NEW DELHI: Photos released yesterday to publicize a new documentary on Sri Lanka show that government soldiers executed the 12-year-old son of separatist chief Velupillai Prabhakaran in 2009, its director claimed.
The photos, part of a documentary for Britain’s Channel 4, prove the Sri Lankan Army’s involvement in war crimes including summary execution and torture during the island’s 37-year-long civil war, according to director Callum Macrae. The pictures “tell a chilling story,” Macrae wrote in an article published in Indian newspaper The Hindu.
In one, Balachandran, the youngest son of the slain Tamil Tiger leader, is seen eating a snack while sitting in a green sandbag bunker guarded by a soldier. A second image shows his bullet-riddled bare-chested body.
The documentary alleges that Balachandran was executed two hours after the first photo was taken. The images have been scrutinized by digital image analysts, who concluded they came from the same camera, and support video footage of the boy’s body uncovered last year, Macrae said. The Sri Lankan government has maintained that Prabhakaran’s family were killed in fighting. The bodies of his wife and daughter have never been found.
“The new photographs are particularly important evidentially, because they prove that Balachandran was not killed in crossfire, or in a battle. His death was deliberate and calculated,” Macrae wrote.
“It is difficult to imagine the mindset of an army in which a child can be executed in cold blood with apparent impunity.” “No War Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” will be released in March in Geneva to coincide with a UN Human Rights Council discussion on the country, currently facing censure by the US over its failure to probe war crimes. Sri Lanka’s military denied executing prisoners and accused the British network of engaging in a campaign to tar the country’s reputation.
“These pictures come out in time for the UN Human Rights Council meetings. They want to discredit us,” Sri Lankan military spokesman Brig. Ruwan Wanisasooriya said. “No evidence has been presented to us to investigate.” Macrae asked India to support calls for an independent probe and said that Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse and his brother, defense secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, should be made to answer for alleged war crimes.
Rights groups say up to 40,000 civilians were killed by security forces in the final months of a no-holds-barred offensive in 2009 that ended Sri Lanka’s decades-long fight against Tamil separatists.
Sri Lanka denies causing civilian deaths and President Rajapakse sees himself as having brought peace to the Indian Ocean island.
Clergy wants probe
Christian clergy from Sri Lanka’s ethnic Tamil-majority north have asked the UN Human Rights Council to push for an independent international inquiry into alleged atrocities in Sri Lanka’s civil war.
A letter dated Monday and signed by 133 Roman Catholic, Anglican and Methodist pastors and nuns said the government lacks the will to resolve causes of the conflict on its own.
Both the government and the now-defeated Tamil Tiger rebels have been accused of serious human rights violations during the quarter-century-long war, especially its final stages. According to a UN report, tens of thousands of civilians were killed in just the five months before fighting ended in 2009.
Last week, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Sri Lanka has failed to investigate reports of atrocities, and that opposition leaders are still being killed or abducted.
“We are convinced that the root cause of these problems is a lack of political will,” the letter from the clergy said.
“Hence, it is our firm conviction that technical assistance from the UN in the form of training, advice, financial and material support will not suffice.” They called for an international, independent commission of inquiry.
The UN rights council last year passed a resolution urging Sri Lanka to investigate human rights abuses, as the country’s own war commission had recommended. The clergy asked the council to pass a new resolution noting a lack of progress by the government.