On Wednesday 14th March, Channel 4 will broadcast ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished’ at 10.55 pm. The program is a sequel to the critically acclaimed and RTS-award winning documentary released last year, under a similar title, which shocked and horrified viewers worldwide. The documentary is set against a backdrop of brutal war crimes and human rights violations by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, once alleged, now confirmed by a report commissioned by the UN in 2011. The report concludes that 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final few weeks of Sri Lanka’s 27 year civil war and that “most civilian casualties in the final phases of the war were caused by government shelling”. The panel who conducted the report, however, were barred by the government from entering Sri Lanka during the 10 month period over which they gathered evidence. Upon release of the report political figures around the world, including David Cameron, demanded an “independent, international investigation”. However, these calls have been repeatedly ignored by the Sri Lankan government, who continue to maintain that the war was carried out with a zero-civilian casualty policy. The upcoming Channel 4 documentary, and its predecessor, show how urgently an independent investigation is really needed.
The documentary, a forensic investigation into the events of the final few weeks of Sri Lanka’s civil war, was meticulously put together after hours of trawling through photographs, amateur footage and videos recorded on mobile phones. The video evidence, recorded by both victims and Sri Lankan Army soldiers, was described by Channel 4 as “some of the most horrific footage it has ever broadcast”. Whilst the documentary examined the atrocities committed by both sides, particularly disturbing were the sexual assault of deceased Tamil Tiger rebels and the systematic execution of bound prisoners by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. The program also detailed the government’s shelling of areas that it had previously declared “safe-zones”, which raises the question of whether the military operation had indeed been an orchestrated act of genocide against Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority. Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields was screened at the UN in Geneva and New York and also shown to politicians in the House of Commons, the European Parliament and various members of the US Senate. Whilst the program triggered strong reactions around the world, condemning the actions of Sri Lanka’s security forces, the perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice.
…new evidence suggests that some in the highest tiers of command were complicit in crimes against humanity
The upcoming sequel contains conclusive new evidence, which points to the involvement of officials at the very top levels of both the Sri Lankan army and government. ‘War Crimes Unpunished’ focuses on four main areas: the deliberate bombardment of civilians and even a hospital in the so called “No Fire Zone”, the humanitarian blockade to starving and wounded civilians already trapped in dire conditions in the conflict zone, the slaughter of civilians escaping the conflict zone (despite the Sri Lankan Army saying it was mounting a “rescue mission”) and summary executions of stripped and bound prisoners, including haunting video footage of a 12 year old boy who has been executed. It also asks questions of those still ruling the country. Shocking new evidence suggests that some in the highest tiers of command were complicit in crimes against humanity, including the current President Mahinda Rajapakse, his brother, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, and two former army generals who have been made diplomats and gained immunity since the conclusion of the war.
With England’s cricketers set to tour the island this month and Sri Lanka confirmed as the venue for the coming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2013, this documentary is an opportunity for the international community to press for an independent, international investigation and a chance for some form of justice for Sri Lanka’s Tamil community, who have been failed and forgotten by the world.
If you would like to take action please sign the e-petition, titled “Independent, international investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka” on http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/14586. (And remember to confirm your signature by clicking on the email generated in your inbox). For further information about the upcoming documentary please visit http://www.channel4.com/info/press/programme-information/sri-lankas-killing-fields-war-crimes-unpunished on the Channel 4 website. The original documentary is widely available either on Channel 4’s website, or on Channel 4’s YouTube channel. For further information about the campaign for an “independent, international investigation” please visit http://iiicampaign.com/welcome/take-action.