by Channel 4, UK, June 14, 2011
|We shouldn’t have to show this film at all: a UN panel has already said there is strong evidence that war crimes and crimes against humanity were carried out by the government during and in the aftermath of Sri Lanka’s civil war. They believe that up to 40,000 innocent civilians were killed. That panel of experts called for a major war crimes investigation. Nothing has happened.|
The video is also available directly from the Channel 4 site, but for a limited time, and only in some regions. From the Channel 4 site: “As a result, I write to inform you that this geo blocking software will be removed from this programme to give those outside the UK and Ireland a chance to see SRI LANKA’S KILLING FIELDS. If you visit www.channel4.com/4od after it’s broadcast on the 14th June it will be available for free and it will remain there for 7 days.”
Dorothy Byrne: Why we decided that the footage had to be shown
Friday, 10 June 2011, The Independent.co.uk
The bodies of naked women are thrown and dragged on to the back of a truck. As each woman is pulled aboard, soldiers make crude remarks and laugh. Elsewhere, other soldiers film themselves laughing at the bodies of dead, bound women who appear to have been raped before they were murdered. In other mobile phone footage, a woman kneels as instructions are given as to how to execute her. Then her brains are blown out.
This is just some of the footage we will be showing in Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields on Tuesday night. I never thought I would see sequences like these, showing the mutilation, murder and degradation of women, on British television. I don’t urge you to watch this programme. It’s horrific. The images will remain in your mind, maybe for years. I can’t get them out of my head. The programme goes out at 11pm and the worst images appear in the last part – several hours past the watershed which protects children. But there are probably many adults who shouldn’t watch; people who can’t watch horrible stuff on the news. I would rather I had never seen it.
We shouldn’t have to show this film at all: a UN panel has already said there is strong evidence that war crimes and crimes against humanity were carried out by the government during and in the aftermath of Sri Lanka’s civil war. They believe that up to 40,000 innocent civilians were killed. That panel of experts called for a major war crimes investigation. Nothing has happened. The Sri Lankan government didn’t allow journalists or UN personnel to see what happened but both Tamils and government forces filmed themselves, often on mobile phones. It is this footage we show.
The video which appears to have been taken on phones by soldiers themselves is the most grisly. They film and photograph themselves executing prisoners. There is film, and hundreds of photographs, of the dead lying in pits or in long rows. Many are bound and many have shots to the head; these do not appear to be the victims of shelling or other forms of “legal” warfare. A small group of children lie in a pit. Prisoners are shown alive, some- times being taunted, and then dead.
The Tamil footage is at moments even more harrowing. There is strong evidence hospitals and refugees were deliberately targeted.
The Sri Lankan government has claimed the footage of the executions and the aftermath of killings is fake. Not what the forensic pathologists and video experts say. The Sri Lankan government rightly say the Tamil Tigers killed people. Yes they did, but they didn’t kill 40,000 civilians. Some other force did that and all the evidence is that the murder was systemic.
It’s not for us to tell you what to think. Watch yourself and judge. It makes you think there should be some international body that holds people to account for atrocities like that. Wait a minute, there is.
Dorothy Byrne is Channel 4’s head of news and current affairs
Channel 4 program shown at UN Human Rights Council sponsored by Amnesty http://www.channel4.com/news/un-screens-channel-4-sri-lanka-war-crimes-film
BBC discussion on “Killing Fields” at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b011pkg0
Channel 4 is to screen what it calls “probably the most horrific images it has ever shown” and which, last year, it said were too gruesome to transmit. They are part of a documentary on the final days of the Sri Lankan army’s battle with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, shown last week at the UN Human Rights Council. The UN special rapporteur says the images are prima facie evidence of war crimes, something the Sri Lankan government strongly refutes, saying the videos are not authentic. C4’s head of news and current affairs, Dorothy Byrne, explains the decision to broadcast and, with Prof Richard Tait of Cardiff University, discusses the value and risks of showing death on screen.
Channel 4 to show its ‘most horrific footage ever’ of executions and sexual violence secretly filmed during Sri Lankan civil war
By Liz Thomas, The Daily Mail, London
Last updated at 1:11 AM on 10th June 2011
Channel 4 is to show ‘the most horrific footage it has ever broadcast’ in a documentary about atrocities committed during the civil war in Sri Lanka.
The programme Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields will be presented by broadcaster Jon Snow.
It investigates the final weeks of the 26 year-long battle between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels.
Killing Fields: Channel 4 has said it will broadcast the most horrific footage it has ever broadcast
The broadcaster initially said the images were ‘too gruesome’ to show on its Channel 4 news programme.
The footage, captured on mobile phones, allegedly shows evidence of systemic murder, abuse and sexual violence by Sri Lankan troops against their own people.
It shows executions and also piles of dead bodies of women and children who appear to have been raped or sexually assaulted before they were killed.
The programme, which will air at 11pm, includes full-length videos of naked and bound Tamil Tiger prisoners kneeling before being shot in the back of the head by soldiers.
One prisoner is shown tied to a coconut tree – alive and being threatened with a knife. A subsequent image shows his corpse covered in blood.
There is further horrific footage of the naked and mutilated bodies of female rebel fighters being tossed into trucks by men in uniform.
The footage allegedly shows evidence of systematic murder, abuse and sexual violence by Sri Lankan troops against their own people
The dialogue overheard by the film-makers suggests that the women were subjected to sexual assaults before they were murdered.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently published a report which revealed 40,000 people were killed in the final weeks of the war.
However critics have questioned whether Channel 4 needed to show such graphic footage to illustrate what had happened – particularly when it had previously admitted it was too much for broadcast.
Dorothy Byrne, head of news and current affairs, defended the programme.
She said: ‘It was too gruesome to be shown at 7pm. That is pre-watershed.
‘This goes out at 11pm with strong warnings. I believe it is absolutely justified. The UN has reported that there is credible evidence that actual war crimes took place.’
Miss Byrne said that it was vital the full extent of the atrocities were shown, and made public, because the Sri Lankan government were denying the events even took place.
The footage forms part of an investigation into the final weeks of the 26 year battle
She said: ‘This is not just a TV programme, this is evidence. If we don’t show it and the Sri Lankan government say it never happened – how are you the viewer, a member of the public, able to make up your mind, unless you see it yourself.
‘We felt we had to show it as overwhelming evidence of potential war crimes which need investigating.
‘I would like to be able to say we will never again show footage again like this. I hope it is the first and last time we have to do it.’
The broadcaster has employed forensic pathologists and experts in video technology to authenticate the footage, as has the UN, and said all were in agreement that it is genuine.
Concerns have been raised as to whether the broadcaster needed to show the moments of death or all the graphic details.
Former ITN editor-in-chief Richard Tait told Radio 4’s The Media Show that ‘the images are at the outer limit of what is acceptable.
‘These images are very, very disturbing. I have seen it once and I may not want to see it again because these are very disturbing.
‘Some of this is unwatchable to some people… I am not sure if you have to see the moment of death.’
But Mr Tait added it was ‘necessary to show quite a lot of what happened’ and said the documentary had been made with ‘journalistic integrity’.
The film also features interviews with experts on the region from Amnesty International and the UN, as well as details of the atrocities carried out by the Tamil Tigers, who used civilians as human shields.
Channel 4 said it had passed on all of its evidence to the United Nations.
The Sri Lankan government has refuted that the footage is genuine or that such atrocities took place.
In a statement it said: ‘This is an exercise that has been carried out by a small section of the media, at the behest of certain civil society organisations and the blessing of separatists living outside Sri Lanka, with the final objective of pushing Sri Lanka back to war.’
Sri Lanka’s civil war spanned more than a quarter of a century – only ending in 2009. The Tamil Tigers were fighting for a separate state.
• Sri Lanka’s The Killing Fields will air at 11pm on Tuesday, June 14 on Channel 4