June 01, Geneva: Sri Lanka today disputed the report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heynes, on a video footage which allegedly documents members of the Sri Lanka army committing extrajudicial executions.
Britain’s Channel 4 has provided the video on question to the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) for his technical assessment to establish the authenticity of the video footage.
The UNSR commenting on his findings yesterday at the 17th session of the UN Human Rights Council said following his investigation, he believed that a prima facie case of serious international crimes had been made in the video.
He recommended that all the available evidence should be investigated by an international panel with the necessary fact-finding and investigative mandate to establish accountability for these deeds.
In response, Sri Lanka’s Attorney General Mohan Peiris said Tuesday the Sri Lankan government has requested the original version of the video but Channel 4 failed to provide it to the government.
“The fact that the contents of the video were not made available to the Sri Lankan government by Channel 4 lends support to the suspicion that the broadcast of the videos was for a collateral purpose,” Peiris said in his statement to the Council.
He said the UNSR provided a report with blurred and illegible images which are not of quality that could be examined and the government could not make a proper assessment. The government is ready to share the outcome when a complete analysis is made, he added.
Heyns reached the same conclusion on the extended video as his predecessor Philip Alston, who had investigated the extracts of the footage. However, Heyns has consulted three of the same experts Alston has used and those experts have reached the same conclusions.
The UNSR concluded the picture that emerges was that the events that are reflected in the video in fact occurred as depicted.
“These videos both the first and the extended version – show real people who are being summarily executed,” he noted in his report.
The UNSR’s report however said the claim is not being made that any specific individuals are guilty or that State responsibility has been established the point is rather that there is a well-founded case for the Sri Lankan government to answer.
The Sri Lankan Attorney General questioned the legitimacy of using the same experts and reaching the same conclusions as before.
“An expert must provide objective and unbiased reports in his competence and not play the roles of an advocate,” he pointed out.
Peiris drew attention to the fact that Sri Lanka’s own investigation mechanism, Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has begun an inquiry on its own into the video with a view to ascertaining its veracity well before the UNSR prepared his report.
“Should not it be prudent for the SR to hold his hand before the findings of the LLRC,” he asked commenting on the haste to make conclusions.
“It is easy to comprehend the sensitivity with which the civilian losses are perceived but it’s equally important that one does not rush to conclusions,” Peiris noted.
The Sri Lankan envoy said it is fundamentally indispensable that any legal enquiries such as the one taken by the UNSR, more particularly with regard to the internal armed conflict, cannot assume conclusions without taking into consideration the facts and circumstances surrounding the operation as a whole.
Peiris said the Sri Lankan government is ready to constructively engage with the SR in the future on the basis of transparency and shared process being adopted and the government will communicate to the SR on the progress achieved through domestic mechanism.