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Friday, March 2, 2012

Sri Lanka's Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished - Channel 4

Last year Channel 4 broadcast Sri Lanka's Killing Fields, a critically-acclaimed and RTS Award winning forensic investigation into the events of the last few weeks of the decades-long war between the government of Sri Lanka and the rebel forces of the Tamil Tigers (LTTE), presented by Jon Snow.
It featured devastating video evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity captured on mobile phones by both victims and perpetrators - some of the most horrific footage Channel 4 has ever broadcast.

This footage featured atrocities committed on both sides but its most disturbing finding was of a series of war crimes perpetrated by victorious Sri Lankan government forces including evidence of sexual assaults on female fighters, the execution of bound prisoners and the shelling of civilians in what were supposed to be safe ‘No Fire Zones'.

Screened at the UN in Geneva and New York and also shown to politicians at the House of Commons, the European Parliament and key figures in the US Senate, Sri Lanka's Killing Fields prompted comment from leading political figures around the world, including Prime Minister David Cameron. Yet these war crimes still have yet to be properly investigated or those responsible brought to account - despite UN sources suggesting the Sri Lankan government forces killed up to 40 thousand civilians - perhaps many more in this period.

This powerful follow-up film, also presented by Jon Snow, presents damning new video evidence of war crimes including contemporaneous documents, eye-witness accounts, photographic stills and videos relating to how exactly events unfolded during the final days of the civil war. It investigates who was responsible - the results point to the highest levels of the Sri Lankan government and complicity at the top of the army.

Sri Lanka's Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished forensically examines four specific cases and investigates who was responsible. The cases are: the deliberate heavy shelling of civilians and a hospital in the ‘No Fire Zone'; the strategic denial of food and medicine to hundreds and thousands of trapped civilians - defying the legal obligation to allow humanitarian aid into a war zone; the killing of civilians during the ‘rescue mission' and the systematic execution of naked and bound LTTE prisoners - featuring new chilling video footage of a 12-year-old boy who has been brutally executed.

Despite pressure from human rights groups and the report by a UN-appointed panel of experts which called for a thorough international investigation into alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, the Sri Lankan government's internal inquiry, ‘The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission' published in December last year, failed to conduct any kind of rigorous investigation into the allegations of war crimes. It specifically denied that any civilians were knowingly targeted with heavy artillery. Sri Lanka's Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished explores the reasons behind the apparent international inaction at the time, in calling the government of Sri Lanka to account.

Sri Lanka's Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished presents shocking new video footage and evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity which trace ultimate responsibility up the highest echelons of the chain of command. This film asks questions of those who still hold the reins of power in Sri Lanka - President Rajapaksa, commander in chief and his brother Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaska - and two former army chiefs who have landed prime diplomatic posts since the war ended and immunity from prosecution.

With the England cricket team set to tour Sri Lanka once again this month and Sri Lanka now confirmed as the venue for the next commonwealth heads of government meeting in 2013, this film is a stark reminder of the terrible suffering of a people who have been failed and forgotten by the international community.

Director: Callum Macrae
Exec Prod: Chris Shaw
Prod Co: ITN Productions
Comm Ed: Dorothy Byrne
Channel 4