There has been no shortage of distressing images emerging from the final two or three years of Sri Lanka’s awful civil war. But this footage is amongst the worst I have seen, says Callum Macrae.
The footage shot by Sri Lanka forces on a mobile phone shows a number of dead bodies of what appear to be LTTE fighters. The women – but not the men – have been stripped in a manner suggesting violent sexual assault. At various points acts of grotesque sexual violation are committed on the body of one of the women.
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No Fire Zone director Callum Macrae said: “This footage is particularly awful, not just because of the behaviour of the soldiers towards the bodies of the female Tiger fighters, because of the underlying culture of systematic brutality and sexual violence which it seems to illustrate.
He added: “Taken with all the other evidence which has emerged – and continues to emerge – this suggests a pattern which, in an army as disciplined and effective as the Sri Lankan one, means that command responsibility for these actions could be traced to the very top of the armed forces and government.
“We don’t know exactly when this material was filmed – but it was at some point in the last two or three years of the war. It was filmed by a soldier on a mobile phone and its shows Sinhala-speaking soldiers – their uniforms suggest they may be special forces – who are laughing and cheering, as they celebrate the deaths of the Tiger fighters and perform acts of grotesque sexual violation on the bodies.
“We also don’t know exactly what happened or how these people – who appear to be fighters, though they are not wearing combat fatigues – came to die.
“The images were examined by the leading British forensic pathologist Dr Richard Shepherd. He concluded that the injuries shown are genuine and that this footage was not faked, but he also expressed surprise that the bodies showed few signs of the kind of battlefield injuries you might expect if this was the aftermath of a battle or ambush.
“What he could see was evidence – in two cases at least – of serious head injuries, which appeared to have been caused by high velocity gunshots. This led him conclude: “The pattern of injuries overall is such that I can’t exclude the possibility of executions.”
“The video – which has been supplied to No Fire Zone by a Tamil Group, the British Tamil Forum – has also been independently authenticated by a respected digital image analyst who often works for the British courts.
“After an extensive frame-by-frame examination and analysis of the footage he concluded: “I found no evidence of fabrication or manipulation and I have formed the opinion that the video file is authentic insofar as it appears to be an accurate representation of the events depicted.”
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