Miller reports.

Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, which obtained the material, said it was filmed in January – when the international media were prevented by the Sri Lankan government from covering the conflict zone. The images in Jonathan Miller's report contain extremely disturbing images.

Tonight, the Sri Lankan High Commission denied the government had carried out atrocities against the Tamil community. A Sri Lankan army spokesman also called the video a "fake". Read the response here.

For Sri Lanka's Sinhalese majority, the end of 26 years of war was something to celebrate. The rebel Tamil Tiger army vanquished. It had been a brutal war – upwards of 80,000 dead. Soldiers, civilians, Sinhalese and Tamil traumatised and brutalised by what they has been through.

By January this year, government forces were closing in on a shrinking conflict zone with unknown thousands of Tamil civilians being killed.

But independent journalists and observers were prevented from getting anywhere near the combat. There were rumours terrible things were happening, but this was a war without witnesses.

However one soldier we now know had a mobile phone. And eight months on, his footage of a callous execution has emerged. There is no indication of the ethnicity of the dead men, but the group which obtained the pictures claim the victims are Tamils.

280,000 Tamils remain incarcerated in camps for displaced people. The government says it needs to screen the civilian population for suspected Tamil Tiger militants.

Three months ago Sri Lanka's victorious president Mahinda Rajapaksa promised equal rights for Tamil and said they would be protected.

If the killing field footage is authenticated, it will do little to reassure Tamil civilians.

Sri Lanka High Commission response

"The High Commission of Sri Lanka categorically deny that the Sri Lankan armed forces engaged in atrocities against Sri Lankan Tamil community. They were only engaged in a military offensive against the LTTE.

"The High Commission has noted that in many instances in the past, various media institutions used doctored videos, photographs and documents to defame the Sri Lankan government and armed forces. Therefore, we request you to verify the authenticity of the video footage before the telecast".

 

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