Alston says probe proves Channel 4 video is authentic
UN's Sri Lanka 'war crime' video report findings
Three independent experts have concluded that a videotape aired last August in Britain and showing the execution of suspected LTTE cadres allegedly by the Sri Lankan military is authentic, the special rapporteur of the UN Philip Alston told reporters at the UN.
Deeming Sri Lanka execution video authentic, UN expert calls for war crimes probe
Philip Alston commissioned three experts in forensic pathology, forensic video analysis, and firearm evidence to examine the video, after concluding that the investigations carried out by the Government had not been thorough or impartial.
“The conclusion clearly is that the video is authentic,” he told a news conference in New York. “I have therefore called on the Government of Sri Lanka to respond to these allegations.”
The Government – which earlier this year declared victory over the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after years of fighting – has categorically denied the allegations raised by the video, which purportedly depicts the extrajudicial execution of two naked and helpless Tamil men by the Sri Lankan military and the presumed prior executions of others.
It had commissioned four separate investigations which concluded that the video was a fake. However, Mr. Alston had pointed out that two of the Government’s experts looking into the matter were members of the Sri Lankan Army, the body whose actions have been called into question.
Meanwhile, the reports by the three experts from the United States commissioned by Mr. Alston to examine the video “strongly suggest that the video is authentic,” according to a note prepared by the Special Rapporteur.
Peter Diaczuk, an expert in firearms evidence, concluded that the recoil, movement of the weapon and the shooter, and the gases expelled from the muzzle in both apparent shootings were consistent with firing live ammunition, and not with shooting blank cartridges.
Daniel Spitz, a prominent forensic pathologist, found that the footage appeared authentic, especially with respect to the two individuals who are shown being shot in the head at close range. He found that the body reaction, movement, and blood evidence was entirely consistent with what would be expected in such shootings.
Jeff Spivack, an expert in forensic video analysis, found no evidence of breaks in continuity in the video, no additional video layers, and no evidence of image manipulation.
“Given these conclusions, and in light of the persistent flow of other allegations of extrajudicial executions by both sides during the closing phases of the war against the LTTE, I call for the establishment of an independent inquiry to carry out an impartial investigation into war crimes and other grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law allegedly committed in Sri Lanka,” stated Mr. Alston.
He added that there are a small number of characteristics of the video which the experts were unable to explain, including the movement of certain victims in the video, 17 frames at the end of the video, and the date of 17 July 2009 encoded in the video (the conflict was officially declared over in May 2009).
“Each of these characteristics can, however, be explained in a manner entirely consistent with the conclusion that the videotape appears to be authentic,” noted a news release also issued today.
“In sum, while there are some unexplained elements in the video, there are strong indications of its authenticity. In addition, most of the arguments relied upon by the Government of Sri Lanka to impugn the video have been shown to be flawed.”
In a separate development, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has informed the Sri Lankan Government that he is considering the appointment of a Commission of Experts to advise him further and to assist the Government in taking measures to address possible violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.
Mr. Ban’s spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, told reporters that the UN is in regular contact with the Government regarding the implementation of the joint statement issued in May at the conclusion of the Secretary-General’s visit to Sri Lanka.
In that statement, Mr. Ban had underlined the importance of a comprehensive accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, and the Government undertook to take measures to address grievances of the victims of the conflict. (UN/DM online)
In his report, the United Nations's Special Rappotreur Philip Alston wrote: "Since the video's release, the government of Sri Lanka has claimed that the video is a fake.
"Over the past four months, I have been engaged in a series of communications with the government about this video, in which I requested it to conduct an independent investigation.
"While the Government initially refused to do so, on 7 September 2009, it issued a response stating that it had commissioned four separate investigations, and that they 'have now scientifically established beyond any doubt that this video is a fake'.
"At the time, I expressed concern about the objectivity of the investigations, in part because two of the 'independent experts' worked for the Sri Lankan armed forces.
"Some of the reports seemed more impressionistic than scientific, and I have never been provided the full version of the reports.
"I decided that it was incumbent upon me to commission independent and impartial evaluations of the videotape.
"I retained three experts: in forensic pathology (Dr Spitz), forensic video analysis (Mr Spivack), and firearm evidence (Mr Diaczuk).
"Together, the reports by these experts strongly suggest that the video is authentic.
"A Sri Lankan expert stated that there was no recoil or movement of the weapon discharged.
"However, Mr Spivack and Mr Diaczuk described the recoil visible on the video, and the way in which the movement was consistent with firing live ammunition.
"A Sri Lankan expert stated that the lack of audio synchronization with the video indicated manipulation. However, Mr Spivack stated that the video/audio synchronization in the video was well within acceptable limits, and that audio can be ahead or behind video, subject to various variables.
"A Sri Lankan expert stated that the movement of the second victim after being shot was not consistent with the normal expected reaction. However, Mr Spitz stated that the movement was entirely consistent with the manner in which the individual was apparently shot.
"A Sri Lankan expert stated that while wind could be heard on the audio, it was not evident in the video.
"Mr Spivack however described multiple places in the video where there is clear evidence of wind.
"Sri Lanka’s experts argued that the footage was likely recorded on a digital camcorder, and not a mobile phone.
"Mr Spivack concluded that the metadata he retrieved from the video was entirely consistent with multimedia files produced by mobile phones with video recording capability, and that it would have been very difficult to alter the metadata."
Thirukkural திருக்குறள் Holykural
Kural குறள் - 533
பொருட்பால் - பொச்சாவாமை
எப்பால் நூலோர்க்கும் துணிவு.
'To self-oblivious men no praise'; this rule Decisive wisdom sums of every school.
Thoughtlessness will never acquire fame; and this tenet is upheld by all treatises in the world.
Translation by Rev. Dr. G. U. Pope, Rev W. H. Drew,Rev. John Lazarus and Mr F. W. Ellis