United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston is calling for an independent investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka, following forensic experts' findings that video footage from a mobile phone of the summary execution of naked and blindfolded Tamils by Sri Lankan soldiers was authentic.

In August 2009, Britain's Channel 4 television station aired the footage; the Sri Lankan Government initially said the videotape was fake, and that it would not investigate. But Alston, who is also John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law and faculty director and co-chair of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU Law, commissioned analysis of the video from three United States specialists: an expert in firearms evidence; a prominent forensic pathologist; and an expert in forensic video analysis. 

“Together, the reports by these experts strongly suggest that the video is authentic,” Alston stated. “Given these conclusions, and in light of the persistent flow of other allegations of extrajudicial executions by both sides during the closing phases of the war against the L.T.T.E. [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam], I call for the establishment of an independent inquiry to carry out an impartial investigation into war crimes and other grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law allegedly committed in Sri Lanka.”

On January 8, 2010, Reuters reported that Sri Lanka has rejected Alston's report, maintaining that its own experts had determined that the footage was fake. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman Martin Nesirky "backed the need for such a probe, saying that Alston's conclusions show 'the need for a credible, independent and impartial investigation into allegations of violations of human rights and international law by all sides in the conflict in Sri Lanka.'"

Posted January 13, 2010