Un Investigation Finds Channel 4 News Sri Lanka Execution Video 'appears To Be Authentic'
UN Investigation finds Channel 4 News Sri Lanka execution video 'appears to be authentic': human rights rapporteur makes new call for independent inquiry.
An investigation commissioned for the United Nations says that a video shown on Channel 4 News showing Sri Lankan soldiers apparently executing naked Tamils 'appears to be authentic'.
The video was shown on the programme on 25th August 2009 after it was sent to Channel 4 News by an independent group named Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka .
The group claimed the killings had been filmed in January 2009 by a Sri Lankan soldier with a mobile phone.
The Sri Lankan government claimed in September 2009 that its own independent investigations 'have now scientifically established beyond any doubt that this video is a fake'.
The Sri Lankan Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights, Mahinda Samarasinghe, said then it was a "malicious attempt to play out a political agenda aimed at besmirching the name of Sri Lanka and denigrating the armed forces" and demanded a retraction of the video and story by Channel 4.
The UN report into "the authenticity of the 'Channel 4 videotape" was commissioned by the Special Rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston.
It dismisses the Sri Lankan claims, saying 'most of the arguments relied upon by the Government of Sri Lanka to impugn the video have been shown to be flawed'.
Mr Alston says 'I call for an independent inquiry to be established 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.'
Mr Alston commissioned 3 experts to examine the video.
A forensic pathologist, Dr Daniel Spitz '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.'
An expert in forensic video analysis, Jess S. Spivack 'found no evidence of breaks in continuity in the video, no additional video layers and no evidence of image manipulation'.
An expert in firearms evidence, Peter Diaczuk, '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.'
The report goes on to say 'There are a small number of characteristics of the video which the experts were not able to explain' but 'there are strong indications of its authenticity'.
Channel 4 News is seeking a reaction from the Sri Lankan Government and from Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka.
Dorothy Byrne, Head of News & Current Affairs, Channel 4 said: "This is a vindication of the correct decision by the Channel 4 News team to bring these deeply disturbing images to public attention. This video is of great importance in the search for the truth of what happened during this time in Sri Lanka."
John Hardie, Chief Executive Officer of ITN, said: 'We believed it was important for this evidence to be seen by the world, although we made clear at the time that we could not establish its authenticity. This UN report justifies the editorial judgement we made, and the commitment that Channel 4 News makes to its international coverage and to investigative journalism.'
In its original broadcast on 25th August 2009, Channel 4 News made clear it could not at that stage establish the authenticity of the footage.
The Sri Lankan Government told Channel 4 News that night that "The High Commission of Sri Lanka categorically deny that the Sri Lankan armed forces engaged in atrocities against the Sri Lankan Tamil community. They were only engaged in a military offensive against the LTTE."
Subsequently, a protest was staged outside Channel 4's headquarters in London .
Responding to the criticism on September 11th, 2009, Channel 4 said it stood by the decision to show these disturbing images. The channel said it had been made clear the images could not be authenticated. But that it was still important they were placed in the public domain.
According to the UN report, described as a Technical Note prepared by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr. Philip Alston, in relation to the authenticity of the 'Channel 4 videotape' these are the biographical details of the experts who contributed to its investigation.
A forensic pathologist - Dr Daniel Spitz. He is the Chief Medical Examiner for Macomb County and St Claire County in Michigan , and Clinical Assistant Professor of Pathology, Wayne State University School of Medicine.
An expert in forensic video analysis - Jess S. Spivack. He was formerly a Forensic Multimedia Analyst with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and a calibration laboratory specialist for the US Air Force.
Mr Diaczuk is an expert in the scientific examination of firearm evidence and crime scene reconstruction. He is the Director of Forensic Science Training at the Center for Modern Forensic Practice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.