War crimes: caught on camera?

Jon Snow says it is “one of the most important” stories he has ever reported.

It may not be on TV until 11.05 pm, yet the screening tonight of Channel 4’s Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields (trailer here) has not exactly gone unnoticed.

The programme was shown to the United Nations Human Rights Council at the end of May. A UN special envoy has already said the execution videos featured appear to show evidence of “serious international crimes”. Amnesty International has called for an independent international investigation into the extent of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

The film features footage, captured on a mobile phone camera, apparently of some of the atrocities committed in the final days of the Sri Lankan civil war, in May 2009.

Jon Snow takes up the story:

It tells the story of the bloody end to Sri Lanka’s civil war – in which at least 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed. I have reported civil wars before, not least in Central America in the 1980s but I have never seen such graphic evidence, often at the hands of government soldiers themselves of what have all the hallmarks of war crimes.

The film is important in that it represents one of the most shocking films ever screened on Channel 4. It has to be so, there are accusations of war crimes by both sides.

This film is also vastly important because, it represents the conclusion of two years’ worth of courageous journalism by the Channel 4 News team in the face of great adversity including repeated challenges to our integrity by the Sri Lankan authorities.

It forms a vital part of the evidence of alleged war crimes – crimes, allegations which the UN itself has called ‘credible’.

I’ll be watching.

If you do too, let me know what you think.

I am the Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International UK and an occasional human rights blogger at Amnesty Blogs: Belfast & Beyond.

I’m on Twitter at @PatrickCorrigan