War crimes with your cricket?

While New Zealand male cricketers struggle against the Sri Lankan team, Sri Lanka is making other kinds of headlines elsewhere.  Footage released by a Sri Lankan group of exiled journalists campaigning for freedom of the press is covered by the BBC and Times Online and Channel 4 News in the UK.

Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka are based now in Germany, and include both Sinhalese and Tamil members.  They say this footage is from January this year, and they say it’s evidence of war crimes.

Experienced conflict reporters are comparing these scenes to Serbian militia murders in the 1990s conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, crimes which resulted in imprisonment years later.  Channel 4 have, as you’d expect, done some investigating into the video:

We were unable to verify the authenticity of the footage, but we did our level best to do so and we would not have broadcast our report had we not been confident with the expert analysis we received.
Before we went to air, I watched the video with a leading Sri Lankan human rights investigator – a Sinhalese himself – who provided forensic insights into its authenticity.

This investigator has many years of experience looking into abuses and impunity in his homeland, but he’d never seen anything like this.

Many detractors have made their points of view clear in emails to Channel 4 News or on the websites of newspapers like Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror.

While it’s true that Tamil Tiger insurgents were known to masquerade in government uniforms, what makes the video credible is that telltale casual dialogue between the killers as they dispatch their helpless captives.

In rough provincial Sinhala accents, they jokingly argue over who gets to shoot whom.

They take turns, mockingly play-acting the popular folk game ‘kurupiti gahanawa wage’ – ‘Your Turn, My Turn.’

Remind me again why we – the New Zealand men’s cricket team – are touring Sri Lanka while hundreds of thousands of people are living under detention, and we don’t know how many have “disappeared”?


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