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Mar-17-2012 03:34printcomments

Sri Lanka's Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished - depressing and hopelessly excellent documentary

As Sir John Holmes said, the Sri Lankan government didn't believe that anyone would stop them and they were right.

Sri Lanka's Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished
Sri Lanka's Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished

(LONDON) - Last year, Channel 4 broadcast a film containing images that are perhaps the most shocking I have ever seen on TV. Sri Lanka's Killing Fields was a horrifying portrayal of the final days of the Sri Lankan civil war and the atrocities committed by both sides in it.

That film, presented by Jon Snow, called on the Sri Lankan government to set up an independent inquiry into allegations of war crimes perpetrated by the victorious Sinhalese government forces:

  • shelling civilians and hospitals in No Fire Zones;
  • sexual assault on captured female fighters;
  • the systematic execution of prisoners.

Jon Snow's new film Sri Lanka's Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished provides new evidence to support the allegations against the government forces and, using four cases, demonstrates the culpability at the very highest level of the chain of command, President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

This is documentary-making of the highest quality. While dealing with a highly emotive subject - one that is hard to view - War Crimes Unpunished remains factual and provides compelling evidence including documents from the UN, evidence from diplomatic cables leaked to Wikileaks and new video footage.

Again and again, the film calls for "a proper investigation" by an independent body. Instead, the Sri Lankan government has now announced an inquiry into the role of its army to be undertaken by the army.

Damning as it is of Rajapaksa, to what end this film? Amnesty International questions the credibility and legitimacy of the UN, a body that was set up to prevent such atrocities occurring. But it was shown to have no teeth. As Sir John Holmes said, the Sri Lankan government didn't believe that anyone would stop them and they were right. They continued to massacre civilians, while around them a diplomatic dance was taking place, knowing that the end of the conflict would come soon, hoping that it would happen quickly and that few civilians would be killed.

Yet we know that is not the way it ended and for all the condemnation of this film, Sri Lanka next year hosts a gathering of the heads of Commonwealth countries.

Rajapaksa, his brother and several senior government officials appear to be entirely immune from prosecution. It is a travesty that only compounds the inhumanity that Jon Snow's documentary reveals.

The film is available to view on 4oD.

Special thanks to TV Pixie

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