If the desperate cries of women and children under carpet bombing, summary executions, and the tender body of slain LTTE leader V Prabhakaran’s young son weren’t enough for India to take a stand against Sri Lanka, will it still run away from spine-chilling new evidence that stares at its face?
The new evidence, published by The Hindu , is unlikely to leave one for months. It’s three photos in a sequence – a young boy sitting on a bench in a sandbag bunker, then he munching something, and finally, lying dead with bullet injuries on his chest.
We know this boy because we have seen his picture before. He is Balachandran Prabhakaran, the 12-year old son of slain LTTE leader V Prabhakaran. And the photos summarise the capture and cold-blooded murder of a young boy by his country’s military.
The photograph of the boy that we had seen a year ago was the third one, in which the boy lay dead with bullet injuries. It was part of the second edition of the documentary on Sri Lanka’s alleged war crimes by Britain’s Channel 4. The sequence of pictures today makes the story complete.
“The new photographs tell a chilling story. This child has not been lost of course: he has been captured and is being held in a sandbag bunker, apparently guarded by a Sri Lankan Army soldier. In less than two hours he will be taken, executed in cold blood — and then photographed again.” – says Callum Macrae, director of the Channel 4 movie, in his op-ed article in The Hindu.
Last year, Channel 4 had said that it had a sworn affidavit of an officer who said that the child, along with his bodyguards, were sent to the army to surrender, but they were interrogated to get the whereabouts of Prabhakaran before getting shot. With documentary evidence and forensic analysis, the channel has now proved this claim.
The new evidence is part of the third documentary by Channel 4 on Sri Lanka’s war crimes titled, “No War Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka”, which will be screened in Geneva next month, ahead of a second resolution that is coming up against the island nation at the UNHRC.
The subtext of Macrae’s article is a direct hint at India’s dubious role at the UNHRC last year when the international community moved its first resolution against Sri Lanka. The aim of the resolution, sponsored by the US and supported by 23 countries, was to fix accountability for the country’s war crimes and to take genuine reparative steps.
While most of the civilised world rallied behind the move, India not only sat on the fence till the last minute along with some rogue-nations and countries with dubious human rights records, it also ensured that the text of the resolution was toned down to make it virtually ineffective.
Macrae’s words make it clear that the new evidence is meant for India and that at least this time, the country needs to take a firm stand. He writes: “The new evidence in the film is certain to increase pressure on the Indian government not only to support a resolution on Sri Lanka and accountability, but also to ensure that it is robustly worded, and that it outlines an effective plan for international action to end impunity in Sri Lanka.”
“It is difficult to imagine the mindset of an army in which a child can be executed in cold blood with apparent impunity. It also raises extremely difficult questions for the Sri Lankan military. With every month that passes, the evidence of systematic execution of prisoners grows. The pattern of apparent sexual violence against female fighters is disturbing in the extreme.”
Macrae says that the photographs have been analysed by a forensic pathologist who confirmed that the boy had been shot at close range, so close that he could have touched the gun that killed him. He may have been forced to watch the execution of his bodyguards because he was not blindfolded. The forensic analysis also ruled out fabrication or manipulation of the images or their sequence.
The first and second parts of the Channel 4 film had shocked the world with documentary evidence of the alleged killing of thousands of Tamil civilians and different forms of war crimes such as rapes and executions. A UN report also said about 40,000 people had been killed in the war.
The film, together with a highly detailed account of the last phase of the war by Gordon Weiss, a former UN spokesperson in Colombo, led to a tide of international opinion against Sri Lanka that culminated in the resolution at the UNHRC.
However, the Sri Lankan government has been defiant even after the UNHRC resolution, which has forced the US to propose a new “procedural resolution” at the upcoming 22nd session in March. The island has not only done precious little to address the recommendations of the last resolution, but it has also become more brazen in muzzling free speech and civil liberties, and stripping down its constitutional and democratic institutions.
The brazenness recently hit the nadir, when the country’s chief justice, Shirani Bandaranaika, was impeached for raising legal questions against the government. The free run of violent proxy-attacks against rights activists and journalists, including foreign nationals, and disappearances still continue.
Last week, the UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay was brutally frank when she said that the Sri Lankan government was indulging in triumphalism in the north. She also said that the civilians of the north have been prevented from commemorating victims of the war.
Reportedly, the graves of about 20,000 Tamil tiger fighters have been razed in the Vanni area where new museums and war memorials hailing the Sri Lankan soldiers have been erected. Navi Pillay has reportedly said that the triumphalist images will create a strong sense of alienation in the local population.
There have also been reports of military-tourism in the area to further the triumphalist sentiments, which effectively ridicule the suffering of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians who died at the hands of the country’s military.
Macrae’s words are ominous for India: “If there is no attempt to address these issues and to bring justice to those who suffered, the fear is that in the short term, political repression in Sri Lanka will increase and that in the long term, history is destined to repeat itself with yet more bloodshed and regional instability.”
If not for the respect for human rights and the demands of its own people in Tamil Nadu, India should take a stand for its own security. Strategically, it is certainly dangerous to have a rights-violative dictatorship next door, which openly encourages the Chinese and the Pakistanis.
India is likely to back a US resolution against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Commission on 7 March, reported CNN-IBN.