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CORRUPTED JOURNALISM

Channel 4 and Sri Lanka

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CORRUPTED
JOURNALISM
Channel 4 and Sri Lanka
A Collective Work by Engage Sri Lanka

Engage Sri Lanka


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First Published in 2013


Copyright Engage Sri Lanka 2013
E-mail: info@engagesrilanka.com
website: http://www.engagesrilanka.com/
The moral right of Engage Sri Lanka to be identified as the author of this work has been
asserted in accordance with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.

ISBN 978-0-9926845-4-9

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system,
or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the author,
or as expressly permitted by law, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights
organisation.

Printed in Great Britain

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C ontents
List of Maps

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List of Illustrations

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Abbreviations

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Introduction

Chapter 1

The Conflict

Chapter 2

The Allegations

30

Chapter 3

Channel 4s witnesses

36

Chapter 4

The Doctors in the Vanni

36

Chapter 5

The No-Fire Zones in the Vanni

71

Chapter 6

The Sri Lankan Army and Civilians

111

Chapter 7

How Many People Died in the Vanni?

128

Chapter 8

Humanitarian Access to the Vanni

148

Chapter 9

The Mobile Telephone Footage

156

Chapter 10 A Forensic Examination?

169

Chapter 11 A Failure in Media Regulation

180

Conclusion

188

Filmography

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Bibliography

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Appendix 1 2011 Affidavit by Dr Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah

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Appendix 2 2012 Affidavit by Dr Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah

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Index

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L ist

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M aps

A. A Map of Sri Lanka


B. Sri Lankan naval defence lines in the last months of the war
C. LTTE deployment of 130mm artillery pieces, Udayarkattu No-Fire Zone
D. LTTE deployment of 122mm artillery pieces, Udayarkattu No-Fire Zone
E. LTTE deployment of 152mm artillery pieces, Udayarkattu No-Fire Zone

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L ist

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I llustrations

Facing page 102


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LTTE 122mm artillery battery in the Vanni

LTTE 130mm heavy artillery piece in the Vanni

LTTE 152mm artillery piece in the Vanni

LTTE Heavy mortar team in the Vanni

LTTE mobile heavy mortar teams

LTTE Bra bomber exploding her device

The LTTE TV presenter Issipriya in and out of uniform

Channel 4s Witness Vani Kumar

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A bbreviations
AAAS
ABC
CGES
CNN
FBI
GPS
HRW
ICG
ICRC
IDP
IHL
IPKF
LTTE
MT
NFZ
NGO
Ofcom
PTK
RDHS
RPG
SLA
SLAF
SLMM
UAV
UN
UNHRC
UTHR
Vanni
WFP

American Association for the Advancement of Science


Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Commissioner-General of Essential Services
Cable Network News
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Global Positioning System
Human Rights Watch
International Crisis Group
International Committee of the Red Cross
Internally displaced person
International Humanitarian Law
Indian Peace Keeping Force
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (also known as Tamil Tigers)
Metric ton (food quantity measurement for humanitarian food aid)
No-Fire Zone, also known as the civilian safe zone
Non-governmental organisation
British national media regulator
Puthukudiyirippu
Regional Director of Health Services
Rocket-propelled grenade
Sri Lankan Army
Sri Lankan Air Force
Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
United Nations
United Nations Human Rights Council
University Teachers for Human Rights
Term for the four northern districts of Sri Lanka
World Food Programme

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E ngage S ri L anka
Engage Sri Lanka was established to make the case for the United Kingdom engaging
more closely with Sri Lanka. Britain has a close historical, cultural and economic
relationship with Sri Lanka and it is important that we maintain and develop our
connection with one of our oldest partners. In an age of economic uncertainty,
British business should make the most of its reputation in Sri Lanka and expand
its involvement in the Sri Lankan economy. Sri Lankas commercial law is based on
that of the United Kingdom and this is coupled with a skilled work force. Britain
is already the second largest market after the United States for Sri Lankan exports.
World Bank figures show that the Sri Lankan economy is growing by 8 percent a
year. Sri Lanka is also a strategic partner for British business in South Asia and a key
point of entry into the rapidly growing Indian market. Sri Lanka has the highest
ranking in the World Banks Ease of doing business ratings in the region. The United
Kingdom needs to engage as fully and vigorously as possible with Sri Lanka. British
business already faces fierce competition from China and other countries. Engage
Sri Lanka will seek to analyse and where necessary challenge any obstacles to our
countrys political and economic relationship with Colombo.
<www.engagesrilanka.com>

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introduction

Introduction

In the course of 2011 and 2012, Britains Channel 4 television channel broadcast
two one-hour long programmes, Sri Lankas Killing Fields and Sri Lankas Killing
Fields: War Crimes Unpunished, alleging that war crimes and human rights abuses
took place in 2009 in Sri Lankas north-eastern Vanni region1, in the last months of
the civil war fought between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers
of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers) terrorist movement.2
These allegations were levelled at senior Sri Lankan political leaders, defence officials
and military commanders. Channel 4 claimed that its programmes were forensic
in their investigations and contained evidence required to convict.
This book sets out to assess the claims made by Channel 4. It examines the
conflict, Channel 4s allegations, and the credibility of those people put forward as
witnesses by the programme makers, set against the testimony of people Channel 4
themselves accept as credible, and other independent commentators. It also looks
at the key issue of the no-fire zones, the areas declared by the Government of Sri
Lanka to be safe areas for civilians in the last months of the war, and the fighting
which subsequently ensued within them; the conduct of the Sri Lankan army in the
course of the conflict; humanitarian access to the conflict area; the mobile telephone
footage claimed by Channel 4 to be evidence of extrajudicial executions committed
by government forces; Channel 4s claim to have conducted a forensic examination
of events; and the very controversial issue of how many people may have died in the
last months and weeks of the war. The book also sets Channel 4s claims against
the broadcasters clear obligations under the British medias Broadcasting Code.3 It is
because of Channel 4s stated intention to in effect present a legal case, together with
its statutory obligations as a broadcaster, that this study refers to material facts, facts
which the broadcaster would have been duty- as well as morally-bound to consider,
discuss and include in its programmes.
The virtual impossibility of establishing what happened during the last few
weeks of the war was highlighted at the time by Ravi Nessman, the Associated Press

corrupted journalism

Colombo bureau chief from 2007-2009. He reported from Sri Lanka during the final
few months of the war, very largely from a desk in Colombo with all the dislocation
from events and reality that entailed. In February 2009 he gave a very clear picture of
the insurmountable difficulties of reporting what was happening during this period:
This is a very difficult story to cover as a journalist. The war zone is a black hole...
We cant get up there, and the information is so scattered that were getting...We have
absolutely no idea.4 Gordon Weiss, the United Nations spokesman in Sri Lanka at
the time confirmed this reality: According to international journalists, Sri Lanka
was notorious as one of the toughest wars on which to report.5 He cited a veteran
foreign reporter as stating that verifiable information was as rare as hens teeth.6
Weiss also noted the absence of the independent media in the conflict area.7 The
Financial Times added that [T]he end-game in this long and vicious civil war has
been clouded by the swirl of unverifiable reports and propaganda from both sides.8
Reuters stated in May 2009 that Getting accurate information is near-impossible
since few in the war zone can be said to be independent and few outside observers
have been allowed in.9 Two weeks later Reuters stated once again that [g]etting a
clear picture of the battlefield is nearly impossible.10 It was against this backdrop,
two years after the end of the war, that Channel 4 produced their programmes,
claiming nevertheless to have established the absolute truth of what had happened
in the final months of the conflict.
What became immediately apparent from the Channel 4 programmes was that
although the subject matter was self-evidently serious and grave and one in which
professionalism, objectivity and simple facts would have been expected from the
broadcaster the programmes were unprofessional, prejudiced and inaccurate, both
in the material they presented and the claims made on the back of them, as well as
in the material and material facts they omitted.
Channel 4s inaccuracy and general inattention to detail regarding its subject
matter was demonstrated from the start by its inability or disinclination to even
correctly identify the Sri Lankan Minister of Defence, someone at the centre of
Channel 4s allegations. The programme identified Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the
Defence Minister. He is not the Defence Minister. He is a civil servant, appointed
to the post of Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence in November 2005
by the then newly-elected President, Mahinda Rajapaksa. President Rajapaksa holds
the defence ministry portfolio and has done so for the past seven years, as anyone
with access to Wikipedia would be able to ascertain.11 In a rush to judgment, key
details were simply ignored.
Channel 4s apparent prejudice towards the Government of Sri Lanka manifested
itself from the start in the very title of the programmes. Sri Lankas Killing Fields,
Channel 4s choice of title for both programmes, was in and of itself clearly prejudicial.

introduction

The image that comes most to mind from Channel 4s title, is the Oscar-winning 1984
film, The Killing Fields. This conjures up imagery of the Cambodia genocide and
all that that implies, that the Sri Lankan has somehow been party to genocidal mass
murder. It is a particularly skewed comparison for several reasons. Either Channel
4s editors and researchers have a poor grip on history or sought to be gratuitously
offensive in their choice of title. Any student of the political history of that part of
Asia will know that the title far more aptly applies to the LTTE.12 The Khmer Rouge
was an ultra left-wing insurgency in Cambodia in the 1970s: the LTTE has been
seen as embracing a far-left ideology, with links to North Korea.13 Both groups were
documented as having killed thousands of civilians in acts of terrorism. Both the
LTTE and the Khmer Rouge displaced civilian populations out of urban areas under
their control for strategic or ideological reasons: both murdered any civilians trying
to escape from their areas. Ironically, The Killing Fields film is about a civilian who
escapes from a murderous revolutionary movement, the Khmer Rouge, that dictated
every aspect of life for those civilians under its control and ruthlessly killed anyone
trying to escape from it. This narrative absolutely mirrors the LTTE and its brutal
control of civilians including killing those who sought to escape their control. The
LTTE shares the Khmer Rouges reputation for ruthlessness. Both groups brutally
and systematically murdered any moderate political rivals. Both groups used child
soldiers extensively. Both were led by dictatorial personalities. The New York Times
was considerably more objective than Channel 4 when, in an article headlined A
Sri Lankan Evokes Pol Pot; Asias Latest Master of Terror, the newspaper noted that
the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakharan had shown a bloodthirstiness in dealing
with opponents that has been compared with some of the cruellest figures in recent
Asian history, including Pol Pot of Cambodia.14
Channel 4s professionalism and ethics were also called into question in the footage
it screened. In both of its programmes Channel 4 misrepresented film footage. It
presented film of a heavy artillery gun being fired as that of the Sri Lankan army,
when it was in fact footage of an LTTE artillery piece in action.15 Given that so
much of the Channel 4 programme is based on allegations of the Sri Lankan armys
use of artillery in the conflict zone, it is ironic that the only image that Channel 4
could find to use was one of a LTTE heavy artillery gun in action. This was all the
more ironic given that in the entirety of both of the programmes made by Channel
4 on the subject of the no-fire zones in the crisis, there is not a single reference to a
single shell, mortar or rocket being fired by the LTTE. Channel 4 appears to have
been unable to differentiate between photographs or footage of LTTE or government
artillery, just as it was unable or unwilling to differentiate between LTTE and
government shelling during the crisis a pivotal evidentiary issue unaddressed in
Channel 4s programmes.16

corrupted journalism

Despite its statutory, professional and ethical obligation to be accurate, balanced


and objective, Channel 4 ignored, or were unaware of, pivotal facts which would have
fatally discredited the claims made in its programmes. This inattention to detail is all
the more serious given the grave charges it levelled in its programmes, and the claim
that they were forensic in nature. While focusing on the no-fire zones declared
by the Sri Lankan military from January 2009 onwards, something at the heart of
its programmes, Channel 4, for example, failed to point out that the LTTE totally
ignored these zones; that the LTTE deployed its combatants, artillery, mortars and
tanks within these zones, and that they fired at government forces from within them;
and that the LTTE were the first to fire from the no-fire zones, provoking a response,
deliberately or otherwise, from the army. Channel 4 also neglected to mention that
it was in the LTTEs interests for the zones to fail, as had they succeeded the LTTE
would have lost the human shields they wished to retain as some sort of twisted
insurance policy. Channel 4 also ignored ample evidence that the LTTE actually
fired artillery into the no-fire zones to force civilians to move away from the army.
It is also worth pointing out that for all its stated concern about human rights,
and despite a statutory obligation to be balanced and fair, in Channel 4s first 60
minute-long programme LTTE human rights abuses, of which there was ample
evidence during the events supposedly being examined, received 49 seconds of air
time. There was a similar imbalance in the second programme.
These examples of unprofessionalism, inaccuracy and bias were only the tip of
the iceberg as far as the programmes were concerned, as is outlined in the rest of
this study.
This critique of Channel 4s corrupted journalism draws extensively and
deliberately on the observations of Gordon Weiss, the former UN spokesman
mentioned above. Weiss is a noted critic of the government. He is the author of The
Cage: The Fight for Sri Lanka and the Last Days of the Tamil Tigers, a partisan view of
the last few months of the war.17 The programme makers would undoubtedly have
seen and read this book by Weiss and would have been familiar with its content.
They would have been professionally negligent not to have done so. Indeed, some of
the assertions made in the programmes in question are based in large part on events
described in The Cage. Weiss was interviewed extensively in Sri Lankas Killing
Fields, making eight separate appearances. His views are clearly seen as credible by
Channel 4. At the same time sections of his book fundamentally contradict claims
made by the broadcaster.
This study also draws on the significant viewpoints, observations and material
facts provided by the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR), including
analysis by two of its founders, Rajan Hoole and Kopalasingham Sritharan. This
is a well-respected Sri Lankan human rights organisation described by Weiss as an

introduction

independent and highly regarded civil society organisation, which perhaps more
than any other, against great odds, and with an even-handed condemnation of all
brutality, has successfully monitored human rights abuses committed by the Tamil
Tigers and government security forces.18 This group is no friend of the government.
Unlike Channel 4, it was present amongst the Tamil civilian population throughout
the crisis and during the events subject to Channel 4s questionable and disjointed
reconstruction. Their account is a very different one to that of Channel 4.
This study will also refer to other material facts and viewpoints which, together
with those provided by Weiss and University Teachers for Human Rights, would
have also been available to the broadcaster and programme makers, and with which
on grounds of due diligence they should have been familiar. These facts were simply
ignored by Channel 4. The broadcaster was either unaware of this information, in
which case they were professionally negligent, or they knew of these facts, in which
case they have professional and ethical questions to answer. The Shorter Oxford
English Dictionary defines corrupt as destroyed in purity, debased; vitiated by errors
or alterations. In this sense it is self-evident that both of the Channel 4 programmes
were irredeemably corrupted accounts of what may have happened in 2009.
This study might be seen as drawing excessively on footnotes and references.
This has been a deliberate policy. In attempting to assess a situation as polluted by
propaganda as that of exactly what happened in the Vanni in the course of 2009, it
is essential to document as many of the sources addressing, and claiming to address,
the issue as possible.

Notes
1
2

3
4
5
6

The Vanni, also spelled Wanni, is in the northern part of Sri Lanka, and comprises parts of the
districts of Kilinochchi (to the north), Mullaitivu (east), Mannar (west), and Vavuniya (south).
Sri Lankas Killing Fields, Channel 4, 14 June 2011, available at <http://www.channel4.
com/programmes/sri-lankas-killing-fields/4od>, and Sri Lankas Killing Fields: War
Crimes Unpunished, Channel 4, 14 March 2012, available at <http://www.channel4.com/
programmes/sri-lankas-killing-fields/episode-guide/series-2/episode-1>.
The Ofcom Broadcasting Code, Ofcom, London, 28 February 2011, available at <http://
stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/broadcasting/broadcast-codes/broadcast-code/>. Ofcom is the
British media regulator.
Interview with Ravi Nessman, aired on PBS stations on 18 February 2009, available at <http://
transcurrents.com/tc/2009/02/kohona_says_its_best_for_mia_t.html>.
Gordon Weiss, The Cage: The Fight for Sri Lanka and the Last Days of the Tamil Tigers, The
Bodley Head, London, 2011, p. 98.
Ibid., p. 98.

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7 Ibid., p. 104.
8 Bloody Sri Lanka, The Financial Times, 14 May 2009.
9 Q+A Plight of civilians at end of Sri Lankas war, Reuters, 16 May 2009.
10 Military press on despite Sri Lanka calls, Reuters, 14 May 2009.
11 See, for example, Mahinda Rajapaksa, at <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahinda_Rajapaksa>.
12 See, for example, Cambodias brutal Khmer Rouge regime, BBC News, 19 September 2007,
available at <http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/mpapps/pagetools/print/news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/
asia-pacific/7002629.stm>. For more on the Khmer Rouge, see, Elizabeth Becker, When the
War Was over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution, Public Affairs, New York, 1998;
David P. Chandler, A History of Cambodia, Westview Press, Boulder, 2000; David P. Chandler,
Brother Number One: A Political Biography, Westview Press, Boulder, 1999; David P. Chandler,
Facing the Cambodian past: Selected essays, 19711994, Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai, 1996;
David P. Chandler, Ben Kiernan et al, Revolution and Its Aftermath in Kampuchea: Eight Essays,
Yale University Press, 1983; Ben Kiernan, The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power, and Genocide in
Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 197579, Yale University Press, 2002; Ben Kiernan, How
Pol Pot Came to Power: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Communism in Cambodia, 19301975,
Yale University Press, 2004.
13 North Korea may have aided Hezbollah, LTTE U.S. report, Reuters, 13 December 2007.
14 A Sri Lankan Evokes Pol Pot; Asias Latest Master of Terror, The New York Times, 28 May
1995. It is worth noting that the author of the article, John F. Burns, is a particularly respected
and experienced journalist, and the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes. He has been called the dean
of American foreign correspondents. He has written on international issues for The New York
Times since 1975.
15 The footage appears at minute 25:30 against claims of government shelling in the first
programme.
16 The footage used in the programme of the LTTE artillery piece in action is old LTTE footage
screened a decade earlier, and has previously appeared in a BBC programme. See, A history
of the Sri Lankan conflict, BBC News South Asia, 26 April 2011, available at <http://www.
bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13190576>.
17 Weiss, op. cit.
18 Ibid., p. 69 and note 10, p. 297.

the conflict

C hapter O ne

The Conflict
The interaction of the international community and the protagonists in Sri
Lanka has resulted in increased warfare and a prolongation of the war.
Professor Robert Oberst 19
I dont want to pass this problem on to the next generation.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, February 2007 20

The Sri Lankan civil war was a 30-year-long conflict fought between democraticallyelected governments of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, from the late 1970s until the defeat
of that organisation in May 2009.21 It had been the longest-running civil war in
Asia.22 There had been decades of negotiations which came to nothing. The military
option was the last one open to the government of the day. The fact that the war had
to be brought to an end by military means is not an uncommon feature of otherwise
intractable civil conflict. S. J. Stedman has noted that [Civil wars] are the most
difficult of wars to settle through negotiation. In the twentieth century, only about
15 percent of civil wars have ended through negotiation; the rest have ended through
the unconditional surrender or elimination of one of the parties.23 It is worth noting
that accepted international accepted wisdom was that the war was unwinnable.24
The LTTE, formed in 1976, was a militant group which sought to establish
an independent Tamil state, Tamil Eelam, in the north and east of the island,
separate from Sri Lankas Sinhalese majority.25 Observers have noted that while the
Tamil struggle started out as a benign defensive nationalism, it quickly deteriorated
into a ruthless fascist form not open to reason.26 The LTTE was led by Velupillai
Prabakharan, a gunman who killed the Tamil mayor of Jaffna, Alfred Duraiappah, in
1975. Weiss refers to Prabakharans reputation as a totalitarian thug.27 The Economist
described him simply as a textbook fascist.28 The war escalated dramatically from
1983 onwards, when the LTTE ambushed an army convoy, killing thirteen soldiers,

corrupted journalism

which in turn triggered inter-communal riots in which many Tamils died. The
British journalist Christopher Hitchens, while sympathetic to the Tamil cause,
was very critical of the LTTE and its leadership. Writing in May 2009, Hitchens
noted:
Under the leadership of the late Velupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE
enormously overplayed its hand. It established a dictatorship in the areas
it controlled and recruited both child-soldiers and suicide-bombers.
One of the latter even assassinated Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
in 1991: a truly suicidal thing to do, given the need of the Tamils for
Indian sympathy.29
A LTTE suicide bomber also murdered the third President of Sri Lanka,
Ranasinghe Premadasa, on 1 May 1993. Ironically, Premadasa had been very
sympathetic to the organisation. Another LTTE attack partly blinded the fifth
President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, in a 1999 assassination attempt. Walter Laqueur,
the editor of the Penguin Readers Guide to Fascism, a standard text on the subject,
described the LTTE as preaching a fanaticism and a ruthlessness that in Europe
could be found only in the fascist movements of the 1930s.30
The war went through several phases. Eelam War I was fought between 198387; Eelam War II from 1990-94; Eelam War III from 1995-2002 and Eelam War
IV from 2006-09. After several failed rounds of peace talks, and the unsuccessful
and bloody deployment of an Indian peace keeping force from 1987 to 1990, an
internationally-mediated ceasefire agreement brokered by the Norwegian government
was signed in 2002. Hopes that the ceasefire might lead to a lasting peace dimmed
quickly. In early 2006, Human Rights Watch noted the LTTEs systematic violation
of the ceasefire, citing figures released by the international Sri Lanka Monitoring
Mission (SLMM)31:
The ceasefire agreement brought a respite from hostilities, but not an end
to serious abuses. From February 1, 2002, through December 31, 2005,
the SLMM reported over 3,500 violations of the ceasefire agreement,
many of which involved the use of violence and intimidation against
civilians, and the vast majority being committed by the LTTE. Since the
beginning of the ceasefire, more than 200 Sri Lankans, mostly Tamil,
have been killed in apparent political killings, most allegedly the work
of the LTTE, which continued to carry out killings of LTTE critics and
members of non-LTTE Tamil political parties. 32

the conflict

Human Rights Watch confirmed that: The LTTE committed 3,471 of the
violations; 162 were ruled violations by government forces.33 Weiss records that in
2003 hundreds of dissident Tamils across the Island were murdered, the majority of
them by the Tigers.34 In 2005, Weiss again records that the LTTE stepped up their
programme of assassinations of Tamils.35 The highest profile of these murders was the
LTTEs assassination of Sri Lankas foreign minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, a Tamil
political moderate, in August 2005. The then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa
was elected as President of Sri Lanka in November 2005. Shortly afterwards, the
LTTE withdrew from the Geneva and Oslo peace talks indefinitely. In April 2006,
the LTTE tried to assassinate the commander of the Sri Lankan army, LieutenantGeneral Sarath Fonseka, seriously wounding him, and killing eleven other service
personnel. In late June, another suicide bomber killed the armys deputy chief-of-staff,
Major-General Parami Kulathunge. The LTTE also subsequently tried to assassinate
Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the most senior defence civil servant, in December 2006. That
year the LTTE also seized the Mavil Oya reservoir in the east of the country. Weiss
notes that this was perhaps the final straw for the government: In July 2006, the
Tigers seized the sluice gate of a reservoir in eastern Sri Lanka, cutting water to 15,000
villagers and thousands of hectares of rice paddy...the Final War...had begun.36 The
army reasserted control and it was clear that the new Sri Lankan government decided
that it would bring the LTTEs hold on parts of Sri Lanka to an end. To achieve this
the government had to reoccupy the territory controlled by the organisation. At this
stage the LTTE controlled approximately one-fourth of Sri Lankas landmass some
15,000 square kilometres and perhaps two-thirds of its coastline.37
The respected humanitarian group Mdecins Sans Frontires summed up the
genesis of this final phase, which came to be known as Eelam War IV:
The LTTE caused most of the ceasefire violations in 2005 to 2006, and
was largely responsible for triggering the resumption of hostilities...
Denouncing the use of the population as a human shield, in November
2006 the government asked the ICRC and the SLMM to mediate so it
could evacuate civilians living in combat zones to camps behind its lines.
The Tigers opposed the operation. Colombo then described its offensive as
a humanitarian mission seeking to free innocent civilians held hostage
by the LTTE.38
The Economist added that having sabotaged a peace initiative of the previous
government, and helped it lose an election by imposing a boycott on Tamil voters
under its sway, Mr Prabhakaran...had the war he was asking for.39 Government action
drove the LTTE out of the entire eastern province of Sri Lanka with remarkably

corrupted journalism

few civilian casualties. This had been preceded and greatly assisted by the largescale defection of LTTE leaders and cadres in the east, led by Colonel Karuna
(Vinayagamoorthy Muralidharan). In 2007 the government launched an offensive
in the north of the country. The government formally announced its withdrawal
from the ceasefire agreement in early January 2008, claiming the LTTE had by then
violated the ceasefire over 10,000 times.40
Government forces gradually re-established control of the rest of LTTE-controlled
areas in northern Sri Lanka, including the LTTEs de-facto capital Kilinochchi and
the main LTTE military base at Mullaitivu, in the Vanni region. From late 2008
onwards, as their area of control shrank, the LTTE forced approximately 300,000
Tamil civilians to accompany their fighters as human shields as they withdrew deeper
into the countryside. The distinguished American scholar Robert D. Kaplan, put
the LTTEs behaviour into an international context: The Tigers thus carried to an
exponential extreme the technique of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Hamas to hide amid
noncombatants.41 At the start of August 2008, the area controlled by the LTTE was
down to some 4,000 square kilometres, 6 percent of Sri Lankas territory.42 By 25
April 2009, the area held by the LTTE, a shrinking pocket of land on the north-east
coastline, was reduced to 10 square kilometres in size. From January 2009 onwards,
the government declared several No-fire Zones to protect civilians. These zones
were ignored by the LTTE and the areas were subsequently caught up in the relentless
fighting between government forces and the insurgents. A large number of civilians
were killed or injured in crossfire between the combatants. It became increasingly
obvious to the LTTE leadership from early 2009 onwards that their total military
defeat was very possible. The LTTEs powerful international propaganda machine
went into overdrive seeking to secure pressure for an international intervention or an
internationally-imposed ceasefire. These calls became more desperate as government
forces boxed the insurgents into a smaller and smaller area.43 They failed and the
final LTTE lines were overrun in mid-May. The LTTE leader and virtually all of
the organisations remaining leadership died in the last few days of the fighting,
something perhaps unsurprising given the cult of suicide within the LTTE.44 What
remained of the LTTE admitted defeat on 17 May. The Sri Lankan government
officially declared an end to the war on 19 May, citing its victory as the only modern
instance of an unambiguous defeat of terrorism.
Following the military defeat of the LTTE, the previously pro-LTTE Tamil
National Alliance dropped its demand for an independent Tamil state in favour of
a federal solution. The International Crisis Group (ICG) noted that the absence of
the LTTE within Tamil politics was a positive development in Sri Lankas post-war
political landscape: In principle, it should make it easier for minority political parties
to develop their own independent, and more moderate, political positions. The ICG

10

the conflict

quoted a senior Tamil parliamentarian as saying the absence of the LTTE opens up
more space for other political players on the Tamil side. The LTTEs presence and
views on its own status in the Tamil polity wasnt conducive to pluralist politics. The
space now has widened.45
Weiss presents observers with a stark picture of the LTTE and its record of
appalling violence.46 He records that the LTTE chief Prabakharan gave orders
to bomb buses full of women and children...murder monks and kill prisoners47,
and that [t]hey hacked, bludgeoned, shot, burned and hanged civilians in a long
series of massacres...Children were slaughtered alongside the elderly in dozens of
small-scale incidents.48 The LTTE planted bombs on trains, aircraft and buses...In
1987, a car bomb exploded in Colombos Pettah, killing 113 civilians. In 1996, four
briefcase bombs exploded simultaneously on a train, killing sixty-four passengers
and wounding more than 400 others. In 2006, a roadside blast killed sixty civilians
on a bus in Kebithigollewa.49 Weiss also points out that between 1983 and May
2009: there were around 200 individual Tiger attacks on civilian targets, in which
between 3,700 and 4,100 civilians were killed.50 Weiss also notes that This figure
does not include the number of Tamils allegedly killed by the Tigers in the areas
they controlled, nor the many hundreds of prisoners thought to have been killed in
Tamil Tiger gulags. The University Teachers for Human Rights estimates that the
latter figure is as high as 7,000.51 Weiss also confirms that the LTTE systematised
the use of suicide bombers...and child soldiers.52
In addition to killing and injuring Sri Lankan politicians from all ethnic
communities, the LTTE also murdered the former Indian prime minister Rajiv
Gandhi in 1991. The LTTE also engaged in a murderous and systematic policy of
ethnic cleansing, seeking to depopulate Sinhalese and Muslim areas in the north
and east of the country. This just skims the surface of the LTTEs involvement in
terrorism. It was quite objectively not the behaviour of an army, it was the behaviour
of a terrorist organisation. The Economist noted that The Tigers were as vicious
and totalitarian a bunch of thugs as ever adopted terrorism as a national-liberation
strategy.53 Weiss observed that: Undoubtedly, the world is a better place without
the Tamil Tigers.54
The LTTE was not just a terrorist organisation because the Government of Sri
Lanka called them terrorists as part of a whim or domestic propaganda attempt
to discredit the organisation. Thirty-two countries, most of them western, listed
the LTTE as a terrorist organisation. The United States designated the LTTE as
a Foreign Terrorist Organization in October 1997: it was named as a Specially
Designated Global Terrorist movement on 2 November 2001. The US Federal
Bureau of Investigation (FBI) described the LTTE as among the most dangerous and
deadly extremists in the world.55 India listed the LTTE as a terrorist organisation in

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1992. The European Union listed the LTTE as a terrorist organisation on 17 May
2006. In 2006, the United Kingdom listed the LTTE as a proscribed terrorist group
under the 2000 Terrorism Act.56 The Canadian position regarding the LTTE and
its members is also clear. Canada has since 2006 listed the movement as a terrorist
group, and does not grant residency to LTTE members on the grounds that they
have participated in crimes against humanity.
Interestingly, Channel 4 did not once refer to the LTTE as a terrorist organisation
or that it was listed as one. They preferred the term army, disregarding the
material fact that the LTTE was first and foremost a terrorist organisation. While
not specifically mentioned in the programme, it is not unnatural to assume that a
viewer of the programme may well have thought of the British army when Channel
4 referred to the LTTE as an army. It is gross misrepresentation to infer that the
average LTTE terrorist is somehow on a par with a British soldier. This attempt on
the part of Channel 4 to engage in moral equivalence between the government and
the LTTE, while convenient and self-serving in advancing claims of war crimes,
was unprofessional. It goes without saying that the abovementioned acts by the LTTE
were not the acts of an army they were the actions of a brutal terrorist organisation
that had shown no inclination to genuinely negotiate any peaceful end to the conflict.
An editorial in The Ottawa Citizen puts Channel 4s hesitancy about describing the
LTTE as a terrorist movement in context:
Terrorism is a technical term. It describes a modus operandi, a tactic. We
side with security professionals who define terrorism as the deliberate
targeting of civilians in pursuit of a political goal. Those who bombed the
nightclub in Bali were terrorists. Suicide bombers who strap explosives to
their bodies and blow up people eating in a pizza parlour are terrorists.
The men and women who took a school full of hostages in Beslan,
Russia, and shot some of the children in the back as they tried to flee to
safety were terrorists. We as journalists do not violate our impartiality
by describing them as such. Ironically, it is supposedly neutral terms
like militant that betray a bias, insofar as they have a sanitising effect.
Activists for various political causes can be militant, but they dont take
children hostage.57
It is also clear that even though Channel 4 stated it was focusing on human rights
in the conflict zone in north-east Sri Lanka in the final months and weeks of the
war, and it did devote 49 seconds of time to LTTE abuses in the first programme,
the broadcaster and its programme makers studiously ignored ample and welldocumented evidence that the LTTE engaged in further acts of systematic terrorism,

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not least of which the shooting to death or wounding of thousands of Tamil civilians
attempting to leave areas controlled by the LTTE in the last months of the war.
That the LTTE were a terrorist organisation, mired in countless horrific acts of
terrorism, seemingly incapable of pursuing a negotiated solution to the conflict
even a generous one suggested by their then Indian mentors was a material fact
that should have been dealt with by Channel 4 in its two programmes because it
explains the determination of the Government of Sri Lanka to end the LTTEs
seemingly endless, ethnically-based terrorist war against the government and people
of Sri Lanka once and for all. It is one of several material facts that were disregarded
or omitted by Channel 4 in a way that was both unfair to the Government of Sri
Lanka and misleading to its viewers.
Any account of the Sri Lankan civil war, however brief, must examine the role
of propaganda within the conflict. In addition to the virtually insurmountable
difficulties in ascertaining simple facts about what happened in the last few weeks
and months of the conflict, it is also clear that claims about what happened were
permeated then as now with ruthless propaganda, disinformation and deception. This
external LTTE and pro-LTTE propaganda machine has continued to exist after the
total defeat of the organisation inside Sri Lanka in May 2009. This machine had a
reputation for efficiency. A western intelligence service has noted that [t]he LTTE
international propaganda war is conducted at an extremely sophisticated level.58 The
Economist certainly was very aware of the LTTEs propaganda expertise, describing
Prabhakaran as a practised...manipulator of international opinion59 and noting the
LTTEs skill at manipulating foreign opinion.60
The LTTE was very aware of the importance of the media and the power of the
moving image. The organisation produced six films and over fifty documentaries
about itself. Foreign broadcasters have produced around 20 films and documentaries
on the LTTE. One of the LTTEs specialist formations was its battlefield camera
section, the Nitharsanam Unit. This unit participated in all military operations,
documenting LTTE preparations for battle and then forming part of the first wave
of an organised LTTE attack. Two battlefield cameramen/women were attached to
each LTTE platoon. Over 150 Nitharsanam personnel were said to have been killed
or injured during the conflict. A Sri Lankan military website has stated that The
mission of the LTTE battlefield cameraman/woman is to recreate the truth based
on the lines of LTTE ideology. To make this possible, they reframe the conflict
over and over again...These messages are not just for the 400,000 Tamils living in
LTTE areas. They are intended primarily for the eyes and ears of the 500,000 Tamil
Diaspora living abroad and their sympathizers. The website concluded that For
a section of the western audience sympathetic to the LTTE, the footage of a small
rebel force routing an established military in some third world country may have

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its attractions. For an emotionally charged Tamil Diaspora that contributes between
60 to 100 million Dollars each year, LTTE propaganda is a huge incentive to empty
out their pockets.61
The LTTE propaganda machine was and continues to be firmly established
within the Tamil diaspora. Todays Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora came into being when
hundreds of thousands of Tamils fled to Europe, North America and Asia to escape
the civil war.62 It is estimated that the diaspora accounts for 23-30 per cent of the
Tamil population internationally ofapproximately 2.7 million.63 The diaspora was in
part the result of Tamils leaving Sri Lanka following the inter-communal violence in
1983. University Teachers for Human Rights co-founder Rajan Hoole points to the
LTTEs joint responsibility for the creation of the diaspora: [LTTE] negotiations
were purely tactical and insincere, leading to the organisation launching an indefinite
series of final wars whose only results were displacement, refugees, loss of habitable
territory and loss of population, the latter to both death and emigration. The diaspora
that resulted from this loss of population also served as the potent mafia arm of the
LTTE, able to maintain a phenomenal supply of weapons, thus bringing greater
misery to those at home.64 Gordon Weiss noted that the LTTE ran [a]n efficient
propaganda and political operation...in dozens of countries amongst the millionstrong Tamil diaspora.65 Other commentators observed that the LTTE was able to
flex its international muscle in:
[T]he development of propaganda and dissemination networks connecting
the main diaspora centers in London, Switzerland, Toronto, Paris and
Australia. This network has evolved sophisticated communications
technology and produces high-quality video, literature and print and
electronic journalism, sponsors front organizations to lobby western
governments to condemn Sinhalese chauvinism.66
The involvement of the Tamil diaspora has complicated, and continues to
complicate, a peaceful resolution of the Sri Lankan situation. The distinguished
professor of international relations Fred Halliday stated that one of the worlds
worst ideas was also that diasporas have a legitimate role to play in national and
international politics. He outlined the dangers that can be posed by diaspora
communities in his essay outlining the worlds twelve worst ideas:
The notion that emigrant or diaspora communities have a special
insight into the problems of their homeland, or a special moral or
political status in regard to them, is wholly unfounded. Emigrant
ethnic communities play almost always a negative, backward, at once

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hysterical and obstructive role in resolving the conflicts of their countries


of origin.67
Another distinguished scholar, Benedict Anderson, shares this perspective:
[T]odays long distance nationalism strikes one as a probably menacing
portent for the future...it creates a serious politics that is at the same time
radically unaccountable. The participant rarely pays taxes in the country
in which he does his politics: he is not answerable to its judicial system;
he probably does not cast even an absentee ballot in its elections because
he is a citizen in a different place; he need not fear prison, torture or
death, nor need his immediate family. But, well and safely positioned in
the First World, he can send money and guns, circulate propaganda, and
build intercontinental information circuits, all of which have incalculable
consequences in the zones of their ultimate destinations.68
Andersons arguments are echoed by scholars such as Paul Collier and his research
on diaspora contribution to civil war.69 This has been particularly applicable to the
Sri Lankan situation, as was made clear by David Gellner: It is well known that
the LTTE with its totalitarian ideology has continuously been a repressive force
in its diasporas various countries of residence, especially in the methods it uses to
gather funds for war.70 Weiss noted that: The closed nature of the international
Sri Lankan Tamil community provided carte blanche for the extension of Tiger
control, which was exerted through intimidation, blackmail, beatings, threats against
family members, both abroad and in Sri Lanka, and a number of killings. The Tigers
controlled the majority of Sri Lankan Hindu temples in the UK and Canada, which
became centres of command and extortion in the form of taxes.71 M. R. Narayan
Swamy, the noted Indian journalist, biographer of Prabakharan and authority on
the LTTE, has referred to the make-believe world of the Tamil diaspora.72 The
International Crisis Group has concluded that until it moves on from its separatist,
pro-LTTE ideology, the diaspora is unlikely to play a useful role supporting a just
and sustainable peace in Sri Lanka.73
The disjointed and hypocritical nature of elements of this diaspora was also
highlighted by the University Teachers for Human Rights which repeatedly pointed
out that while the Tamil diaspora had no hesitation in approving the LTTEs forced
recruitment of under-age children in Sri Lanka to swell its ranks it is very doubtful that
they would have ever allowed their own children to be conscripted in that manner.74
The LTTE had been able to generate an annual income believed to have been
between US$200-300 million during the conflict.75 Much of this income was from

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the Tamil diaspora and criminal activities. The external political and propaganda
section of the LTTE remained largely intact following the total defeat of military
wing. A declassified 2010 Canadian intelligence report has noted that the diaspora
remains politically active: In spite of the LTTEs military defeat, Tamils around the
world, generally, remain committed to the creation of an independent state, called
Tamil Eelam, providing financial and ideological support to this end.76
Selvarasa Pathmanathan, better known as KP, Prabhakarans successor as leader
of the LTTE, has confirmed that the focus of the rump LTTE is money: Money!
Everything is money now.77 He explained the clear relationship between diaspora
funding and propaganda: When I issued a statement about Prabhakaran being dead
they started opposing it saying the leader was alive. The opposition he referred to
came from one of the LTTEs last remaining leadership figures, Perinpanayagam
Sivaparan, also known by his nom de guerre Nediyavan: Nediyavan said that we
should never acknowledge Prabakharans death publicly because the movement would
not be able to collect money from the Diaspora after that. I then told him that we
cannot run a movement on lies and falsehoods. KP noted that During the last few
months of the war a massive special collection was conducted among the diaspora.
Not even a cent went to the war effort. That money is controlled by Nediyavan and
his cohorts. There are also numerous money-making concerns either run directly or
being financed by the LTTE. All this is big money. There is also an amount collected
on behalf of the TRO (Tamil Rehabilitation Organization). If Nediyavan and his
people are to retain control of this cash and businesses and also raise more funds
in the future they need to stage the drama that the armed struggle is not over and
Tamil Eelam is just there at the junction.78
To preserve its raison dtre and maintain its funding base within the diaspora
therefore, the external LTTE has a vested interest in keeping the propaganda war
against the government alive. And this is precisely what they have done in the
months and years since the end of the war. One of the worlds leading experts on
international terrorism, Professor Rohan Gunaratna, has warned of the danger still
posed by what remains of the LTTEs international network. He has noted: Today,
the strategy of the three LTTE factions is to revive the LTTE, organizationally. The
first phase of this strategy is propaganda.79 The LTTEs continuing propaganda
war is part and parcel of a process of making money from the diaspora. They have
systematically targeted western newspapers and television and radio stations with
pre-packaged exclusives alleging sensationalist abuses of human rights. Channel 4
has been the recipient of several such exclusives, some of which are the subject of
this study. It is possible that the programme makers were unable to offset, or were
simply unaware of, the dangers posed by this formidable propaganda machine.
An international authority on terrorism, Bruce Hoffman, stated that the LTTE

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began rapidly to awake to the power of electronic external communications and


the distinct advantages they offered over other, older propaganda vehicles...the
group established TamilNet.com in 1995, and its success has since spawned several
additional sites.80 In the first ten years of its existence, between 1997 2007,
TamilNet produced an estimated 21,000 reports.81 Weiss noted the activities of this
internet propaganda machine during the war in the Vanni: The only regular pictures
and reports came from the Tigers own propaganda units, such as the Internet-based
Tamilnet. Foreign news-wire journalists in Colombo learned to treat those reports
with...caution.82 He added that Tamilnet issued a vast array of new photographs and
video of civilians being subjected to bombing.83 One of these photographs, however,
clearly illustrated the cynical propagandistic nature of TamilNet. A photograph
was posted by TamilNet which appeared to be of a group of Tamil women civilians
distressed at an explosion in the background. It subsequently emerged that the
photograph was cropped from a larger photograph. The larger photograph showed
a LTTE propaganda team in the background taking photographs. The female LTTE
cadre with the camera to the right of the picture is either smiling or laughing and
her team-mates behind her are clearly also very at ease.84 This is not to say that
some of the photographs published by TamilNet were not of real casualties. This
photograph, however, was quite simply a staged LTTE propaganda exercise, which
served to undermine the credibility of many others. TamilNet has provided details of
what their personnel were equipped with for their propaganda work in the Vanni: a
Thuraya satellite phone, Internet connection through a BGAN unit, a professional
digital camera, an audio recorder and a laptop, provided by TamilNet.85
As early as 1991, UTHR was scathing about the dishonesty of the LTTEs overseas
propaganda machine:
[F]or a sizeable section of those abroad, it is a matter of fighting from
a distance a bizarre battle, according to the dictates of their warped
souls. They do not even want to know the consequences of what they
are advocating. When it comes to home, leading Tamil expatriates in
Western capitals practice rules of censorship which would have been an
embarrassment even in Jaffna...They have obfuscated the stories behind
several well known killings about which no one would attempt to fool
the Jaffna man...There is even an impressive network to co-ordinate the
spread of lies. An allegation against the Tigers would bring the typical
response, Tell us the source, so that we can deny it.86

Its dishonesty notwithstanding, the level of sophistication within the LTTEs


propaganda outreach was demonstrated early in 2012. Amnesty International Canada

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accepted a $50,000 donation from a LTTE-linked organisation, the Canadian Tamil


Congress itself a sub-division of the World Tamil Movement, a LTTE frontgroup. The LTTE was listed as a proscribed terrorist organisation by the Canadian
government in April 2006. A Canadian Federal Court judge stated that The [World
Tamil Movement] is a foreign branch for the LTTE in Canada that is structured
and operated as per the directives established by the LTTE.87 He also ruled the
[Canadian Tamil Congress] to be a sub-organization of the WTM.88 The World
Tamil Movements involvement with the LTTE was clear. In May 2010, a World
Tamil Movement fundraiser, Prapaharan Thambithurai, pleaded guilty in a Canadian
court to providing financial services knowingly benefiting a terrorist group, the LTTE.
He admitted that at least half of the money he raised went to the LTTE.89 The Sri
Lankan government strongly criticised Amnesty International for money from a
terrorist-linked organisation.90 Amnesty International very clearly failed to exercise
due diligence in accepting funds from the Canadian Tamil Congress. While there
have been claims that Channel 4 has in some way been bribed to make the claims
they have made regarding Sri Lanka, those assertions are clearly absurd. It is equally
clear, however, that Channel 4 failed to exercise due diligence both in accepting a
number of the claims put to them by the anti-Sri Lanka propaganda machine and
in accepting as putative witnesses people subsequently found to be very tainted.
The international community has also been closely involved in the Sri Lankan
conflict. This involvement has also been seen by many as negative. Professor Robert
Oberst, a long-time observer of the Sri Lankan war, has clearly stated that the
international community has artificially prolonged the conflict:
The interaction of the international community and the protagonists in
Sri Lanka has resulted in increased warfare and a prolongation of the war.91
This international interference manifested itself in several ways during various
phases of the conflict. It was the Indian government that first armed, trained,
harboured and financed Tamil militants in the early 1980s. As many as 20,000 Tamils
may have passed through its training camps.92 The Indian government subsequently
intervened in the Sri Lanka war in June 1987, airdropping 25 tons of food and
medicine by parachute into areas held by the LTTE, in a direct move of support for
the rebels. This was a time when the Sri Lankan army was very close to militarily
defeating the LTTE in the field. The Sri Lankan army suspended its operations.
Negotiations were held, and the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord was signed on 29
July 1987, by Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President J. R.
Jayewardene. The government made a number of concessions to Tamil demands,
including a devolution of power to the provinces, and official status for the Tamil

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language (enacted as the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka). The
Indians subsequently deployed the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in north-east
Sri Lanka to assist with demobilisation and re-establishing law and order. Despite
Indias previous support, the LTTE then turned on the Indian government, killing
more than twelve hundred Indian peacekeepers. It subsequently also assassinated
Rajiv Gandhi. The Economist observed that the LTTE seemed to have won a pretty
good deal. What went wrong?93 It also provided the answer: The Indians clearly
miscalculated. They thought they could convert the Tigers from terrorists into
politicians.94 The Indian intervention served New Delhi ill, but more importantly
served to keep the LTTE in the field and able to continue to wage war against the
Sri Lankan government.
Norways involvement in Sri Lanka also came to be seen as counter-productive.
While initially invited by both sides to become involved in efforts at mediation, the
Norwegian governments actions, however, soon came in for considerable criticism.
While Norway was party to the 2002 ceasefire agreement, Oslos relationship with
the LTTE gave the organisation a level of credibility it would otherwise not have
been accorded. The Norwegian governments own assessment of its involvement
in Sri Lanka noted: The insurgents benefited significantly from the truce and the
peace efforts.95 The report also admitted that its involvement may have had perverse
consequences:
External actors lack the influence and legitimacy to engineer change and
run the risk of generating unintended, perverse effects. This has been a
recurring story in Sri Lankan politics, with external initiatives whether
in the form of economic or political reforms, being constrained and
reshaped by domestic political processes, but in turn having unexpected
and profound effects on agents, structures and institutions within the
country.96
The Norwegian government report also admitted that Norways perceived
appeasement of the LTTE caused concern in the international and well as the
domestic sphere, particularly from India and the US. In the words of an Indian
diplomat: At the end of the day, perceptions count. And the perception was: they are
becoming apologists for the LTTE.97 In 2002, Norwegian diplomats and negotiators
were accused of assisting the LTTE in acquiring specialised communications and
broadcast equipment. Norway provided little by way of explanation. In December
2002, the University Teachers for Human Rights accused the Norwegians of turning
a blind eye to LTTE human rights abuses, including the organisations forcible
recruitment of children:

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For a country like Norway, which portrays itself as a front-runner in


human rights and child rights, legitimising repression in the interests
of making peace could cause enormous problems in the future. There
are grave implications for the entire region. One hopes that before it is
too late, Norway will see that the road to real peace lies in demanding
accountability from all the actors, especially the Sri Lankan state and the
LTTE, and not in strategic appeasement.98
There is no doubt that the Norwegian governments appeasement of the LTTE
politically bolstered the organisation and in so doing strengthened their intransigence.
While there is a chance that Norwegian interference in the Sri Lankan conflict
might be explained by sheer navet, the abject opportunism of other international
actors could not have been more clear. Sri Lankan cynicism about the motivations of
British politicians during the last months of the Sri Lankan conflict was subsequently
clearly vindicated. In December 2010, for example, The Guardian newspaper reported
that The diplomatic campaign by former foreign secretary David Miliband to
champion aid and human rights during the Sri Lankan humanitarian crisis last year
was largely driven by domestic political calculations, according to a Foreign Office
official.99
Tim Waite, the British Foreign Office team leader on Sri Lanka at the time,
explained Milibands intense focus on the plight of the countrys Tamils in terms
of UK electoral geography. A US diplomatic cable noted:
Waite said that much of [Her Majestys government] and ministerial
attention to Sri Lanka is due to the very vocal Tamil diaspora in the UK,
numbering over 300,000, who have been protesting in front of parliament
since 6 April [2009]. He said that with UK elections on the horizon and
many Tamils living in Labour constituencies with slim majorities, the
government is paying particular attention to Sri Lanka, with Miliband
recently remarking to Waite that he was spending 60% of his time at the
moment on Sri Lanka.100
The comments quoted in the US cable were made in the last weeks of the war.
Miliband had just visited Sri Lanka with his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner,
on 29 April 2009. They met with the Sri Lankan president. President Rajapaksa
was blunt in his response: The government is not ready to enter into any kind of
ceasefire. It is my duty to protect the people of this country. I dont need lectures from
Western representatives.101 Two days later Miliband told parliament that his visit had
been to highlight the need to bring the conflict to an end in a way that minimises

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further civilian casualties; to press the case for the humanitarian relief effort to be
ratcheted up, as the UN and EU have been calling for; and to make clear the need
for a long-term political settlement that meets the aspirations of all communities
in Sri Lanka.102 His visit had actually been to secure expatriate Tamil votes for the
Labour party in Britain. Weiss describes the skewed nature of the protests to which
Miliband responded so enthusiastically: the Tamil diaspora had mounted dramatic
and overtly political protests, which...avoided mention of the devastation wrought
on civilians by the Tigers own brutality.103 Nirmala Rajasingam, a Sri Lankan Tamil
activist associated with the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum, also exposed the cynical
nature of the orchestrated protests: The Tiger lobby...has paid scant attention to the
atrocities committed by the LTTE against the very people it claims to lead. Instead
it has used the plight of the trapped civilians to organise around a single cause, the
survival of the LTTE leadership.104
It is worth restating the Miliband situation. Sri Lanka had experienced 30 years
of relentless, savage terrorism in which up to 80,000 people may have died. The
LTTE showed no inclination whatsoever to genuinely negotiate a political settlement,
violating an internationally-brokered ceasefire agreement more than 10,000 times.
When it seemed that the government was about to end the terrorist war once and
for all, David Miliband insisted on coming to Sri Lanka and demanding that the
sovereign Government of Sri Lanka should end the war, that it should accept yet
another ceasefire and that it should let the terrorist leadership go free.105 Miliband
explained to the Sri Lankan government that his concern was a humanitarian one.
The reality was that Milibands motivation was crassly political. He wanted Sri
Lanka to postpone an end to its war, and let Sri Lankas next generation inherit its
horror, because he wanted to obtain Tamil votes for the Labour party in British
constituencies in the general election that was then soon to take place in the United
Kingdom. The Sri Lankan journalist and historian of the Sri Lankan war, C. A.
Chandraprema, summed up the arrogance at the heart of Milibands demands:
The very notion that a sovereign nation combating the worlds deadliest terrorist
organization should halt the war so that the British Labour party could win elections,
was absolutely preposterous.106
The arrogance of western countries was also revealed by KP, who was the LTTEs
foreign coordinator in the last months of the war. He confirmed the existence of a
unilateral plan by the international community in effect to rescue between 25 to
50 of the LTTEs top leaders with their families and remove them from the Vanni
battlefield. Amazingly, the Government of Sri Lanka was not told about the plan:
I had a tentative plan with international endorsement. The LTTE was to
lay down arms by hoarding them in specific locations. The words used

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were lock-off . That is arms particularly heavy weapons were to be locked


off in specific places. They were to be handed over to representatives of
the UN. Afterwards there was to be a cessation of hostilities in which the
people were to be kept in specific no firing zones. Negotiations were to
be conducted between the Govt and LTTE with Norwegian facilitation.
Tentatively about 25 to 50 top leaders with their families were to be
transported to a foreign country if necessary. The middle level leaders
and cadres were to be detained, charged in courts and given relatively
minor sentences. The low level junior cadres were to be given a general
amnesty. The scheme was to endorsed by the west including Norway, EU
and the USA. The Americans were ready to send their naval fleet in to
do evacuation if necessary...I dont think there was any official intimation
[of the plan] to Colombo.107
The plan did not go ahead because the LTTE leader Prabhakaran would not
accept certain parts of the arrangements.
Chandraprema dates foreign intervention in the countrys internal affairs back
to the 1950s:
There was always an international dimension to the conflict in Sri Lanka.
In the 1950s, the initial inspiration for the political conflict that sparked
off the war in Sri Lanka, came from Dravidian/Tamil separatist politics in
South India. The shift from politics to terrorism was a local development,
but without the help of the Indian central government, it would not have
escalated to the level where it posed a threat to the Sri Lankan state. After
India lost control of things in 1990 and stepped aside, the Western powers
began playing a role in the Sri Lankan conflict.108
And from 2009 onwards, Channel 4 appears to have taken it upon itself to
follow in the footsteps of decades of flawed international interventionism with
unintended and perverse effects that were all too predictable. In making a range
of serious allegations, based on questionable material and partisan and unnamed
and unidentifiable witnesses, possibly presented to them by a very sophisticated
propaganda machine, Channel 4 has served to artificially keep the Sri Lankan
conflict alive. This in turn entrenches intransigence on the part of remnants of
the LTTE, the Tamil diaspora and domestically amongst elements of the Tamil
political establishment. The dangers of this have been made clear by M. R.
Narayan Swamy:

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[T]he more the Tamil diaspora keeps alive the shadow of the LTTE, the
more difficult will life become for the mass of Tamils in Sri Lanka. The
pro-LTTE diasporas persistent aggression can only further militarize Sri
Lanka and legitimize Sinhalese hardliners.109
Channel 4s institutional autism, built into very questionable allegations, has
made a lasting political solution for all Sri Lankans that much more difficult.

Notes
19

20
21

22

23
24

Robert C. Oberst, The Impact of International Diffusion on the Escalation of the


Sri Lankan Conflict, in Steven Lobell and Phillip Mauceri (Editors), Ethnic Conflict
and International Politics: Explaining Diffusion and Escalation, Palgrave Macmillan,
2004. Oberst is Professor of Political Science at Nebraska Wesleyan University, and
the author of many books and journal articles on Sri Lanka and South Asia.
No end in sight to Sri Lanka conflict, BBC News, 21 February 2007, available at
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/6382787.stm>.
For the governments history of the final phase of the war, see Humanitarian Operation
Factual Analysis July 2006-May 2009, Ministry of Defence, Democratic Socialist
Republic of Sri Lanka, Colombo, July 2011, available at <http://www.defence.lk/
news/20110801_Conf.pdf>.
For more background see, for example, James Jupp, Sri Lanka, Third World Democracy,
Frank Cass, London, 1978; C.A. Chandraprema, Gotas War. The Crushing of Tamil
Tiger Terrorism in Sri Lanka, Ranjan Wijeratne Foundation, Colombo, 2012; Cyril
Ranatunga, From Peace to War, Insurgency to Terrorism, Vijitha Yapa Press, Colombo,
2009; Nitin A. Gokhale, Sri Lanka: From War to Peace, Har-Anand Publications, New
Delhi, 2009; Edgar OBallance, The Cyanide War: Tamil Insurrection in Sri Lanka
1973-88, Brasseys, London, 1989; M. R. Narayan Swamys Tigers of Lanka: From
Boys to Guerrillas, Konark, New Delhi, 1994 and Inside an Elusive Mind, Konark,
New Delhi, 2003; R. Tiranagama, and others, The Broken Palmyra: The Tamil Crisis
in Sri Lanka, An Inside Account, The Sri Lanka Studies Institute, California, 1990;
Dayan Jayatilleka, Sri Lanka. The Travails of a Democracy: Unfinished War, Protracted
Crisis, Vikas, New Delhi, 1995; and Rajesh Kadian, Indias Sri Lanka Fiasco: Peace
Keepers at War, Vision Books, New Delhi, 1990.
S. J. Stedman, International Actors and Internal Conflicts, Project on World Security,
Rockefeller Brothers Fund, 1999, p. 16.
See, for example, Sri Lankas unwinnable war, BBC News, 10 November 1999 ,
available at <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/special_report/1998/sri_lanka/183765.stm>;
Sri Lanka: An unwinnable war?, BBC News, 27 April 2000, available at <http://news.
bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/620631.stm>; Sri Lankas unwinnable war, The

23

corrupted journalism

Daily Telegraph (London), 27 February 2007, available at <http://blogs.telegraph.


co.uk/news/peterfoster/3628951/Sri_Lankas_unwinnable_war/>; and Tony
Blair Told Mahinda The war is unwinnable, Lankanewspapers.com, 11 June
2007, available at <http://www.lankanewspapers.com/news/2007/6/15788_space.
html>.
25 Sri Lankas population is made up as follows: Sinhalese 73.8%, Sri Lankan Moors
7.2%, Indian Tamil 4.6%, Sri Lankan Tamil 3.9%, other 0.5%, unspecified 10%.
This is based on 2001 census provisional data. See, for example, Sri Lanka, The
World Factbook, Office of Public Affairs, Central Intelligence Agency, WashingtonDC, available at <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/
ce.html>, page last updated on 24 May 2012.
26 See Ram Manikkalingam, Tigerism and Other Essays, Ethnic Studies Group, Colombo,
1995, p. 5.
27 Weiss, op. cit., p. 85.
28 What the presidents re-election means for his sorely divided country, The Economist,
28 January 2010, available at <http://www.economist.com/node/15393468>.
29 Christopher Hitchens, Sri Lanka shows that insurgencies dont always have
history on their side, Slate, 25 May 2009, available at <http://www.slate.com/
articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/2009/05/the_end_of_the_tamil_
tigers.html>.
30 Walter Laqueur, The New Terrorism, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001, p. 195.
31 The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission was established on 22 February 2002 under the
terms of the ceasefire agreement signed by the Government of Sri Lanka and the
LTTE to monitor the ceasefire and investigate reported violations of the ceasefire
agreement. Following the end of the ceasefire agreement, the SLMM ended its mission
in mid-January 2008.
32 Funding the Final War. LTTE Intimidation and Extortion in the Tamil Diaspora,
Human Rights Watch, New York, 2006, p. 8, available at <http://www.hrw.org/sites/
default/files/reports/ltte0306webwcover.pdf>.
33 Ibid. See, also, Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, Summary of Recorded Complaints and
Violations from All Districts, available at <http://www.slmm.lk/OperationsMatter/
complaints/Accumulated.pdf, (retrieved 29 January 2006).
34 Weiss, op. cit., p. 90.
35 Ibid., p . 91.
36 Ibid., p. 94.
37 These figures were cited by President Rajapaksa in his speech at the opening of
Parliament on 19 May 2009 on the occasion of the defeat of LTTE, Presidents
speech to Parliament on the defeat of LTTE, South Asian Terrorism Portal, available
at <http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/shrilanka/document/papers/president_
speech_parliament_defeatofLTTE.htm>.
38 Claire Magone, Michael Neuman and Fabrice Weissman (Editors), Humanitarian
Negotiations Revealed: The MSF Experience, C. Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd, London,
2011, pp. 16-17.
39 Dark victory, The Economist, 23 April 2009, available at <http://www.economist.
com/node/13527366>.

24

the conflict

40
41
42
43

44

Government takes policy decision to abrogate failed CFA, Ministry of Defence,


Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Colombo, 2 January 2008, available at
<http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20080102_12>.
Robert D. Kaplan, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power,
Random House, 2011, p. 203.
This was an estimate by Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga, cited in M.
R. Narayan Swamy, The Tiger Vanquished. LTTEs Story, Sage, New Delhi, 2010, note
7, lxiv.
See, for example, these calls published through the LTTEs propaganda website:
Only international-sponsored ceasefire can lead to the end of conflict
LTTE, TamilNet, 30 January 2009, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/
art.html?catid=13&artid=28209>; Ceasefire, solution first; laying down arms
irrelevant: LTTE appeals to Co-chairs, UN, TamilNet, 23 February 2009, available
at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=28503>; Sri Lankas Tamil
Tigers say ready for ceasefire, Agence France-Presse, 23 February 2009; LTTE
urges international community to effect ceasefire, Indo Asian News Service, 23
February 2009; Apply adequate pressure on Sri Lanka for ceasefire and negotiations:
LTTE, Tamil Eelam News, 31 March 2009; LTTE reiterates need for permanent
ceasefire, TamilNet, 13 April 2009, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.
html?catid=13&artid=29035>; LTTE calls for permanent ceasefire, Dawn
(Islamabad), 14 April 2009; LTTE envisages ceasefire, political solution ending
armed conflict, TamilNet, 17 April 2009, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/
art.html?catid=13&artid=29072>; LTTE envisages ceasefire, political solution
ending armed conflict, CNNiReport, 17 April 2009, available at <http://ireport.
cnn.com/docs/DOC-245678>; LTTE welcomes US initiative, asks Sri Lanka to
listen to IC, TamilNet, 20 April 2009, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.
html?catid=13&artid=29101>; 165,000 civilians face imminent starvation, LTTE
urges IC to act, TamilNet, 24 April 2009; Sri Lanka Tigers say civilian starvation
imminent, Agence France-Presse, 25 April 2009; LTTE announces unilateral
ceasefire, TamilNet, 26 April 2009, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.
html?catid=13&artid=29178>; Cornered LTTE wants ceasefire, Lankarefuses,
Hindustan Times, 26 April 2009; LTTE urges UK, French Foreign ministers to
continue initiatives, TamilNet, 2 May 2009, available at <http://www.tamilnet.
com/art.html?catid=13&artid=29247>; Sri Lanka rebels ask British, French
to arrange truce, Agence France-Presse, 3 May 2009; Pathmanathan calls for
urgent international intervention, TamilNet, Monday, 11 May 2009 (Selvaraja
Pathmanathan was the LTTE spokesman for foreign affairs); LTTE urges IC to save
civilians in the name of humanity, SLA attacks kill 1700 in 48 hours, TamilNet, 14
May 2009, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=29360>;
Pathmanathan urges immediate action by IC to protect Tamil civilians, TamilNet,
15 May 2009.
The Economist has referred to the LTTE as a suicide cult: See, A war strange as
fiction, The Economist, 7 June 2007, available at <http://www.economist.com/
node/9299003>. LTTE recruits on graduation were issued with a cyanide tablet
to take if the fighter might be captured. Suicide bombers were another feature of

25

corrupted journalism

45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63

the LTTEs culture of death. See, for example, Female Tamil Tiger bomber kills
28 after hiding among civilians fleeing war, The Times, 10 February 2009: All
their fighters in the field wear cyanide capsules around their necks to be taken in
case of capture, available at <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/
article5692956.ece>.
Sri Lanka: A Bitter Peace, Asia Briefing No. 99, International Crisis Group, 11
January 2010.
Weiss, op. cit., xxiv.
Ibid., p. 2.
Ibid., p. 80.
Ibid., pp. 80-81. The Pettah is an open air market area in Colombo.
Ibid., p. 81.
Ibid., p. 299.
Ibid., xxii.
Truth and consequences. Nationalistic fury is good for the government, terrible for
Sri Lanka, The Economist, 28 April 2011, available at <http://www.economist.com/
node/18620572?fsrc=nwl%7Cwwp%7C04-28-11%7Cpolitics_this_week>.
Gordon Weiss, Tiger Blood, Foreign Policy, 26 April 2011, available at <http://
www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/04/26/tiger_blood>.
Taming the Tamil Tigers, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice,
Washington-DC, 2008, available at http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2008/january/
tamil_tigers011008.
See, Blackstones Counter-Terrorism Handbook, Oxford University Press, 2009.
Calling Terrorism by Its Real Name, The Ottawa Citizen, 18 September 2004.
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelams (LTTE) International Organization and Operations
A Preliminary Analysis, Commentary No. 77, Canadian Security Intelligence Service,
Ottawa, 1999, available at <http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/docs/com77e.htm>.
Sri Lankas war. Out of the Tigers cage, The Economist, 8 April 2009, available at
<http://www.economist.com/node/13446894>.
Dark victory, The Economist, 23 April 2009, available at <http://www.economist.
com/node/13527366>.
LTTE Propaganda: The Nitharsanam Unit, The Eight Man Team, 31 March
2008, available at <http://lrrp.wordpress.com/2008/03/31/ltte-propaganda-thenitharsanam-unit/>.
Christine Fair, Diaspora Involvement in Insurgencies: Insights from the Khalistan
and Tamil Eelam Movements, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics Vol. 11, No. 1, Spring
2005.
These are some estimates for Sri Lankan Tamils internationally: Canada (200,000300,000), Great Britain (180,000), Germany (60,000), Australia (40,000),
Switzerland (47,000), France (40,000-50,000), the Netherlands (20,000), the U.S.
(25,000), Italy (15,000), Malaysia (20,000), Norway (10,000), Denmark (7,000),
New Zealand (3,000) and Sweden (2,000). There are also Tamil communities in South
Africa, the Gulf States, and in several South East Asian countries. See, International
Crisis Group, The Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora after the LTTE, Asia Report No. 186,
23 February 2010.

26

the conflict

64
65
66

67

68

69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77

Rajan Hoole, A people on the run, Himal Southasian, February2009, available at


<http://www.himalmag.com/component/content/article/428-a-people-on-the-run.
html>.
Weiss, op. cit., p. 9.
Brendan ODuffy, LTTE: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, in Marianne Heiberg,
John Tirman and Brendan OLeary (Editors), Terror, Insurgency, and the State:
Ending Protracted Conflicts, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007, p. 273. See,
also, Maya Ranganathan, Eelam Online: The Tamil Diaspora and War in Sri Lanka,
Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2010, and Rohan Gunaratna.
Internationalisation of the Tamil Conflict and its Implications, South Asia20,
(Special Issue, 1997), pp. 119151.
Fred Halliday, Political Journeys: The openDemocracy Essays, Saqi, London, 2011, p.
262, and A 2007 warning: the worlds twelve worst ideas, openDemocracy, 8 January
2007, available at <http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization/worst_ideas_4228.
jsp>. Fred Halliday (1946-2010) was from 1985-2008 professor of international
relations, and subsequently professor emeritus, at the London School of Economics.
Fred Hallidays many books include Shocked and Awed: How the War on Terror and
Jihad Have Changed the English Language, IB Tauris, 2010; 100 Myths about the Middle
East, Saqi, London, 2005; The Middle East in International Relations: Power, Politics
and Ideology, Cambridge University Press, 2005; Two Hours That Shook the World:
September 11, 2001 - Causes and Consequences, Saqi, London, 2001; and Revolutions
and World Politics: The Rise and Fall of the Sixth Great Power, Palgrave Macmillan,
1999.
Benedict Anderson, Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, South East Asia and the
World, Verso, London, 1998. Anderson is the author of one of the most important
concepts in political geography, that of nations being imagined communities. He is
a Guggenheim Fellow and member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
See, for example, Paul Collier and Nicholas Sambanis (Editors), Understanding Civil
Wars: Evidence and Analysis: Europe, Central Asia, and Other Regions, Vol. 2, The World
Bank, 2005.
David Gellner, Ethnic Activism and Civil Society in South Asia, Sage Publications,
New Delhi, 2009, p. 87.
Weiss, op. cit., p. 89.
M. R. Narayan Swamy, The Tiger Vanquished. LTTEs Story, Sage, New Delhi, 2010,
xxiii.
International Crisis Group, The Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora after the LTTE, Asia
Report No. 186, 23 February 2010.
See, The Tiger Vanquished, note 42, lxiv.
John Solomon and B. C. Tan, Feeding the Tiger: How Sri Lankan insurgents fund
their war, Janes Intelligence Review, l August 2007, available at <http://www.c-cft.
org/publication/pdf/FeedingtheTiger.pdf>.
Tamil Canadians in prison for arming rebels renounceviolence, National Post, 7
October 2011, available at <http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/10/07/bell/>.
Pathmanathan was subsequently arrested in Malaysia and extradited to Sri Lanka.
For details of his extradition, see D. B. S. Jeyaraj, Operation KP: Extraordinary

27

corrupted journalism

78
79

80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87

88
89
90
91
92
93
94
95

rendition of New Tiger Chief , dbsjeyaraj.com, 7 August 2009, available at <http://


dbsjeyaraj.com>.
D.B.S. Jeyaraj, How Prabhakaran met his death: KP speaks out 3, 20 August
2010, available at <http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/1651>.
Rohan Gunaratna, LTTE international presents an enduring threat, Lakbimanews,
29 July 2012, available at <http://www.lakbimanews.lk/index.php?option=com_co
ntent&view=article&id=2028%3Altte-international-presents-an-enduringthreat&Itemid=56>. See, also, Dismantling LTTE international network vital
- Prof. Rohan Gunaratna, Sunday Observer (Colombo), 25 October 2009; and
Rohan Gunaratna, Defeating the LTTE on Foreign Soil, Youngasia.tv, 26
December 2011, available at <http://youngasia.tv/connections/defeating-the-ltteon-foreign-soil/>.
Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, Columbia University Press, 1999, pp. 204-5.
Kasun Ubayasiri, Tamilnet and the International press: Global coverage of a radical
press, Central Queensland University, n.d., available at <http://ejournalist.com.au/
v6n1/ubayasiri621.pdf>.
Weiss, op. cit., p. 97.
Ibid, p. 143.
See, for example, Tamil Tiger Propaganda Photos Becomes Channel 4 Fact, Lanka
Web, 16 July 2011, available at <http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2011/07/16/
tamil-tiger-propaganda-photos-becomes-channel-4-fact/>.
TamilNet wartime correspondent from Vanni reaches a free country, TamilNet, 4
November 2010.
The Politics of Destruction & the Human Tragedy, Report No. 6, 4 February 1991,
University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), available at <http://www.uthr.org/
Reports/Report6/chapter2.htm>.
In the Matter of an Application under rules 300 and 301 of the Federal Courts Rules and
paragraph 83.1 (1) (a) of the Criminal Code for a forfeiture order between: Her Majesty
the Queen, Applicant, and the World Tamil Movement of Quebec, Respondent, para. 468,
p. 175, Federal Court, Ontario, Docket: T-207-09, 30 December 2010, available at
<http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/01/21/documents-courts-seize-assets-from-theworld-tamil-movement/>.
Ibid.
Court documents: Canadas first terror financingtrial, National Post, 14 May 2010.
LTTE front funds Amnesty International, Sunday Observer (Colombo), 4 March
2012, available at <http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2012/03/04/fea05.asp>.
Oberst, The Impact of International Diffusion on the Escalation of the Sri Lankan
Conflict, op. cit.
Peter Harclerode, Secret Soldiers. Special Forces in the War against Terrorism, Cassell &
Co., London, 2000, p. 162.
Requiem for the Tigers, The Economist, 17 October 1987, available at <http://www.
economist.com/node/13008128>.
Ibid.
Pawns of Peace. Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka, 1997-2009, Report
5/2011 Evaluation, Chr. Michelsen Institute/School of Oriental and African Studies,

28

the conflict

University of London, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Oslo,


September 2011, p. 139.
96 Ibid., p. 126.
97 Ibid., p. 86.
98 The Cost of Peace and the Dividends of Terror: Sri Lankas Nordic Winter?, University
Teachers for Human Rights, Information Bulletin No. 30, UTHR. 2002, available
at <http://www.uthr.org/bulletins/summarybul30.htm>.
99 Wikileaks cables: David Miliband focused on Sri Lankan war to win votes.
Official said minister was reacting to diaspora in UK. Tamils could have had
effect in marginal seats, The Guardian, 1 December 2010, available at <http://
www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/01/wikileaks-david-miliband-sri-lanka>.
See also, WikiLeaks: David Miliband championed aid to Sri Lanka to win
votes of Tamils in UK. David Miliband championed aid to Sri Lanka during last
years humanitarian crisis to win the support of expatriate Tamils living in key
Labour marginal seats, one of his own Foreign Office staff claimed, The Daily
Telegraph, 2 Dec 2010, available at <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/
wikileaks/8175415/WikiLeaks-David-Miliband-championed-aid-to-Sri-Lankato-win-votes-of-Tamils-in-UK.html>, and David Miliband called for Sri Lanka
aid to win votes, The Independent, 2 December 2010, available at <http://www.
independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/david-miliband-called-for-sri-lanka-aid-towin-votes-2148823.html>.
100 Ibid.
101 Tamils fear retribution as war reaches its climax. LTTE will still operate despite
military defeat, The Independent (London), 1 May 2009.
102 Wikileaks cables: David Miliband focused on Sri Lankan war to win votes. Official
said minister was reacting to diaspora in UK. Tamils could have had effect in marginal
seats, op. cit.
103 Weiss, op. cit.
104 Nirmala Rajasingam, The Sri Lankan government has won let it stop fighting,
The Independent, 24 April 2009.
105 See, for example, Miliband urges Sri Lanka to call truce with Tamil Tigers, The
Guardian, 29 April 2009, available at <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/
apr/29/miliband-sri-lanka-tamil-tigers>.
106 Gotas War, op. cit., p. 468.
107 D. B. S. Jeyaraj, KP speaks out An interview with the former LTTE chief ,
dbsjeyaraj.com, 13 August 2010, available at <http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/
archives/1631>.
108 Gotas War, op. cit., p. 9.
109 M. R. Narayan Swamy, The Tiger Vanquished. LTTEs Story, Sage, New Delhi, 2010,
p. 185.

29

corrupted journalism

C hapter T wo

The Allegations
A mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or
perverted: a court characterized by irresponsible, unauthorized, or irregular
status or procedures: judgment or punishment given outside of legal procedure.
Definition of a kangaroo court 110

Channel 4s programmes made a number of very serious allegations about the


last few months of the war in Sri Lanka. In the first programme, screened in June
2011, Jon Snow, the Channels senior news presenter, claimed that it was a forensic
investigation into the final weeks of the quarter-century-long civil war.111 Channel
4 claimed that the government was responsible for the deliberate, targeted shelling
of civilians, extra-judicial executions of prisoners and the apparent sexual assault
and murder of female Tamil fighters. These allegations were said to be supported by
devastating new video evidence of war crimes some of the most horrific footage
Channel 4 has ever broadcast.112 Channel 4 also claimed that the government was
responsible all told for the deaths of as many as 40,000 civilians towards the end
of the war.
Snow went so far as to claim of the first programme that [o]nce or twice in a
reporting lifetime, a journalist is allowed by events to participate in a project that
can affect history. The film...is a painful and complex team achievement...which...
pieced together an account of what happened in the closing weeks of Sri Lankas
civil war. He claimed that the government had been responsible for a number of
war crimes and the programme presented evidence required to convict. There is
of course a name for those courts in which one person is the accuser, judge and jury:
a kangaroo court. Channel 4s programme was the journalist equivalent of such a
court. What subsequently unfolded was a classic case of trial by media.113
On 15 March 2012, Channel 4 broadcast Sri Lankas Killing Fields: War Crimes
Unpunished, presented as a follow-up to the first programme. This programme

30

the allegations

repeated several claims made in the previous broadcast. The content of this subsequent
programme was summed up by Channel 4:
The film forensically examines four specific cases and investigates who
was responsible. The four cases include: the deliberate heavy shelling of
civilians and a hospital in the No Fire Zone; the strategic denial of food
and medicine to hundreds and thousands of trapped civilians defying
the legal obligation to allow humanitarian aid into a war zone; the killing
of civilians during the rescue mission; and the systematic execution of
naked and bound LTTE prisoners featuring new chilling video footage
of a 12-year-old boy who has been brutally executed. This painstaking
investigation traces ultimate responsibility up to the highest echelons of
the chain of command, asking questions of both President Rajapaska and
his brother, the Defence Secretary.114
The second programme accused several individuals of involvement in these war
crimes, namely the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Permanent
Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and two Sri Lankan army
officers, Major General Prasanna de Silva, the then commander of the armys 55
Division, and then military attach at Sri Lankas high commission in London, and
Major General Shavendra Silva, the then commander of the armys 58 Division, and
subsequently with the Sri Lankan mission to the United Nations. The broadcaster
and programme makers general inattention to detail is shown in their inability to
even correctly identify the Sri Lankan Minister of Defence.
Despite what was claimed by Channel 4, its programmes were very far from
being a painstaking investigation. Any genuine forensic examination of such
alleged crimes would have been far more rigorous than that presented in either of
the two programmes.
Channel 4s main witness in the first programme, presented as independent, was
subsequently revealed to have been a LTTE member during the period in question.
Channel 4s first programme also carried claims made by yet another unidentified
witness that a group of women and girls were raped and then taken away, with the
implication that they were then killed: the witness, who claimed that she and her
daughter were part of that group, does not explain why they were not similarly
taken away. Channel 4 also presents another unidentified witness who claimed to
have a portfolio of photographs of dead LTTE leaders taken on a senior officers
camera. He does not show them. Key figures presented by Channel 4 regarding
the numbers of casualties, for example, have margins of error of several hundred
percent.

31

corrupted journalism

Channel 4 also levelled two other allegations against government forces. The
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) would visit medical locations
within the Vanni war zone and pass on GPS coordinates to both sides in order to
prevent accidental attacks on medical points. The witness Channel 4 presented,
Vany Kumar, claimed that the government would then use the ICRC coordinates
for hospitals to target the buildings. Kumar claimed that the doctors present in these
medical points subsequently asked the ICRC not to pass on the coordinates. One of
the doctors cited, Dr Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, one of the doctors who had
accompanied the civilian population into the Vanni following its displacement by the
LTTE, categorically denied Kumars GPS claims. He said that he was responsible for
coordinating with the ICRC for the Vallipuram, Mullivaikkal West, Mullivaikkal East
and Vellamullivaikkal hospitals and not a single doctor in charge in those hospitals
made any such request.115 Channel 4 News also alleged that the government would
fire one shell and then wait ten minutes to fire another one in order to kill or injure
anyone aiding those hit by the first shell. Channel 4 claimed that To terrified civilians
it seemed government forces were determined to maximise casualties. These claims
couldnt even persuade a British television reviewer, let alone any potential court or
jury. The British newspaper The Independent noted that: Nothing you saw in the
first half of the programme could conclusively prove [the GPS] charge, or confirm
the belief that the Sri Lankans would pause after one shell and then fire another to
kill the rescuers.116 The claims did, however, make for a sensationalist programme.
Channel 4s claims about a forensic, legal, approach and evidence ring very
hollow. It was bad journalism, let alone law. As this study will show, the reality is that
Sri Lankas Killing Fields and Sri Lankas Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished
were two of the worst examples of knee-jerk tabloid journalism to be screened on
British television. They demonstrated an appalling lapse in journalistic standards and
while Jon Snow and his colleagues may wish to believe their programmes provided
evidence required to convict, they clearly also make very poor lawyers. It might
suffice for a back-slapping journalistic kangaroo court, but, in any court of law, the
case presented by Channel 4, deeply questionable where not simply untrue, would
be thrown out within a matter of minutes.
The programmes got off to a bad start. The basis of any evidence is simple
facts: Channel 4s programmes presented very little evidence and very few facts.
That Channel 4 presented only half of a picture, and a distorted one at that, in its
two programmes is demonstrated in microcosm by its coverage of the September
2008 demonstration in Kilinochchi, presented by Channel 4 at the start of its
first programme as a pivotal and spontaneous event. That month, as its offensive
progressed, the government issued a statement noting that they were unable to
guarantee the safety of UN staff inside LTTE-controlled territory.117 The UN

32

the allegations

decided to evacuate its staff from Kilinochchi as the front-line moved north. Channel
4 dwelt on the demonstration in some depth, claiming that news that the UNs
international staff were leaving spread quickly and crowds of frightened Tamil civilians
besieged the UN base. Channel 4 also spent considerable time showing footage
of the demonstrators on 15 September 2008. Channel 4 interviewed a somewhat
impressionable western UN official present at the demonstration: They were really
pleading with us as the UN, as the international community, please dont leave. I
just remember it was a very vivid image of these tens of hands coming through the
gate and pleading with us not to go, so I ran my camera along the line of people
and there was one girl at the end...she wasnt shouting and she wasnt chanting she
was still but she had just real sadness in her face. I was quite emotional at that point
as well and her face just really captured this, have compassion, stay and watch. On
cue, the UN official welled up with tears, declaring that For me that was personally
the worst moment of my life. He then went on to observe: This Brahmin who has
talking to me he just really just laid it on the line. We dont care about our shelter and
food and water. We will take care of ourselves. We just need international eyes on
the ground to see whats happening here. That was certainly the message the LTTE
wished to hear conveyed to the outside world. The demonstration made for great
television and Channel 4 could not have been more helpful, reporting the event as
a spontaneous manifestation of Tamil civilian concern, draping it with sentimental
emotionalism and concluding with regard to the demonstration: [the] pleas fell on
deaf ears at the UN.
Reported by Channel 4 as a spontaneous event, the reality could not have been
more different. The whole affair was carefully stage-managed by the LTTE.
Had they reported on a government-orchestrated demonstration in Gaddafis
Libya, or in Assads Syria, or a BNP-staged event, Channel 4 News and most
if not all other western media channels would have made it very clear that the
demonstration had not been spontaneous but had in fact been premeditated. In the
Kilinochchi instance Channel 4 reported the demonstration as spontaneous. It was
either unaware of the fact that it was stage-managed or it chose not to mention it.
Either way, it reflects badly on Channel 4s professionalism. Still Counting the Dead:
Survivors of Sri Lankas Hidden War , an anti-government book written by the LTTEfriendly journalist Frances Harrison, provides independent evidence that Channel 4
was taken in.118 She describes exactly the same event covered by Channel 4: Tamil
women in faded frocks and flip-flops and worn-out men in blue and white checked
sarongs had suddenly appeared outside the UN compound, blocking the way.
She states that a UN worker saw first scores of disembodied brown hands poking
through a gap three-quarters of the way up the big, white metal gate. Dont go! they
shouted, holding up home-made cardboard placards on which theyd written the

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same message in English, for the benefit of the foreigners...There were many familiar
faces in the crowd that sat on the road to prevent the UN lorries driving out. Mrs
Javan, whose husband ran the rebel radio station, was there that day.
Harrison, however, reveals that it was obvious the rebels had instigated the
demonstration to force the UN to postpone its departure. The reason soon became clear...
She states that that evening a long line of rebel artillery guns and armoured vehicles
thundered out of town. It was a tactical withdrawal, using the UN presence as cover.
The Tigers were pulling out all their heavy weaponry; when theyd finished, the protests
outside the UN office stopped as if by magic and the aid workers were free to go...the rebels
wouldnt think twice about using UN personnel as a human shield. 119 (Emphasis added.)
The Sri Lanka government had correctly pointed out that this event was stagemanaged by the LTTE. It cited Thangarasa, the head of the Kilinochchi Laundrymen
Association, who stated that workers were told to attend the demonstration: All the
associations were run by the LTTE and we had to do whatever we were instructed by
the LTTE. If we do not obey we will have to stop doing our business. Sinnathurai,
the head of the Barbers Association, stated that when LTTE officials said come to a
protest we have to do so, whether we like it or not.120 Even Weiss admits that the
event was spurred on by the Tiger authorities.121 Channel 4s supposedly seasoned
investigative journalists failed to report what was obvious to laymen, preferring
instead to parrot a carefully-arranged LTTE narrative.

Notes
110

See, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, at <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/


kangaroo%20court>.
111 Sri Lankas Killing Fields, op. cit.
112 Jon Snow, Sri Lankas Killing Fields a project that can affect history, Channel 4,
14 June 2011, available at <http://blogs.channel4.com/snowblog/sri-lankas-killingfields-project-affect-history/15457>.
113 It is significant that Wikipedia includes an entry on trial by media (<http://
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trial_by_media>). The section notes that the media are often
accused of provoking an atmosphere of hysteria akin to a lynch mob which not only
makes a fair trial nearly impossible but means that regardless of the result of the trial
the accused will not be able to live the rest of their life without intense public scrutiny.
114 Sri Lankas Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished, op. cit.
115 Lies Agreed Upon, Ministry of Defence, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri
Lanka, Colombo, available at Lies Agreed Upon: Sri Lanka counters Channel 4 (Full
Video), YouTube, uploaded by gihangamos on 1 August 2011 available at <http://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5O1JAfRXew>.

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the allegations

116

Last Nights TV Sri Lankas Killing Fields, Channel 4, The Independent, 15 June
2011, available at <http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/reviews/
last-nights-tv--sri-lankas-killing-fields-channel-4-luther-bbc1-2297396.html>.
117 Weiss, op. cit., p.103.
118 Frances Harrison, Still Counting the Dead: Survivors of Sri Lankas Hidden War,
Portobello Books, London, 2012.
119 Ibid., pp. 15-16.
120 Lies Agreed Upon, op. cit.
121 Weiss, op. cit..

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C hapter T hree

Channel 4s Witnesses
We are unable to vouch for the independence of her testimony.
Channel 4 on their main witness Vany Kumar in 2009 122
Do you think a terrorist group like the LTTE will allow anyone to express
independent views detrimental to its cause?

Gotabaya Rajapaksa to the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, 2009 123

Simply put, the biggest difficulty in trying to ascertain what really happened in the
last few months of the conflict in 2009 was the absence of independent witnesses.
As part of the evidence required to convict Channel 4 produced a range of people
presented as witnesses supporting the claims made in the programmes. These included
a named witness and an assortment of unnamed and disguised witnesses. Channel
4s most important independent witness in their first programme was a young
woman they introduced as Vany Kumar. They also cited a group of Tamil doctors,
one of them named, who had been present in the Vanni throughout the conflict.
It is worth noting that Channel 4s prime witness goes by at least four other
names, Dr Tamilvani, Damilvany Kumar, Damilvany Gnanakumar and Damilvany
Gananakumar. She appears in the first programme on ten separate occasions.
Introduced then as Vany Kumar, she was described by Jon Snow as a young
English Tamil woman who had left London to spend 6 months with relatives in
Sri Lanka. She was said to have been a biomedical technician in England, who
found herself caught up with tens of thousands of displaced Tamil civilians on the
exodus eastwards in the last months of the war. The reality is that she was part of
the organisation responsible for their forced displacement.
Interestingly, Vany Kumar had previously appeared in a September 2009
Channel 4 News interview. On that occasion she was introduced by Channel 4 as
Damilvany Gnanakumar. At the end of the September 2009 Channel 4 interview

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with her, Channel 4 stated that [w]e are unable to vouch for the independence
of her testimony.124 Nevertheless, in 2011 they subsequently then gave the newly
renamed Vany Kumar a central role in their Sri Lankas Killing Fields programme
without any such disclaimer. At the same time the questions about Ms Kumar, her
independence, credibility and name change amongst them, have not lessened they
have increased.
Kumar was born in Sri Lanka in 1984. Her family moved to Britain in 1994. The
British Guardian newspaper stated that she returned to Sri Lanka for the first time
since then on 28 February 2009. The Guardian noted that on arrival she headed
for Vanni, the Tamil heartland. Channel 4 claimed she went to visit her family. The
Guardian, which interviewed her at length on several occasions, contradicts this.
It stated that she claimed she went to stay with a relative she calls her brother.125
The Guardian points out that this was not actually her brother, who together with
her sisters was back in England. Despite Channel 4s claim that she had gone to be
with family she did not disclose her whereabouts, even to her relatives. Her family
admitted that, until they saw her on a Tamil television programme working in a
hospital in May 2009, [w]e had not heard anything from her until then, we didnt
know whether she was still alive, whether something had happened to her. If she
had gone to Sri Lanka to visit family, as claimed by Jon Snow, then surely she or
the relatives she was allegedly visiting would have been in touch with her family in
England. As we will subsequently see, when she did make telephone calls to Britain,
it was not to her family but to the British media calling for international intervention
not as a hapless tourist but in her real capacity as a LTTE propagandist.
Kumars secretive behaviour was soon explained. It emerged that Kumar had been
an active member of the British section of the Tamil Youth Organisation (TYO). The
TYO is a LTTE-directed organisation which claims to bring Tamil youth together. It
has 12 branches worldwide (Norway, Australia, France, Britain, USA, Switzerland,
the Netherlands, Italy, Malaysia, Sweden, Germany and Denmark). The Tamil
Youth Organisations very close links to the LTTE are well documented. Several of
its members have been arrested for terrorist-related activities in the United States,
Britain and elsewhere. Sathajhan Sarachandran, for example, was the president of the
Tamil Youth Organisation in Canada from 2003 to 2005. Following the ceasefire in
Sri Lanka from 2002 onwards, in common with many of his fellow TYO members
internationally, including Vany Kumar in Britain and Meena Krishnamurthy in
Australia (of whom more later), Sarachandran made trips to Sri Lanka and visited
LTTE bases in the north-east. During one visit he was photographed carrying a
7.62mm PKM General Purpose Machine Gun. Sarachandran was subsequently
arrested in New York in 2006 by FBI agents, while seeking to purchase Russian-made
missiles and firearms worth US$1 million for the LTTE. He had tried to buy 10

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SA-18 heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles and launchers, 500 AK-47 assault rifles and
other military equipment. The National Post reported that Sarachandran was part of
the international weapons procurement network that supplied the Tamil Tigers, or
LTTE, during Sri Lankas long civil war.126 Sarachandran pleaded guilty to terrorism
and conspiracy and was sentenced to 25 years in prison by an American court.
Sarachandran said that he was working for the LTTE intelligence and operations
chief, Pottu Amman. He acknowledged the Tamil Youth Organisations relationship
with the LTTE terrorist network: I was a highly motivated and emotionally active
youth during my term as a president of the TYO Canada which operated as part
of the LTTE.127
The head of the Tamil Youth Organisation in Britain, Goldan Lambert, was
arrested in June 2007, and charged under Section 12 (3) of the UK Terrorism Act,
which prohibits support for a terrorist organisation. The London office of the
Tamil Youth Organisation was also raided.128 Five more British members of the Tamil
Youth Organisation were also subsequently arrested.129 In 2011 governments as far
apart as The Netherlands and New Zealand confirmed that the TYO was very closely
identified with the LTTE. In May 2011, Radio Netherlands Worldwide reported
that a two-year investigation by the Dutch police, intelligence service and public
prosecutors into the LTTEs criminal activities in The Netherlands, concluded that
amongst others, one of the LTTE front groups in the country was the Tamil Youth
Organisation.130 The head of the TYO in The Netherlands had been one of several
activists arrested the previous year on charges of funding terrorism.131 In July 2011,
a New Zealand court noted that The imagery on the TYO New Zealand website
is unashamedly pro-LTTE. There are numerous pictures of Prabhakaran, the former
LTTE leader, contained in pictures of TYO events on the website.132
A clear pattern had emerged. During the ceasefire period, the LTTE had
deliberately engaged with and recruited from a generation of young diaspora Tamils
brought up outside of Sri Lanka. Their western passports, dual nationalities and
foreign language skills were of immense value to the organisation. The Tamil Youth
Organisation was the LTTE front group that was used to bring them together in the
Vanni. The structured nature of this LTTE outreach to the younger Tamil diaspora
was outlined in the LTTEs international operations manual, Re-Organization of
Foreign Branches of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which was published in
July 2003.133 When Kumar reached the Vanni, she was received by the LTTE. She
received several weeks of military training under the leadership of Durga, the female
leader of LTTEs Soydyia Regiment. After training she spent time as a translator
and coordinating LTTE foreign media and propaganda work from the Vanni. She
was then placed in close proximity to Dr Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah. He stated
that she was brought to the hospital by the LTTE.134 She continued to be tasked

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with propaganda work: The Guardian revealed that Kumar provided a running
commentary to the outside world from behind the lines.135 Kumar definitely got
the LTTE message out in one such interview in mid-May 2009 with The Guardian:
For us, shell bombing is just a normal thing now. It is like an everyday routine..I
can surely say it is from the government side...Both parties have got to have a
ceasefire. I think the international [community] has to either come into the country
or get both parties to stop the fighting and start thinking about the civilians living
here. Every single person living here asks why the international [community] is not
doing anything.136 She also disingenuously tried to distance herself from the LTTE
organisation she served and which placed her at the hospital, stating I dont care
about the LTTE.
Kumars independence is central to her credibility as a witness. Her adherence to
the LTTE, however, is very clear. For example, she categorically denied any LTTE
abuse of the civilians under their control. Gordon Weiss describes LTTE behaviour
in the same, shrinking area in which Kumar was also present:
Disturbingly, it became increasingly clear from reports emerging from
the combat area that the Tamil Tigers were...exercising a brand of ruthless
terror on their own people that defies imagination. As the combat area shrank
and their desperation increased, their brutality increased exponentially.
They would shoot, execute and beat to death many hundreds of people,
ensure the deaths of thousands of teenagers by press-ganging them into
the front lines, and kill those children and their parents who resisted.137
(Emphasis added.)
Weiss notes that the LTTE shelled their own civilians and hospitals.138 He
also notes that the LTTE shot many hundreds who tried to cross to the safety of
government lines.139 There were dozens of other examples of such behaviour. The
evidence of these LTTE atrocities, in the shape of corpses, would have been staring
Vany Kumar in the face. Loyal to the end to the LTTE, however, Kumar states she
saw none of this: [The LTTE] dont want to kill their own people, they were fighting
for them, they worked so hard to save their people. (She was following the script:
the US government noted that The LTTE maintains the fiction that civilians do
not want to leave. All evidence points to the contrary).140 Unsurprisingly, she also
denied any LTTE shelling of civilians. She has categorically and repeatedly denied
that the LTTE had used civilians as human shields.141 She has stated: I dont believe
this is the case. Against all evidence to the contrary by every reputable human rights
organisation and several governments Kumar insisted that there were no human
shields: [p]eople chose to stay...Nobody wanted to run away. It wasnt like the LTTE

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kept them. The people chose to stay.142 Kumar has also gone on record to claim
that the international community has intentionally let the Tamil civilians die and
they continue to make them suffer.143 This again was a standard LTTE propaganda
line, which she repeated: The international community and the UN intentionally
let Tamil civilians die.144 Simply put, Kumar was a blatant apologist for terror and
murder. Unsurprisingly, Kumar also claims that in the last five days about 20,000
people died in the zone.145
This then was the impartial, independent witness presented by Channel 4, in
effect the heart of its first programme:
Kumars obvious allegiance to the LTTE aside, her testimony is itself simply
unreliable. Her story about the final weeks changed in crucial respects. In the Channel
4 programme, Kumar claims to have watched staff at the hospital having to filter
blood coming out of the patients through a cloth before feeding it back into their
veins. In the Guardian article referred to above, however, she claimed to have done
this herself.146 Kumars testimony also changed in another key claim. In the Channel
4 programme she dramatically claimed to have watched a six-year-old boy have his
leg and arm amputated without anaesthetics. In an earlier Guardian article, however,
she stated that when the anaesthetics ran short, they diluted them with distilled
water.147 (Emphasis added.) Dr Shanmugarajah, the Tamil doctor she claimed had
carried out the anaesthetics-free amputation, said that Kumar had lied: We did not
conduct any sort of surgery without giving anaesthesias. No such thing happened.
Anaesthesia was used for over 95% of the surgeries that were conducted while the
rest were minor surgeries. If amputation was necessary we indeed used anaesthesias...
If we hadnt used anaesthesias for major surgeries, people could have died.148
Dr Shanmugarajah was one of the Tamil doctors who chose to accompany the
hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced by the LTTE. He is a graduate of Jaffna
Universitys Faculty of Medicine and holds the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of
Surgery qualification. He received additional training in obstetrics and gynaecology
and anaesthesia. He has spent his entire working life in the Vanni. He was a medical
officer in the Jaffna Teaching Hospital, Killinochi District General Hospital and
Mullaitivu General Hospital. He was the Medical Superintendent at the Mullaitivu
General Hospital and the acting Medical Superintendent in charge of the obstetrics
ward at the hospital as the crisis unfolded. In a legal statement taken by a British
Solicitor of the Supreme Court, and sworn before a Justice of the Peace in Colombo,
Dr Shanmugarajah further stated:
Vany Kumar states that she witnessed me amputating the leg and arm of a
six year-old child without anaesthesia. This is a complete fabrication and I
am amazed at such a claim for several reasons. Amputations were carried

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out in the makeshift medical centres during this period, but they had been
performed by other surgeons and doctors. I performed no amputations at
all during the crisis: the last time I performed an amputation of any sort
had been in 2005. I had performed more than 1,000 C-sections from 2005
until May 2009, and had been the supervisor of staff involved with more
than 5,000 deliveries. I carried out a C-section as late as 12 May 2009.
Dr Shanmugarajah also stated that he was
[A]ppalled at Vany Kumars suggestion that any major operation, especially
an amputation, would have been carried out without anaesthesia.
Because of our emergency disaster planning our stock of medical drugs
and anaesthetics lasted us until the end of the crisis and anaesthesia was
available up until we ceased surgery on about the 13th May 2009.
He was also appalled at another of Kumars allegations in the Channel 4
programme:
Vany Kumar also claimed that surgery was carried out with a kitchen
knife. I also find this to be a false and amazing statement. We had ample
supplies of surgical instruments, and used separate surgical blades on each
patient. We had a stockpile of 5,000 surgical blades as of January 2009.
We also had the full range of instruments, including bone cutters. When
we moved from the district hospitals into other parts of the Vanni we
took with us more than 30 truck-loads of equipment and supplies...which
we then moved with us as and when we set up makeshift and temporary
medical centres.149
Kumar claimed I went to find the hospital because I had some medical training,
and I volunteered to help.150 Dr Shanmugarajah stated, however, that he first met
Miss Kumar when she and a companion were brought to the hospital by the LTTE
on or about 21 April 2009. I asked her about her experience and she told me she had
no medical qualifications. She agreed to help to dress wounds and clean the medical
areas. I do remember her watching an epidural procedure.151
While not screened by Channel 4, it is very useful to relate and compare a
very similar news item generated by another LTTE-linked Tamil woman, this
time on Australian television. It demonstrated the way in which the Vany Kumar
story formed part of a pattern of coordinated international media stories. On 18
October 2011 the Australian Broadcasting Corporations 7.30pm news broadcast a

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programme entitled Sri Lankan President Under Investigation. This programme


made a number of very serious allegations against three Sri Lankan officials, the
Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia, Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe; Dr
Palitha Kohona, foreign secretary of Sri Lanka during the final years of the war; and
Sri Lankas president, Mahinda Rajapaksa. At the centre of the programme were
allegations made by Meena Krishnamurthy, an Australian citizen of Sri Lankan Tamil
descent. It is clear that these questionable allegations were packaged together by
people associated with the LTTE with the express purpose of politically embarrassing
the Sri Lankan President while he attended the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of
Government Meeting in Perth.
In the programme ABC reported that in 2004 Ms Krishnamurthy travelled to
Sri Lanka to work in an orphanage and Ms Krishnamurthy herself claimed that she
went to Sri Lanka to learn Tamil. ABC stated that There she met her partner, a
man who she says worked as an accountant within the civil administration of the
LTTE, the militant Tamil Tigers. Her husband was identified as Irasurathnam
Dayakaran, also known by his nom de guerre Kuveran, who had been a full-time
LTTE cadre since 1993.152 ABC then reported that in 2008 when the war intensified,
they joined crowds of displaced Tamils on the move. Ms Krishnamurthy claims
to have seen a hospital being attacked: I, with my own eyes, I saw a hospital being
shelled. She also claimed that she knew a doctor who went to work in a hospital and
was killed in a shell attack on the hospital. She stated that I really want Australians
to understand that I saw a massacre of people. She also gave an explanation for her
allegations: The reason I decided to tell my story was because Ive always believed
in justice and that the least we can ask for is some sort of justice.
ABC also reported that Ms Krishnamurthy claimed that there was Sri Lankan
naval gunfire: Ms Krishnamurthy says some time later she was at a coastal clinic,
and had to dodge fire coming from the sea. Ms Krishnamurthy stated: While we
were there we heard like a different kind of a sound, and when I asked people around
me, they were like, Oh, thats cannon fire, and it was coming from the direction
of the ocean.
There were systematic failings on the part of the Australian Broadcasting
Corporation and breaches of ABCs own Code of Practice in respect of this programme.
In partial mitigation it should perhaps be pointed out from the start that ABC
journalists were unwittingly interacting with what can only be described as yet another
very well executed propaganda operation. ABCs 7.30pm programme accepted
questionable material at face value without even the most basic of fact checking or
attempts to corroborate what were very serious allegations.
While the ABC programme reported that Ms Krishnamurthy had gone to Sri
Lanka to work in an orphanage, it is very clear from documentary evidence and the

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testimony of several of her former colleagues that Ms Krishnamurthy travelled to Sri


Lanka in 2004 to join and become active in the LTTE and its front organisations.153
Her membership in the Tamil Youth Organisation has been well-established and
documented. Following her move to Sri Lanka in 2004, she represented the TYO
in visits abroad, including one to Europe in 2005. She received military training
in LTTE camps in LTTE-controlled parts of Sri Lanka, and was a member of the
LTTEs Malathi womens unit, and was known by the nom de guerre, Eelanadhi.
Given her English language skills, and dual nationality, like Vany Kumar she was
tasked to engage in international propaganda work. Ms Krishnamurthy, as a trained
LTTE cadre married to another LTTE combatant, was present throughout the last
months of the war.
As with Vany Kumar, Ms Krishnamurthys claims were disingenuous and selfserving where not simply false. She claims, for example, I saw a massacre of people
but does not give an account of the circumstances in which the LTTE murdered
thousands of the very Tamil civilians it claimed to be protecting in the very area in
which she was present. None of this was reflected in Ms Krishnamurthys comments.
Given that the organisation of which she and her husband were members was
responsible for those thousands of deaths this is perhaps unsurprising. What it does
do is place her stated concern for justice in a particularly cynical light. It was
however jarring that the ABC seemed to have missed these facts, or failed to press
Ms Krishnamurthy on this and other issues.
ABC also reported that Ms Krishnamurthy claimed that there was Sri Lankan
naval gunfire aimed at civilians on the shore. There can be no clearer example of
a self-serving claim than that made by Ms Krishnamurthy alleging naval gunfire
directed at civilians on the shore. It is clear that the naval gunfire claim was made for
one reason and one reason only, the fact that the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to
Australia was a former admiral in the Sri Lankan navy and had commanded naval
forces during the war.
This claim by Krishnamurthy is uncorroborated by any other source. It is a simple
matter of fact that neither at the time, nor in the three years since the end of the
conflict has there ever been any credible allegation of naval gunfire aimed at civilians
on the shore. There is not a single mention or allegation in the Report of the SecretaryGenerals Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, the Darusman report, a
196-page document with 262 footnotes, that the Sri Lankan navy shelled any targets,
let alone civilian targets, during the crisis.154 The only guns capable of shelling the
shore were on warships which formed the navys fourth defence line, a screen more
than fifty nautical miles offshore. The second and third defence lines, several miles
off shore, consisted of Dvora-class fast patrol boats tasked with countering LTTE
attack boats. These were equipped with a Oerlikon 20mm gun and 12.7mm machine

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guns. The Oerlikons effective range against low-flying aircraft and other ships was
just over 900 metres. The first defence line, stationed one nautical mile off-shore, was
made up of naval special forces in smaller patrol boats armed with machine guns.155
This is also borne out by international reports. The American Association for
the Advancement of Science (AAAS) report into allegations of shelling into the
no-fire zones in question noted that Fortunately from an investigative point of
view, the CSZ [Civilian Safety Zone] is located at the end of a narrow spit of land
bounded by the ocean on one side, and a broad lagoon on the other. This unique
geography substantially simplifies the situation, as incoming shells from the north
would originate from naval units, which are deemed to be less likely as a source in
this conflict by AAAS.156

Sri Lankan naval defence lines in the last months of the war 157
ABCs 7.30pm programme and Ms Krishnamurthy also managed to miss or chose to
ignore the enforced and illegal displacement of Tamil civilians. ABC reported of Ms
Krishnamurthy and her husband that in 2008 when the war intensified, they joined
crowds of displaced Tamils on the move. Unfortunately this demonstrates a naivety

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and unprofessionalism on the part of the ABC. The crowds of displaced Tamils on
the move were the hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians forcibly displaced by
the LTTE and taken along with the LTTE to serve as human shields. And as opposed
to having joined the displaced civilians, as LTTE cadres Ms Krishnamurthy and
her husband were part of the organisation that forcibly abducted them.158 That these
Tamil civilians were forcibly displaced by LTTE fighters such as Ms Krishnamurthy
and her husband is undeniable. The LTTE used these civilians as human shields.
This particular war crime, carried out by the organisation which Ms Krishnamurthy
supported, is not mentioned in the 7.30pm programme.
A key allegation in the programme is Ms Krishnamurthys claim to have seen a
hospital being attacked: I, with my own eyes, I saw a hospital being shelled. She
also claimed that a female doctor she knew was killed in an attack on a hospital. It
is regrettable that in ABCs interview with Ms Krishnamurthy they did not press
her for any relevant who, when, where, what facts, the location of the hospital or
the name of the doctor or the dates of the alleged attacks. These would have been
very relevant for several reasons, not least of which because it is basic, cub reporter,
journalistic practice. Both the University Teachers for Human Rights, and Gordon
Weiss, for example, have noted that the LTTE deliberately shelled hospitals at various
times during the conflict.
Similarly, the sorts of claims made by Ms Krishnamurthy, of deliberate attempts
by the Sri Lankan army to kill civilians, jar with the observations of people such as
Weiss. There is little doubt that the programme in question breached the Australian
Broadcasting Corporations Code of Practice in several significant areas. The code
places considerable weight on ABCs statutory duty to ensure that the gathering and
presentation of news and information is accurate...Credibility depends heavily on
factual accuracy.159 Despite broadcasting Ms Krishnamurthys allegations, the ABC
programme admitted that her claims are untested. It is difficult to reconcile ABCs
Code of Practice, its statutory duty to ensure accuracy and its general commitment to
accuracy with the broadcasting of untested claims of a very serious nature about a
very controversial issue in a programme that named three officials.
The programmes breach of the Code of Practice in this respect was a serious
one. The ABCs Impartiality (TV News Content) Final Report notes that A serious
breach is defined by either (or both) of the following: It materially alters the
viewers understanding of the story, It seriously misrepresents an individual or an
organization.160 The ABC Editorial Policies Guidance Note: Accuracy In News states
that journalists must ensure that facts are in context and not misleading. It also
observes that Inaccuracy can also arise through the omission of factual information
or when material is presented out of context, where the result can materially mislead
the audience. The ABC Editorial Policies Guidance Note: Accuracy In News warns that:

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Third party providers may have a particular vested interest in the material
being provided for example, corporate video releases, footage or
interviews that are provided by corporate or government sources, lobby
groups, think tanks, etc, and any such interest should be investigated.
Such material where an interest has been identified will always be clearly
attributed, and issues of contextual accuracy will be carefully considered.
Where relevant, inclusion of such material in ABC content may require
the addition of context or factual material from other sources in order to
ensure overall accuracy.
In broadcasting Ms Krishnamurthys claims it is very obvious that ABC
disregarded its own guidelines.
The LTTE propaganda machine was obviously delighted with the model and
narrative set out by Kumar and Krishnamurthy. It is also worth noting that the
young female foreign national of Tamil descent helping out in a hospital while it was
being shelled during the crisis in the Vanni model was also attempted in Canada.
A young woman contacted the Canadian media to make allegations remarkably
similar to those of the previous two women. Presenting herself as a Canadian of
Tamil descent, the woman was unidentified, asking that her name not be published
due to fears about the safety of her family. She claimed that she was among
hundreds of thousands of civilians who made their way to the no fire zones only to
face daily shelling. Along with Vany Kumar in Britain and Meena Krishnamurthy
in Australia, the Canadian witness said she helped out at a hospital: Every day,
every minute, volunteers would bring in truckloads of bodies, some injured, some
dead. I was in the admission area initially trying to attend to their first-aid needs
and later in the theatre...Even at the hospital, shells were continuously fired...Many
civilians who were already wounded were wounded again in the shelling inside the
hospital premises. Doctors were killed while attending to patients.161
These then were the sorts of witnesses provided by Channel 4 to support the
grave claims made in their programmes. The credibility of Ms Vany Kumar in any
British court of law on so many levels would be laid bare in a matter of minutes.

Notes
122 Channel 4: Interview with an UK Tamil medic (Damilvani Gnanakumar) who
escaped war in Sri Lanka, YouTube, available at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=WYlHuMoWAM4&feature=player_embedded>.
123 War wont stop until Prabhakaran is taken, dead or alive Gota tells Miliband and

46

channel

4s witnesses

Kouchner, The Island (Colombo), 30 April 2009, <http://www.island.lk/2009/04/30/


news18.html>.
124 Channel 4: Interview with an UK Tamil medic (Damilvani Gnanakumar) who
escaped war in Sri Lanka, YouTube, available at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=WYlHuMoWAM4&feature=player_embedded>.
125 As the shells fell, we tried to save lives with no blood or medicine, The Guardian,
15 September 2009, available at <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/15/
sri-lanka-war-on-tamil-tigers>.
126 Tamil Canadians in prison for arming rebels renounceviolence, National Post, 7
October 2011, available at <http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/10/07/bell/>.
127 Ibid.
128 Two top Tamil LTTE leaders arrested under UK Terrorism Law, Asian Tribune, 22
June 2007.
129 Five more LTTE youth leaguers arrested in London, Asian Tribune, 24 June 2007,
available at <http://www.asiantribune.com/index.php?q=node/6267>.
130 Tamil Tigers sneak through Schagen (part 1), Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 23
May 2011, available at <http://www.rnw.nl/international-justice/article/tamil-tigerssneak-through-schagen-part-1>.
131 Seven LTTE suspects arrested in Netherlands, Asian Tribune, 27 April 2010, available
at <http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2010/04/27/seven-ltte-suspects-arrestednetherlands>.
132 See, Decision delivered by B L Burson, Immigration and Protection Tribunal, New
Zealand, NZIPT 800092 [2011], 21 July 2011, pp. 15-16.
133 Re-Organization of Foreign Branches of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, LTTE
International Secretariat, 28 July 2003. This document was designated by a Canadian
court as the LTTE Operations Manual. See, In the Matter of an Application under rules
300 and 301 of the Federal Courts Rules and paragraph 83.1 (1) (a) of the Criminal
Code for a forfeiture order between: Her Majesty the Queen, Applicant, and the World
Tamil Movement of Quebec, Respondent, Federal Court, Ontario, Docket: T-20709, 30 December 2010, available at <http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/01/21/
documents-courts-seize-assets-from-the-world-tamil-movement/>.
134 Affidavit of Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, sworn 10 May 2012.
135 As the shells fell, we tried to save lives with no blood or medicine, The Guardian,
15 September 2009, available at <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/15/
sri-lanka-war-on-tamil-tigers>
136 Eyewitness Sri Lanka: This is too much to take. Why is the world not helping?,
The Guardian, 13 May 2009.
137 Weiss, op. cit., pp. 141-42.
138 Ibid., p. 109 and p. 220.
139 Ibid., p. 96.
140 See, for example, WikiLeaks: Time For A Cease-Fire To Pursue Political Negotiations
Is Now Passed Norwegians, Colombo Telegraph, 18 March 2012, available at <http://
www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/wikileaks-time-for-a-cease-fire-to-pursuepolitical-negotiations-is-now-passed-norwegians/>.
141 Channel 4: Interview with an UK Tamil medic (Damilvani Gnanakumar) who

47

corrupted journalism

142
143
144

145
146
147
148
149
150
151
152

153
154

escaped war in Sri Lanka, YouTube, available at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?


v=WYlHuMoWAM4&feature=player_embedded>.
Interview with Dr. Tamilvani: Eye witness to Bloodbath on Mullivaikal Beach 1 of
3, YouTube, uploaded by lovetamileelam, 29 August 2011, available at <http://www.
youtube.com/watch?v=pf84ClLeFRc>.
Interview with Dr. Tamilvani: Eye witness to Bloodbath on Mullivaikal Beach 3 of
3, YouTube, uploaded by lovetamileelam, 29 August 2011, available at <http://www.
youtube.com/watch?v=J4Q4d2ZBtDc&feature=related>.
Kumar was speaking at a conference organised by the European United Left/Nordic
Green Left (GUE/NGL) parliamentary group at the European Parliament in Brussels,
1 June 2011. Her speech is available at <http://www.veengle.com/s/Gnanakumar.
html>.
Ibid.
As the shells fell, we tried to save lives with no blood or medicine, op. cit.
Ibid.
Lies Agreed Upon, op. cit.
Affidavit of Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, sworn 10 May 2012.
The Tamil Tigers are defeated, The Observer (London) 27 December 2009.
Affidavit of Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, sworn 10 May 2012.
Regarding Krishnamurthys claim about her husband, it is worth noting that in
September 2011, the Canadian National Post newspaper reported that a man who
claimed that he worked as a tax collector in the LTTEs finance department from
1992-95 was branded a war criminal by a Canadian court and ordered out of
the country. He stated that he worked as an account in the finance department at
the LTTE camp in Chankanai. He arrived in Canada in 2007 on a fake Canadian
passport, settled in Montreal and claimed refugee protection. The newspaper
reported that That claim was rejected by the Immigration & Refugee Board
(IRB) after an adjudicator found reasonable grounds to believe he committed
a war crime or crime against humanity under Article 1F of the United Nations
convention on refugees. Justice Luc Martineau stated: The applicant admitted
that the Tigers participated in many crimes against humanity and that they are
an organization directed to a limited, brutal purpose...The [IRB] panel found
the Tigers committed crimes against humanity at the time when the applicant
belonged to it; that is, between 1992 and 1995The panel also found the applicant
was complicit in crimes committed by the Tigers. See, Ex-Tiger tax collector
called warcriminal, National Post, 29 September 2011, available at <http://news.
nationalpost.com/2011/09/29/ex-tiger-tax-collector-called-war-criminal/>. Leaving
her status to one side, by the Canadian legal finding, Krishnamurthys husband would
definitely qualify as a war criminal.
See, for example, Australian Based LTTE Network Exposed, Ministry of Defence,
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Colombo, 4 November 2011, available
at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgD1Xrr4Z5Q>.
Report of the Secretary-Generals Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, United
Nations, New York, 31 March 2011, available at <http://www.un.org/News/dh/
infocus/Sri_Lanka/POE_Report_Full.pdf>. It must be noted that Darusman report

48

channel

155
156

157
158
159
160
161

4s witnesses

has come in for considerable criticism. This has included its methodology, inaccuracies
and reliance on questionable sources. See, for example, Rohan Gunaratna, There
is no credible war crimes case against Sri Lanka, n. d., available at <http://www.
pvtr.org/pdf/ICPVTRinNews/ThereIsNoCredibleWarCrimesCaseAgainstSriLanka.
pdf>; Panel Report fails to recognize: Terrorists, biggest violators of HR - Prof.
Rohan Gunaratna, Sunday Observer (Colombo), 1 May 2011; and Padraig Colman,
Evaluating the Churnalism from Channel 4 and the MoonPanel, 17 August 2011
available at <http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/a-credible-evaluation-of%E2%80%9Cchurnalism%E2%80%9D-from-channel-4-and-the-moon-panel/>.
See, SL Navy on alert to prevent LTTE leaders escape, Sunday Observer (Colombo),
10 May 2009
High-Resolution Satellite Imagery and the Conflict in Sri Lanka, Scientific
Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program, American Association for the
Advancement of Science, Washington-DC, 12 August 2009, available at <http://shr.
aaas.org/geotech/srilanka/srilanka.shtml>.
SL Navy on alert to prevent LTTE leaders escape, Sunday Observer (Colombo), 10
May 2009
Krishnamurthy subsequently admitted that her husband had not just been an
accountant, but had also been a combatant, forcibly conscripted into the LTTE.
See, Sri Lankan Tamils press for justice, Reuters, 24 October 2011.
Code of Practice, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, available at <http://www.abc.
net.au/corp/pubs/documents/codeofpractice2011.pdf>)
Impartiality (TV News Content) Final Report, July 2009, available at <http://www.
abc.net.au/corp/pubs/documents/qa7_final_report-july_2009.pdf>.
See, Canadian a witness to shelling in Sri Lanka civil war, National Post, 26 April
2010, available at <http://www.nationalpost.com/Canadian+witness+shelling+Lank
a+civil/4677319/story.html>.

49

corrupted journalism

C hapter F our

The Doctors in the Vanni


The LTTE kept all the doctors under close watch. An armed guard was placed
near them even when they did surgical operations.
University Teachers for Human Rights 162
The information that I have given is false...The figures were exaggerated due
to pressure from the LTTE.
Dr Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah 163

Central to the narrative of events in the Vanni in 2009 are the government doctors,
of Tamil ethnicity, working in LTTE-controlled areas of the Vanni but paid for by
the government as part of its continuing provision of medical services to its citizens.
They are important because western news agencies used them as a source for claims of
large casualties, especially in alleged attacks on hospitals, in the course of the conflict
in the Vanni. The five doctors present throughout the crisis were Drs Sinnathurai
Sivapalan, Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, Thurairajah Vartharaja, Thangamurthy
Sathyamoorthy and Kathiravelu Ilancheliyan. The doctors moved with the civilian
population as it was forcibly displaced by the LTTE and pushed progressively deeper
into the Vanni. Dr Shanmugarajah explained the process: As doctors within the
governmental medical service and in accordance with a previously agreed disaster
protocol, from late 2008 onwards we moved with the population from district and
general hospitals to a series of makeshift hospitals which were established in areas
into which the population had been relocated.164
Having logically focused on the medical, humanitarian, button to push in
its desperate effort to provoke some form of international intervention to avert
defeat, the LTTE focused considerable attention on the Tamil government doctors
who had remained active in the zone. While the organisation strictly controlled
communications with the outside world they pressurised Tamil government doctors

50

the doctors in the vanni

to contact western media on a regular basis throughout the conflict. These doctors,
and especially Drs Shanmugarajah, Vartharaja and Sathyamoorthy, made a number
of allegations to the international media about the worsening situation in the zone.
Dr Shanmugarajah makes an appearance in both of the Channel 4 programmes. The
importance of the Tamil doctors to the LTTE and its desperate attempts to force
an international intervention is clear. The accusations of mass deaths from alleged
government shelling were said by Ravi Nessman, the Associated Press bureau chief,
to be based on scattered reports that were getting the very few reports were able
to get. Nessman cited as sources the doctors, whom he described as some of the
very few people with telephones that still work.165 In so doing, Nessman never once
asked whose satellite telephones they were using, why they were still working or
indeed allowed to work when the LTTE had shut down all other communications.
It is from claims made by these doctors, projected through TamilNet and accepted
by surprisingly gullible news agencies that the western media, Weiss, the others
such as the UN Panel of Experts would base their claims that tens of thousands
of civilians died in the Vanni.166 For a group of doctors within such an active crisis
zone, treating the numbers of patients they are said to have treated, the doctors in
question did appear to have spent a disproportionately large amount of their time
on the satellite telephone to the international media. It can only but be described as
systematic and orchestrated. The doctors also revealed that the LTTE provided them
with all the relevant telephone numbers for calls to the media. As the LTTE became
more desperate for outside intervention, the claims spiralled. From allegations that
one or two people had died in attacks, by May 2009 the claims were that thousands
of people had been killed or wounded in a single day.
On 16 May, the LTTE finally let the Tamil government doctors leave the area
and they crossed over into government territory. Whether these doctors were coerced
by the LTTE as they subsequently stated was an inconvenient question ignored
by Channel 4. The question was an obvious one. Weiss records that the Sri Lankan
government believed that UN Tamil staff could have been forced to distort their
reports.167 He also conceded the prospect that the Tamil Tigers might be forcing
the Tamil doctors or the UNs own staff to give inflated figures of the dead and
wounded.168 That is to say he thought it was possible. UTHRs Rajan Hoole has
stated that The possibility that the doctors could have been under LTTE pressure to
lie was perhaps to be expected.169 Mahinda Samarasinghe, the Sri Lankan minister for
disaster management and human rights, made the point that there was no free flow
of information from the conflict zone under control of the LTTE.170 Despite its
reputation for cynical, inquisitive journalism, Channel 4 appears to have overlooked
concerns as outlined above and voiced by key observers.
The significant material fact that was ignored by Channel 4 was that the

51

corrupted journalism

government doctors, as with all Tamil civilians under LTTE control, were inevitably
subject to systematic intimidation by the LTTE. The University Teachers for Human
Rights have noted: The LTTE politically took Tamil society hostage from the
mid-1980s through systematic terror.171 In October 2008, UTHR noted of the
atmosphere in LTTE-controlled areas: There was fear under the LTTE, but now
there is terror, violence and extreme uncertainty.172 The LTTEs intimidation of
civilians within the areas it controlled was also confirmed by Amnesty International,
which pointed to the LTTEs authoritarian hold on their communities.173 The
organisation also reported: They have a history of silencing dissent in areas under
their control...Life for civilians living in Tamil Tiger areas has been extremely
difficult...Its also been very difficult for anybody to...have any opinions other than
the official LTTE voice.174 Two months later, Amnesty again noted:
The LTTE never brooked dissent and systematically assaulted free
expression in the areas under its control, frequently through threatening,
and carrying out, violence against criticsin particular, voices within the
Tamil community that disagreed with the Tamil Tigers often abusive
behavior.175
Human Rights Watch also recorded that the LTTE had imprisoned and tortured
thousands of dissidents and their family members.176 A consultant psychiatrist,
Daya Somasundaram, described the control exercised by the LTTE within the areas
it dominated in Sri Lanka: [T]he LTTE maintained a fascist, totalitarian control
over the civilian population with a network of prisons for dissidents and enemies
who were killed or tortured and a strict pass system that did not allow people under
their control to leave the Vanni.177 He also noted that Under the totalitarian fascist
control of the LTTE, any kind of dissent or counter views had been eliminated.178
The University Teachers for Human Rights echoed this analysis of the LTTE,
pointing to its fascist structures and lines of control.179 UTHR has referred to
the ambience of terror within LTTE-controlled areas: The information we
have accumulated over years when assembled together shows a truly frightening
pattern. It also observed that people most often speak tactically to visiting foreign
delegations.180This caution would doubtless have extended to foreign media. These
observations by UTHR were made in 1992. One can only imagine how much more
acute the ambience of terror would have been in the last weeks of the conflict as the
LTTE grew more and more desperate.
The award-winning Indian journalist, author and documentary film maker Anita
Pratap noted: The LTTE is extraordinarily strict, and can be brutal in the way it
deals with people who are seen as betrayers to the cause....The LTTE does not tolerate

52

the doctors in the vanni

dissent. She referred to its skilful and ruthless use of fear.181 Weiss recorded that
LTTE sought to totally control those it ruled182, and noted the organisations use
of summary executions to effect control of all aspects of life.183 There is no doubt
that doctors refusing to tow the LTTE line on inflated casualty figures would be
seen as betraying the cause. It follows, therefore, that no doctor in LTTE-controlled
areas would dare to refuse LTTE demands that they provide false and questionable
statements to the western media.
UTHR also documented the constant surveillance of civilians within LTTE
control:
Life is thus made almost unbearable for those who do not fall in line with
the LTTE...Vanni is a place where there are intelligence units everywhere.
There are intelligence units for education, for distribution of rations and
supply, for agriculture, and for photography all persons are photographed
besides the regular [LTTE] intelligence.184
It goes without saying that there was a LTTE intelligence unit supervising the
doctors and hospitals, especially given the immense propaganda value and use of the
doctors in making a case for international intervention. That the Tamil doctors were
very tightly controlled by the LTTE is clear. It would be naive to assume otherwise.
The LTTE also placed Vany Kumar and others to monitor them. The University
Teachers for Human Rights revealed that:
The LTTE kept all the doctors under close watch. An armed guard was
placed near them even when they did surgical operations.185
The University Teachers for Human Rights also revealed that Dr Shanmugarajah
had tried to escape from the conflict zone, was apprehended by the LTTE, beaten
and taken back to the no-fire zone. Similarly, Dr Kathiravelu Ilancheliyan has stated
that he was arrested by the LTTE while he was trying to leave the LTTE controlled
area. He was severely beaten and was kept in a LTTE cell with other prisoners for
42 days until Government forces freed him on 15 May 2009.
The UTHR also documents another example of the level of intimidation of the
Tamil government doctors, and the atmosphere within which they worked, citing
a Tamil head teacher:
The principal described something else he had seen. 15 escapees had
been shot dead opposite the Putumattalan Hospital. Along with the daily
quota of dead resulting from army shelling, these bodies too were placed

53

corrupted journalism

in a space ringed by ropes on a side of the hospital. With the help of


labourers, the doctor looked at the bodies and pronounced the cause
of death. The distinction was clear between shell injuries and bullet
injuries. The doctor regularly pronounced all of them to have died due
to army firing. The principal remarked, I wonder how he did it? This
went on day after day and perhaps above a thousand died trying to cross
the strip of water.186
UTHR notes that we must keep in mind practices that had come to be accepted
as normal under the provenance of terror. No doctor in an LTTE-controlled area dared
to certify the LTTE as the cause of a death. 187 (Emphasis added.) It similarly goes
without saying that no doctor in a LTTE-controlled area would have dated refused
a command to inflate casualty figures or to repeat any other claims asked of them
by the LTTE.
The doctors in question left LTTE-controlled areas just as the war ended, were
received by government forces and were kept in detention for 3 months, from 23
May 2009 to 21 August 2009, by the Sri Lankan police Criminal Investigation
Department. This was in order to investigate their possible membership of,
involvement with, or links to the LTTE and to clarify the statements made by
them to the international media while they were under LTTE control. While not
specifically referring to the doctors, the Economist noted of all those coming out of
the Vanni: Given that many of these people have grown up under the LTTE, the
government obviously must vet them.188
On 8 July 2012, following the LTTEs defeat, the five Tamil doctors held a press
conference in Colombo. The doctors admitted that they had lied to the international
media throughout the conflict and had been forced by the LTTE to exaggerate
civilian casualty figures.189 Dr Shanmugarajah confirmed the Tamil doctors misled the
international media and foreign governments: Yes we regret giving a false impression
to the outside world.190 Dr Shanmugarajah admitted that The information that I
have given is false...The figures were exaggerated due to pressure from the LTTE.191
Dr Shanmugarajah stated that The LTTE leaders gave us the telephone numbers
of media personnel and media organisations sympathetic to them. The casualty
figures we supplied to international media were those given to us by the LTTE.
They also sourced to us the casualty figures and the pictures they had posted on their
websites.192 He stated: When they (LTTE) asked me to put the figure at 1000, I
said that it is totally unacceptable...There were times when Voice of Tigers (LTTE
official radio) reports exaggerated figures of casualties quoting me as the source of
information without actually interviewing me.193
Dr Shanmugarajah confirmed LTTE intimidation:

54

the doctors in the vanni

I was on several occasions put under pressure by the LTTE international


coordinator to give false death and casualty figures to the international
media. On one occasion the death toll that day had been 34 but I was
instructed to tell the media that the death toll was 534. This was not
true but I knew that to disobey the direction of the LTTE would result
in immediate punishment. My colleague Dr S refused to obey an LTTE
request and that resulted in his being shacked by the ankles and placed
in prison for a month.194
Rajan Hoole has also confirmed LTTE intimidation of the doctors: Dr
Shanmugarajah told a friend that he was captured while attempting to flee, beaten
and then watched by an armed LTTE guard as he carried out his duties.195 Vany
Kumar was also placed in close proximity to him. The doctors also revealed that
the LTTE had taken food and medical shipments sent by the government and then
forced the doctors to tell the media that there were shortages. Dr Shanmugarajah
stated: The LTTE grabbed a major part of the food stocks for the use of their cadres
which was sent by the Government through the ICRC ship.196 Dr Varatharaja
said that on eight occasions the Government sent medicines and related supplies
after the no-fire zone was declared and the LTTE diverted these from the doctors
to treat their own injured cadres and then forced the doctors to state that there was
a shortage of medical supplies. 197 Dr Shanmugaraja said the doctors knew times
would be difficult and had stocked up on medical supplies and that they had
enough medical supplies until the end of conflict. He also said they were able to
run generators and refrigerators in the medical centres until the last moment.198 Dr
Shanmugarajah reiterated his views as recently as March 2012 in meetings in and
around the United Nations Human Rights Council meetings in Geneva, and in a
sworn statement in May 2012.
Dr Sivapalan, the doctor-in-charge of the LTTE-run Ponnambalam Memorial
Hospital in Puthukkudiyirippu, provided a picture of the circumstances in which
the civilian population were being held: The conditions the people had to live
were horrible. LTTE wouldnt let them go to the cleared areas and held them
with force in this area where there was no drinking water and proper sanitary
facilities. There was no place to find hygienic drinking water and there were
no wells.199
There is no doubt that the doctors press conference greatly embarrassed the
western media, especially local international press agency correspondents the
implication was clear. Many western journalists had accepted defacto LTTE-generated
propaganda at face value. The Associated Press Colombo bureau chief, Ravi Nessman,
was prominent amongst them. Nessman quite simply showed navet unbecoming

55

corrupted journalism

a professional journalist working for an international news agency. Nessman had


routinely and correctly observed in his reporting of events in the Vanni that [i]
ndependent verification of the fighting is not possible because most journalists
are barred from the war zone.200 On another occasion Nessman stated that [i]
ndependent confirmation is unavailable because of security restrictions in the conflict
zone.201 Nessmans caution, however, did not extend anywhere near as far as it
should have. He made a very naive assumption about the Tamil government doctors
working in the Vanni: With journalists and nearly all aid workers barred from the
war zone, Thurairaja Varatharaja, Thangamuttu Sathyamurthi and V. Shanmugarajah
became some of the few sources of information on the toll the war took on the tens
of thousands of civilians trapped in the area.202 Nessman cited these doctors on a
regular basis without the slightest qualification that their statements might not be
voluntary, or that they were working in circumstances that were not conducive to
free speech. Nessman, for example, cited Dr Shanmugarajah on several occasions.203
In one article he reported that the doctor claimed a death rate for one day at around
1,000.204 Dr Shanmugarajahs sworn testimony subsequently showed these claims
to have been false, stating they were made under pressure from the LTTE, where
not just simply made up in his name.
Nessmans caution about conditions within the LTTE-controlled areas of the
Vanni during the conflict, cited above, was appropriate, albeit selectively applied.
His apparent inability to extend that caution to all material coming out of the war
zone is very questionable. Nessman had been APs Colombo bureau chief for several
years. He should have been more than aware of the LTTEs ruthlessly totalitarian
regime, as well as its sophisticated propaganda machine. Nessman did find time after
the war to note that LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was a virtual dictator and
the brutal ruler of a suicide cult who had waged a ruthless insurgency.205 When
Nessman noted that the doctors were among the very few people with telephones
that still work, he neither asked why they were allowed telephones, why the LTTE
had provided the doctors with mobile telephones or whether or not they were subject
to pressure from the LTTE.206 These were elementary questions that should have
been voiced. Any claims coming out those areas dominated by the LTTE, with its
reputation for absolute control, violence and media manipulation should have been
suspect in the same way that any commentary whatsoever being officially allowed
out of Taliban-controlled parts of Afghanistan, or Berlin in April 1945 would be
inherently unreliable and would reflect a partisan perspective.
The issues raised at the press conference was not the first time Associated Press
had had first-hand working knowledge of questionable and false reporting based on
the testimony of Tamil doctors. Indeed, Nessmans Associated Press had previously
published claims by one of the doctors in question that were proved to have been false

56

the doctors in the vanni

and part of a sophisticated LTTE attempt to deceive the international community.


In late January 2009, for example, Nessman filed a report claiming the following:
A Sri Lankan health official says recent artillery shelling and heavy
fighting in the north has killed more than 300 civilians and wounded
more than 1,000 others. Dr. Thurairajah Varatharaja revealed the figures
in a desperate appeal to the government and aid groups for medicine and
blood transfusions for those injured in the fighting. Varatharaja is the top
health official in the region. The letter was dated Monday and obtained
by The Associated Press on Wednesday. Concerns over civilian casualties
in Sri Lankas northern war zone have grown in recent days.207
Associated Press released the story internationally, and it was used in dozens of
newspapers world-wide.208 This letter, which took the form of an appeal, and was
widely distributed through e-mail, said heavy fighting and continuous multi-barrel
artillery shelling has resulted in more than 300 internally displaced persons being
killed and over 1000 hundred injured in Suthanthirapuram Udaiyaarkaddu and
Vallipuram in the Mullaitivu district.209 Dr Varatharaja was the senior health official
in the Mullaittivu district and one of the Tamil doctors who had accompanied the
population displaced from their homes by the LTTE. The difficulty for Nessman
was that Dr Varatharaja immediately denied any association with the story published
by Associated Press, and stated that its contents were false and exaggerated. Dr
Varatharaja categorically denied that the above mentioned public appeal has been
made by him or originated from his office and he further stated that he does not
agree with the contents of this appeal and that its contents are false and exaggerated
in order to embarrass him. Dr Varatharaja also stated that he does not have access
to e-mail or fax facility to release such a statement and expressed his dismay and
concern about it. It is therefore obvious that this has been done by destructive
elements with sinister motives who want to embarrass the government.210 The only
people with access to the Internet, email, fax and telephones in the Vanni pocket at
the time were the LTTE propaganda teams. It is clear that they forged the letter and
distributed it electronically in Dr Varatharajas name, something they would continue
to do in other doctors names throughout the conflict. The Sri Lankan Government
described the letter as a hoax and a total fabrication.211 Their concerns about the
Varatharaja letter, and subsequent forgeries, were shown to be correct.
Nessmans bosses at Associated Press issued an advisory note the following day to
editors instructing them to kill the story: COLOMBO, Sri Lanka Kill the Sri
Lanka-Civil War Story, V5414. The source [Dr Varatharaja] denies he wrote the letter
that said more than 300 civilians had been killed and 1,000 wounded in fighting

57

corrupted journalism

in northern Sri Lanka.212 The advisory note added that A kill is mandatory. Make
certain the story is not published. A substitute story will be filed shortly. The reality
is that TamilNet had released the false statement, subsequently used by Associated
Press, on 26 January 2009, claiming that the Regional Director of Health Services
(RDHS) for Mullaiththeeev district, Dr. T. Varatharaja in an urgent appeal to the
Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL), ICRC, the United Nations and the International
Community has urged to send medical supplies and medical teams to the district to
assist its medical staff.213 AP unquestioningly picked up and ran with a false LTTE
propaganda story distributed by TamilNet. Despite APs killing of the story, the
original claims had been published and the damage had been done.
The behaviour of Associated Press can be seen as part of a disturbing crisis in
international reporting. Nick Davies, the award-winning former Guardian reporter
and author of Flat Earth News, a scathing critique of the media, has defined what
he calls flat earth news: A story appears to be true. It is widely accepted as true. It
becomes a heresy to suggest that it is not true even if it is riddled with falsehood,
distortion and propaganda. Davies could have been describing Channel 4s story
of events in the Vanni. He deplored the rise of churnalism, questionable and quickturnover journalism in which corners are cut. He also makes the case that hidden
persuaders are manipulating truth. A review of his book in The Guardian stated
that Much of Daviess analysis is fair, meticulously researched and fascinating and
that many of Daviess arguments are powerful and timely. Many of his concerns
about the shortcomings of the media apply to Associated Press and its reporting
on the conflict in the Vanni:
All the great Flat Earth news stories have travelled via wire agencies into
the unprotected global media. It was Reuters and AP who told the world
about the millennium bug and the weapons of mass destruction, who
carried the myths about drugs and crime and radiation and educations
and all the other Huckers, big and small. All these stories were accurate,
in that they faithfully recorded what somebody had said; none of them
were true...part of the problem is that reporters in the international
agencies are forced into churnalism, because they do not have the time
to work effectively.214
The damage done to Sri Lankas reputation by APs misreporting was immense.
Davies notes that in the United States, 1,700 print outlets and 5,000 radio and TV
outlets take their foreign coverage from Associated Press: In the rest of the world,
a further 8,500 media organisations, including 500 broadcasters in 121 countries,
recycle AP stories as their own.215 Davies records that AP and the smaller Reuters

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the doctors in the vanni

agency reckon their news is consumed every day in one form or another by more
than one billion people around the planet the same choice of stories with the same
angles and the same quotes and the same pictures. A tiny fragment of the planets
life masquerading as the truth, much of it inevitably shaped by the activities of PR.216
It should be noted with regard to APs claims that Dr Shanmugarajah subsequently
confirmed that As part of our disaster management plans, we had stockpiled medical
supplies and drugs from 2008 onwards. He confirmed that he and the Tamil doctors
had access to medical drugs until the end of the conflict: Because of our emergency
disaster planning our stock of medical drugs and anaesthetics lasted us until the
end of the crisis and anaesthesia was available right up until we ceased surgery on
about the 13th May 2009.217 Dr Shanmugarajahs candour about the availability of
medicines also further undermines subsequent TamilNet propaganda stories about
severe shortages. The forged letter said to have been signed by Dr Varatharaja was one
of several systematic attempts by LTTE propagandists to misrepresent events within
the Vanni in an attempt to provoke some sort of international intervention. TamilNet,
for example, published another letter allegedly from Dr Varatharaja on 20 February
2009. TamilNet claimed that it was a letter to the Sri Lankan ministry of health,
dated 15 February, leaked to TamilNet through a dissent-friendly government
official. The letter claimed that a lack of antibiotics was forcing doctors to reamputate patients. It claimed that there was a lack of lifesaving medicines required
for surgical operations and post operative management-parenteral high potency
antibiotics, anesthetics, esp. Ketamine, intravenous fluids, surgical consumables and
accessories.218 The letter was clearly faked. It was in English, gave an incomplete name
for the ministry concerned, and also managed to misspell Dr Varatharajas name.
A similar report, in the name of Dr Sathyamoorthy, the Regional Director of
Health Services of Kilinochchi, and making very similar claims about acute shortages
of medicines, was published by TamilNet on 6 March.219 The report claimed that the
government had systematically blocked medical supplies, causing the deaths of several
patients. On 16 March 2009, the Sri Lanka Guardian newspaper published materials
which indicated that another similar letter said to have been sent by Dr Vartharaja,
the Regional Director of Health Services in Mullaitivu to the Government Agent
of the district appeared to have been forged.220 The letter stated that Dr Vartharaja
had acknowledged receipt of the bodies of 13 dead internally displaced people said
to have died from starvation. This letter formed part of a Tamilnet article, headlined
RDHS confirms 13 hunger deaths, urges officials to act.221 The Sri Lanka Guardian
pointed out that the Sinhala translation on the Regional Director of Health Services
letterhead was inaccurate. It read in Sinhalese as oyaage ankaya, which should have
been written as obe ankaya. This mistake indicated that the official RHDS letter
heading had been manually altered by someone without proper knowledge as to the

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correct use of Sinhalese in letterheads, mistakes which would not have been present
on bona fide government letter headings. There appear to have been at least four
different forged Mullaitivu RDHS letterheads.
The newspaper also pointed out that even after several internet blogs pointed out
this glaring mistake and questioned the credibility of TamilNet, the same site again
published another forged letter on 15 March 2009, again alleged to be by the same
medical authority.222 This TamilNet news article claimed that the Mullaitivu RHDS
had sent a letter complaining about severe medicines shortages to the Provincial
Commissioner of Health Services for the North and East provinces, with a copy to
the ICRC co-ordinator for the North-East, Dr Jeganathan. The newspaper pointed
out that in this new letter, the same faked letterhead is altered for a second time.
This time, under My Number appears obe angaya instead of obe ankaya as the
Sinhalese translation. The article stated that the Sinhalese consonant ka is often
mispronounced by Tamil speakers as ga. Therefore, it could be that the TamilNet
editors, seeing that their forgery carried a visible mistake at the earlier instance
tried to correct it as was pointed out in the blogs, but still made the mistake of
substituting ka with ga. It was still obvious that the Mullaitivu RHDS letterhead
had been manually altered by the forgers without proper knowledge as to the correct
use of Sinhalese in letterheads.
The newspaper noted that additionally, under Your Number, nothing at all
was written in Sinhalese: Oyaage ankaya was erased. Instead, it appears under My
Number this time, and again with the mistake in the consonant. The Sri Lanka
Guardian cited this as an attempt to forge letters from Tamil doctors within the
conflict zone which contained questionable claims with the objective of provoking
international intervention in the conflict. The newspaper regretted the fact that
many similar claims were also accepted at face value by the international community.
On 17 March 2009, TamilNet published yet another faked document, again on
a Mullaitivu Regional Director of Health Services letter heading, but said to have
been signed by the Regional Directors of Health Services in both Mullaitivu and
Killinochi. It appeared to have been on RDHS Mullaitivu letter heading.223 It was
presented as a letter from the directors to the Ministry of Health Care and Nutrition
complaining about shortages in medicine and calling on international intervention by
the ICRC to transport medicines. The RDHS Mullaitivu letter heading is different
to the 26 January heading and different to those of 3 and 13 March.
Nessman was obviously a slow learner. Leaving aside his apparent propensity to
take claims emanating from TamilNet at face value, Nessman was involved in further
professional errors within two weeks of the January 2009 Dr Vartharaja fiasco. On
12 February, Nessman had to personally apologise to the commander of the army
for violations of APs reporting standards regarding its publication of a series of

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misleading photo captions reading Army artillery shells fired into a Safe Zone killed
scores of civilians and injured at least 300 more and Sri Lankan military shelled a
hospital and a village inside the Safe Zone. Associated Press retracted those captions.
Nessman stated that his agency had been party to what appeared to be a violation
of APs reporting standards, which require us to present both sides to any story. In
addition, that sentence did not bear any relation to the scenes depicted in the photos.
Nessman noted that While we cannot undue the damage done, know that it was
an unintentional mistake that we intend not to make again.224 It is a simple fact,
however, that Associated Press would go on to make the same mistake again and
again in accepting the doctors claims at face value, and in essence unquestioningly
projecting an unsubstantiated LTTE rationale for international intervention. There
was no professional filter. It was a mistake which resulted in much greater damage
that also could not be undone.
Nessman was able to subsequently use his position as APs Colombo bureau chief
to challenge and attempt to discredit the doctors when they admitted to having
been intimidated into making the claims they did to Associated Press and other
international media.225 Weiss notes that the Associated Press, that is to say Nessman,
claimed in its reporting of the July press conference that the statement by the doctors
contradicted other evidence from the battlefront.226 It is unclear, however, what
the other sources and evidence were to which Nessman referred. During the conflict
he had admitted that The war zone is a black hole...the information is so scattered
that were getting...We have absolutely no idea.227 He had said that his reporting
was based on scattered reports that were getting the very few reports were able
to get. The simple fact is that Nessman relied very heavily indeed on the doctors
as sources, because they were some of the very few people with telephones that still
work.228 If there were other sources, Nessman gave little indication of them at the
time. We have already seen from APs January reporting fiasco that Nessman had
previously treated TamilNet reports incautiously.
Weiss also states that when Nessman heard Dr Varatharaja specifically denying
the claims he had made to AP, Nessman stated That was the clincher...There was
no credibility to their testimony. Given the implications for his own credibility
and professionalism Nessman would have to have said that. He went on to claim
as justification for his attempts to discredit them that the doctors looked scared,
nervous, and rehearsed.229 What Weiss and Nessman failed to convey, however, is that
the press conference was within weeks of the end of fighting. Any Tamil contradicting
LTTE positions especially in this key respect would be scared and nervous.
Their families would also be at risk. The LTTEs reputation as vicious, cold-blooded
murderers of any Tamil that opposed them was ingrained within Sri Lankan society.
Weiss himself provides a feel for the sort of atmosphere the doctors had just left in

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the Vanni: [D]issenting voices who opposed the Tigers faced assassination. In areas
controlled by the Tigers, dissent was virtually impossible, whilst in peripheral areas
such as the Jaffna peninsula or Trincomallee, Tamils who published pieces critical
of the movement could expect to be reproached, threatened, beaten and otherwise
intimidated, or killed.230 Weiss also states that at the time the Sri Lankan government
continued to warn of active Tamil Tiger elements, and urged Sri Lankans to remain
vigilant. A Tamil Tiger leader claimed in an interview with Channel 4 to still have
2,000 LTTE fighters at his command.231 The Independent stated that Analysts say
that even if the rebels in the countrys north-east are neutralised in the coming days,
the movement will retain the capacity...to launch terror strikes and suicide attacks.232
Even Nessman stated at the time that even if the LTTE lose their conventional
component, they still will be pretty likely able to carry out suicide bombings and
other guerilla attacks for at least months, maybe years, to come.233 In this prediction
he was also proved wrong. The doctors were heroes for what they had done to keep
so many wounded civilians alive during the Vanni crisis. They demonstrated their
courage a second time in rising above an understandable fear of the LTTE and its
reputation for murdering dissidents and their families, and recanting the claims they
had been forced to make.
Weiss had stated of the doctors that [t]he compilation of memory, as well
as cumulative systematic record of the scale of deaths, comes largely from their
hands.234 This record, however, only appears to be accepted when it formed part
of a questionable Western narrative.
The simple question not answered by Nessman, Channel 4, and rest of the
western media is why they automatically assumed that the Tamil doctors were under
pressure from the government from the end of May 2009 onwards with regard to
casualty figures during the Vanni operations, when the western media uniformly
failed to in any way raise precisely the same question when the doctors were working
under armed guard at the mercy of the worlds most vicious, and by that stage very
desperate, terrorist movements? The question is a particularly live one for Nessman.
His late January 2009 reporting of hundreds of civilians deaths, based on TamilNet
propaganda and the alleged claims of a doctor in the Vanni, was killed by his editors
when it subsequently emerged that the doctor concerned denied all knowledge of what
were clearly fraudulent claims. Nessman nevertheless on several occasions continued
to accept at face value similar claims from similar doctors in similar circumstances.
While arguably there may well be an innate western media prejudice against the
Sri Lankan government, there is a more obvious reason for the cosy consensus that
the doctors were forced to recant the claims made in their names on TamilNet.235
Given there were no independent sources in the Vanni, many western journalists,
under pressure to report, took the coerced statements at face value, quoted the

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the doctors in the vanni

Tamil doctors (as they were encouraged to do by the LTTE) and used the claims
and figures provided by the doctors without reservation in coverage of what was
happening. If even half of what the doctors revealed in July 2009 regarding LTTE
intimidation and having to make false claims is true, it would still invalidate hundreds
of western newspaper articles, television reports and media news items. It would
be tremendously embarrassing for those journalists and editors who were naive and
unprofessional enough to have written those articles, or as editors to have accepted
them. It is unsurprising, therefore, that APs Ravi Nessman would claim there was
no credibility to the post-war testimony of the Tamil doctors.236 Given Nessmans
very heavy reliance in his articles on clearly questionable claims by the doctors, his
defensiveness is understandable.
The Channel 4 programmes made a number of claims about the government
doctors. Channel 4 and the programme makers alleged that the doctors had been
intimidated by the Sri Lankan government at the end of the conflict and following
their alleged detention by Sri Lankan security forces, and that they subsequently
lied in stating that they had been intimidated by the LTTE. Attempts on the part of
Channel 4 and the programme makers to discredit the testimony of these doctors,
a set of incredibly courageous individuals, is both reprehensible and immoral. The
attempts by Channel 4 to discredit the Tamil doctors are appallingly cynical but
clearly in the broadcasters interest. Their testimony, once out of LTTE hands,
about the reality of events in the Vanni fatally discredits both of the Channel 4
programmes.
If the doctors had been under the sort of intimidation claimed by Channel 4,
the doctors could simply have left Sri Lanka and claimed political asylum elsewhere.
They have had enough opportunities to do so and. In the Vanni their movements
were strictly curtailed by the LTTE. They were beaten or manacled for trying to leave.
Out of the Vanni, following initial questioning, the doctors have had full freedom of
movement. Out of the five doctors in question, three of them have already travelled
outside Sri Lanka, on personal visits, to receive awards and to attend courses and
conferences. They have visited India, USA, Australia, Canada and Switzerland.
They returned. Dr Sathyamoorthy has visited the USA, Australia and Canada. He
received the 2010 Inter-Action Humanitarian Award in the USA; Dr Shanmugarajah
visited Geneva and also attended UNHRC sessions open to public; Dr Vartharaja
visited India on a number of occasions and subsequently migrated to the USA.237
Dr Sivapalan serves as Medical Officer, Kilinochchi Hospital and also runs a private
medical clinic in Chavakachcheri; Dr Kathiravelu is presently continuing his postgraduate studies in Colombo.
While Channel 4 chose to present the initial detention of the doctors as in
some way sinister, the simple fact is that all of the people who came out of the

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conflict zone were detained and screened by the security forces. Membership of the
LTTE was illegal in Sri Lanka as it was in 32 other countries. Several thousand of
those screened were detained under Sri Lankas Prevention of Terrorism and other
emergency legislation. Dr Sivapalan, who had been a member of the LTTE, was
released on bail only on 28 December 2009, after the completion of an extended
investigation because of his LTTE membership. The programme seemed to attempt
to dress this detention up as some sort of special intimidation of the doctors, it was
in fact standard procedure for people coming out of the LTTE-controlled zone and
was for very basic security purposes. Had he been an al-Qaeda doctor, working in
an al-Qaeda medical post in Afghanistan or Pakistan, he would probably still be in
Guantnamo Bay.
The pattern of how the government doctors who remained with the displaced
Tamil population were exploited by the LTTE is clear. Dr Sathyamoorthy, whose
name was used on several occasions by the LTTE and TamilNet, confirmed that [t]
he LTTE...quoted us in their web sites without our consent or knowledge giving
exaggerated figures of civilian deaths and casualties.238 Tamilnet provides a clear
example of putting what can only but be described as jarringly propagandistic words
into the mouth of a doctor. It reported that a doctor at the Udayarkattu hospital said:
The world is silently witnessing one of the worst massacres of helpless civilians in
contemporary times. These civilians know no crime other than not knowing where
to go. While the genocidal military of the Colombo government is on the killing
spree, India and the international community sadistically expect the civilians to
come running out into the hands of their killers. Either way they expect them to
perish. The unnamed doctor is also said to have dismissed allegations of the LTTE
use of civilians as a human shield as a farce.239 Most dispassionate observers would
conclude that these are indeed more the words of a propagandist than a medical
doctor. Channel 4 appears to have accepted them at face value.
The January 2009 Associated Press reporting fiasco in accepting forged reports
and false claims made in the name of one of the doctors alleging hundreds of civilian
casualties, and shortages of medicines should have been a wake-up call for western
journalists. It is all too clear that lacklustre western reporting could not resist accepting
similarly questionable and false claims by other doctors. These claims were presented
to western media outlets in the form of forged letters and statements in the names
of doctors, health officials or medical workers, as well as by way of telephone
interviews with some of the doctors and unnamed medical workers. And when the
doctors subsequently admitted they had been forced to make false claims in those
telephone calls, western journalists whose reporting of events in the Vanni was
based on these claims then sought to discredit them.
The reality is that the initial, intimidation-driven, claims made by the government

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the doctors in the vanni

doctors which were then withdrawn by the doctors would be given little credence in
any British court. Perhaps the last word regarding Channel 4s reliance on the Tamil
doctors for its narrative should be given to Dr Shanmugarajah:
I have seen both of the Channel 4 programmes about the last few months
of the war in Sri Lanka. I was very surprised at the claims made in both
of these programmes. I was present as a medical doctor, surgeon and
administrator all the way through the events featured in the programmes,
up to the final days of the conflict. I am also mentioned in the first
programme, and my image features in the second.
I am very surprised that Channel 4 never once attempted to contact me
regarding either of the programmes as I was very well placed to provide
accurate and clear information about the provisions of medical services
within the conflict areas during the latter stages of the fighting.
I am particularly surprised they did not attempt to contact me with
regards to the claims made by Vany Kumar in the first programme...I am
surprised that Channel 4 did not contact me before making the claims
they then televised. I was back working in the Vanni from October 2009
onwards and would have been easily and readily contactable by telephone
at any of the hospitals at which I worked. It would have been very easy
to contact me by telephone. 240

Notes
162
163

164
165
166

A Marred Victory and a Defeat Pregnant with Foreboding, op. cit.


We exaggerated war deaths, say arrested doctors, Breaking News Ireland, 9 July
2009, available at <http://www.breakingnews.ie/world/we-exaggerated-war-deathssay-arrested-doctors-417975.html>. See, also, for example, Tamil War Toll was
exaggerated, The Daily Express, 9 July 2009, available at <http://www.express.co.uk/
posts/view/112738/Tamil-war-toll-was-exaggerated>.
Affidavit of Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, sworn 10 May 2012.
Interview with Ravi Nessman, the Associated Press Colombo bureau chief from 20072009, Aired on PBS stations on 18 February 2009, available at <http://transcurrents.
com/tc/2009/02/kohona_says_its_best_for_mia_t.html>.
For just some examples of these telephone calls, apparently under duress, see Sri
Lanka accused of shelling safe zone in north, Associated Press, 22 January 2009;
Sri Lankan official says army shelled hospital, Associated Press, 1 February 2009;

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Were still counting the bodies: UN and Red Cross fury as Sri Lankan hospital
is hit by shelling for THIRD time in 24 hours, The Daily Mail, 2 February 2009,
available at <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1134085/Were-countingbodies-UN-Red-Cross-fury-Sri-Lankan-hospital-hit-shelling-THIRD-time-24-hours.
html#ixzz1aVXxAXXl>; Nine dead in attack on hospital in Sri Lanka, The Times,
2 February 2009; Trapped Sri Lankans dying in makeshift hospital. Doctors
treating refugees injured in intense fighting plead for evacuations and medical aid,
The Observer, 15 February 2009; Sri Lankan hospital shelled in Tamil no-fire zone.
Doctor says 20 people killed and 300 injured, The Guardian, 9 April 2009; Sri
Lanka: Civilians are dying, and the hospital is paralysed. A doctor in the no-fire
zone in Sri Lanka describes how cluster bomb attacks on a hospital have killed and
injured many civilians, The Guardian, 22 April 2009; Hospital hit by Sri Lankan
army, BBC News, 2 May 2009, available at <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/
south_asia/8030605.stm>; Sri Lanka denies shelling hospital. Military accused of
killing 67 civilians in northern conflict zone, Al-Jazeera, 3 May 2009, available
at <http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2009/05/200952154223320669.html>;
Hundreds dead on bloodiest day of Sri Lankan battle to destroy Tamil Tigers.
Doctor says at least 378 people killed in latest assault by Sri Lankan military, The
Observer (London), 10 May 2009; Sri Lanka health official: 257 civilians killed,
Associated Press, 10 May 2009; More than 1,000 civilians killed in attacks on Sri
Lanka safe zone, The Guardian, 11 May 2009; Hospital reports hundreds dead in
Sri Lanka shelling, Associated Press, 11 May 2009; Sri Lanka accused of war crime
over shelled hospital, The Daily Telegraph, 12 May 2009; Doctor says 49 killed in
Sri Lanka hospital attack, Associated Press, 12 May 2009; Sri Lankans Caught in
Hospital Cross Fire, Time, 12 May 2009, available at <http://www.time.com/time/
world/article/0,8599,1897594,00.html>; Tamil war zone hospital hit again, BBC
News, 13 May 2009, available at <http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/south_
asia/8048087.stm>; Sri Lanka war hospital hit again, Al-Jazeera, 13 May 2009,
available at <http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2009/05/20095139268272268.
html>; Makeshift Sri Lanka hospital is shelled, taking 47 lives, The Guardian, 13
May 2009; More Sri Lanka civilians die in second raid on hospital in Tamil war
zone, The Times. 13 May 2009; Fifty Die As Sri Lanka Hospital Shelled Again,
Sky News, 13 May 2009; Slaughter in Sri Lanka as makeshift hospital is shelled for
second day, The Times, 14 May 2009; Shelling kills at least 50 at Sri Lanka hospital,
staff says, Associated Press, 14 May 2009.
167 Weiss, op. cit., p. 143.
168 Ibid., p. 135.
169 Rajan Hoole, Doctoring the evidence, Himal Southasian, August2009, available at
<http://www.himalmag.com/component/content/article/604-doctoring-the-evidence.
html>.
170 Sri Lanka war hospital hit again, Al-Jazeera, 13 May 2009, available at <http://
english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2009/05/20095139268272268.html>.
171 A Marred Victory and a Defeat Pregnant with Foreboding, Special Report No. 32,
University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka, 10 June 2009, available
at <http://www.uthr.org/SpecialReports/spreport32.htm#_ftn7>.

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the doctors in the vanni

172

Pawns of an Un-heroic War, Special Report No. 31, University Teachers for Human
Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka, 28 October 2008, available at <http://www.uthr.org/
SpecialReports/spreport31.htm>.
173 Unlock the Camps in Sri Lanka, Amnesty International, London, 2009, p. 25.
174 Call for a truce in Sri Lanka as humanitarian situation deteriorates, Amnesty
International, London, 6 February 2009, available at <http://www.amnesty.
org/en/news-and-updates/news/call-for-truce-sri-lanka-humanitarian-situationdeteriorates-20090206>.
175 Sri Lanka: No end to War on civilians in Sri Lanka: A briefing on the humanitarian
crisis and lack of human rights protection, Index Number: ASA 37/004/2009, Amnesty
International, 27 March 2009, p. 12, available at <http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/
info/ASA37/004/2009/en>.
176 Funding the Final War. LTTE Intimidation and Extortion in the Tamil Diaspora,
Human Rights Watch, New York, 2006, p. 8, available at <http://www.hrw.org/sites/
default/files/reports/ltte0306webwcover.pdf>.
177 Daya Somasundaram, Collective trauma in the Vanni a qualitative inquiry into the
mental health of the internally displaced due to the civil war in Sri Lanka, International
Journal of Mental Health Systems, 4:22, 2010, available at <http://www.ijmhs.com/
content/4/1/22>. Dr Somasundaram is a consultant psychiatrist at Glenside Hospital,
and Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Adelaide, Australia. His research
and publications have mainly concentrated on the psychological effects and treatment
of disasters including the long-term effects on communities. He is a Fellow of the
Royal College of Psychiatrists. He was also a Senior Professor of Psychiatry at the
Faculty of Medicine, University of Jaffna and Consultant Psychiatrist working in
Northern Sri Lanka for over a decade.
178 Ibid., p.27.
179 The Plight of Child Conscripts, Social Degradation & Anti-Muslim Frenzy, Special
Report No. 14, University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), 20 July 2002, p. 27.
180 Human rights and The Issues of War and Peace, Briefing No 1, August 1992.
181 Anita Pratap, Island of Blood, Penguin, 2003, pp. 100-101.
182 Weiss, op. cit., p. 68.
183 Ibid., p. 69.
184 Trauma in the Vanni: Human Grist to the Mills of Dual Hypocrisy, Information
Bulletin No. 46, University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka, 8 July
2008, available at <http://www.uthr.org/bulletins/Bul46.htm>.
185 A Marred Victory and a Defeat Pregnant with Foreboding, op. cit.
186 Ibid.
187 Let Them Speak: Truth about Sri Lankas Victims of War, op. cit.
188 Dark victory, The Economist, 23 April 2009, available at <http://www.economist.
com/node/13527366>.
189 Weiss, op. cit., p. 231. See, also, S Lanka medics recant on deaths, BBC News, 8
July 2009, available at <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8141007.stm>.
190 LTTE propaganda defeated, truth revealed, op. cit.
191 We exaggerated war deaths, say arrested doctors, Breaking News Ireland, 9 July
2009, available at <http://www.breakingnews.ie/world/we-exaggerated-war-deaths-

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corrupted journalism

say-arrested-doctors-417975.html>. See, also, for example, Tamil War Toll was


exaggerated, The Daily Express, 9 July 2009, available at <http://www.express.co.uk/
posts/view/112738/Tamil-war-toll-was-exaggerated>.
192 See, Sergei Desilva-Ranasinghe, Information Warfare and the Endgame of the Civil
War, Asia Pacific Defence Reporter, May 2010. See, also, Subject: Doctors recant
eyewitness accounts of civilian casualties, 13 July 2009, US Embassy Cable, available
at <http://aebr.home.xs4all.nl/wl/aftenposten/srilanka.html>.
193 Lies Agreed Upon, op. cit.
194 Affidavit of Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, op. cit.
195 Rajan Hoole, Doctoring the evidence, Himal Southasian, August2009, available at
<http://www.himalmag.com/component/content/article/604-doctoring-the-evidence.
html>.
196 Ibid.
197 Ibid.
198 Lies Agreed Upon, op. cit.
199 LTTE propaganda defeated, truth revealed, The Sunday Observer (Colombo), 12
July 2009, available at <http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2009/07/12/fea02.asp>.
200 See, for example, Sri Lankan military says it captures rebel base, USA Today, 17
August 2008; Aid groups: Sri Lanka fighting displaces thousands, USA Today, 15
August 2008.
201 Suspected rebels bomb Sri Lanka train, USA Today, 19 December 2007.
202 Official: Sri Lankan war zone doctors detained, The Guardian, 18 May 2009.
203 See, for example, Sri Lanka artillery barrage kills 378, doctor says, Associated Press,
10 May 2009, and Doctor: Sri Lanka hospital shelled, 15 killed, Associated Press,
13 May 2009.
204 UN condemns bloodbath in war zone, Globe and Mail, 11 May 2009.
205 Obituary: Velupillai Prabhakaran; Led Long, Bloody Insurgency in Sri Lanka, The
Washington Post, 19 May 2009.
206 Interview with Ravi Nessman, aired on PBS stations on 18 February 2009, available
at <http://transcurrents.com/tc/2009/02/kohona_says_its_best_for_mia_t.html>.
207 Official: Sri Lanka fight kills over 300 civilians, Associated Press Online Newswire,
28 January 2009.
208 See, as but three examples, Official: Recent Sri Lanka fighting has killed over 300
civilians, USA Today, 28 January 2009, available at <http://www.usatoday.com/news/
world/2009-01-28-srilanka_N.htm>, Lanka fight kills over 300 civilians, Saudi
Gazette, 29 January 2009, and Official: Sri Lanka fight kills over 300 civilians,
The Jakarta Post, 29 January 2009, available at <http://www.thejakartapost.com/
news/2009/01/28/official-sri-lanka-fight-kills-over-300-civilians.html>.
209 Civilian casualties mount as Lanka goes all out to finish Tigers, The Indian Express,
29 January 2009, available at <http://www.indianexpress.com/news/civilian-casualtiesmount-as-lanka-goes-all-out-to-finish-tigers/416269/0>.
210 Associated Press kills story about civilians deaths after realizing they were
subjected to a hoax, Ministry of Defence, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri
Lanka, Colombo, 29 January 2009, available at <http://www.defence.lk/new.
asp?fname=20090129_01>.

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the doctors in the vanni

211 Civilian casualties mount as Lanka goes all out to finish Tigers, The Indian Express,
29 January 2009, available at <http://www.indianexpress.com/news/civilian-casualtiesmount-as-lanka-goes-all-out-to-finish-tigers/416269/0>.
212 See, AP kills Sri Lanka-Civil War story, Associated Press, 28 January 2009, and
AP kills story on Mullaitivu casualties, Policy Research & Information Unit of the
Presidential Secretariat of Sri Lanka, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka,
Colombo, 29 January 2009.
213 More than 1,000 wounded, Mullai RDHS urges IC to send medical teams,
TamilNet, 26 January 2009, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.
html?catid=13&artid=28153>.
214 Nick Davies, Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion
and Propaganda in the Global Media, Chatto & Windus, London, 2008, p. 102. Davies
is a British investigative journalist, writer and documentary maker. He has written for
The Guardian and The Observer, and has been named Reporter of the Year, Journalist
of the Year and Feature Writer of the Year at the British Press Awards. As a Guardian
journalist, Davies was responsible for uncovering the News of the World phone hacking
affair. He was the winner of the first Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in 1999.
Davies has made documentaries for ITVs World in Action.
215 Ibid., p. 101.
216 Ibid.
217 Affidavit of Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, sworn 10 May 2012.
218 See, Lack of antibiotics force doctors to re-amputate patients in Vanni,
TamilNet, 20 February 2009, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.
html?catid=13&artid=28473>.
219 See, Doctors warn severe shortage of medicines in Vanni, TamilNet, 6 March 2009
available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=28624>.
220 Tamilnet forges letterhead of RDHS, 16 March 2009, Sri Lanka Guardian
(Colombo), available at <http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2009/03/tamilnet-forgesletterhead-of-rdhs.html>.
221 RDHS confirms 13 hunger deaths, urges officials to act, TamilNet, 3 March 2009,
available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=28592>.
222 Makeshift-hospital struggles without medicines, TamilNet, 15 March 2009, available
at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=28728>.
223 See, Allow ICRC to transport medicines, RDHS urge Sri Lankan Health
Ministry, TamilNet, 17 March 2009, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.
html?catid=13&artid=28741>.
224 Associated Press Tenders Apology to Commander on False Captions, Lanka Daily
News, 12 February 2009, available at <http://lankadailynews.com/2009/02/associatedpress-tenders-apology-to-commander-on-false-captions/>.
225 Sri Lankan doctors say they exaggerated war deaths, Associated Press, 9 July 2009.
226 Weiss, op. cit., p. 231. See, also, Sri Lankan doctors say they exaggerated war deaths, op. cit.
227 Interview with Ravi Nessman, aired on PBS stations on 18 February 2009, available
at <http://transcurrents.com/tc/2009/02/kohona_says_its_best_for_mia_t.html>.
228 Ibid.
229 Weiss, op. cit., p. 231.

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corrupted journalism

230
231
232

Ibid., Note 8, p. 310.


Ibid., pp. 234-5.
Tamils fear retribution as war reaches its climax. LTTE will still operate despite
military defeat, The Independent (London), 1 May 2009.
233 Interview with Ravi Nessman, Aired on PBS stations on 18 February 2009, available
at <http://transcurrents.com/tc/2009/02/kohona_says_its_best_for_mia_t.html>.
234 Weiss, op. cit., p. 187.
235 This consensus was not just limited to the western media. The western human
rights industry, who had similarly integrated the coerced claims by the doctors into
their narrative of the conflict, were just as institutionally bound to adhere to the
convenient narrative that they had been accurate all along, and that the government
had intimidated the doctors.
236 Weiss, op. cit., p. 231.
237 Saratha Rajendran, Channel 4 playing professional fouls, Daily News (Colombo),
22 March 2012, available at <http://www.dailynews.lk/2012/03/22/fea03.asp>.
238 LTTE propaganda defeated, truth revealed, op. cit.
239 Does IC know no human dignity of civilians, asks a doctor in Vanni, TamilNet, 26
January 2009, available at <http://tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=28145>.
240 Affidavit of Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, op. cit.

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the no-fire zones in the vanni

C hapter F ive

The No-Fire Zones in the Vanni


[T]here is good evidence that at least on some occasions the Tamil Tigers fired
artillery into their own people. The terrible calculation was that with enough
dead Tamils, a toll would eventually be reached that would lead to international
outrage and intervention.
Gordon Weiss 241
There are continuing reports of shelling from both sides, including inside the
no-fire zone, where the LTTE seems to have set up firing positions.
Sir John Holmes, UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency
Relief Coordinator 242
The UN noted it could not be ruled out that the LTTE shelled civilian areas
to assign blame to the SLA.
The US government 243

As the government sought from 2007 onwards to reoccupy the areas of northern
Sri Lanka controlled by the LTTE, they were faced by the problems caused by the
LTTEs forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians. These civilians
had been made to accompany the LTTE as it moved into the Vanni hinterland. In a
clear attempt to minimise civilian casualties, the government declared several no-fire
zones. The Government of Sri Lanka declared the first demilitarised, no-fire zone
(NFZ 1) in January 2009.244 This zone was a 22 square-mile safe area for civilians
north of the A35 road between Udayarkattu junction and the Manjal Palam (Yellow
Bridge) in Mullaitivu district. This declaration was communicated to citizens in the
region through leaflet drops by the Sri Lankan air force and through notification
to the International Committee of the Red Cross. As the LTTE withdrew further

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corrupted journalism

and took the civilians with them, a second no-fire zone was declared.245 This was an
eight square-mile stretch of the sea coast east of Puthukudiyirippu. The government
subsequently declared a third no-fire zone, one square-mile in extent, between the
sea and Nanthikadal Lagoon in early May 2009.246 These were areas which the
government intended to be safe zones for civilians, free from military forces. The
reality was that the fighting spilled over into these areas. The Channel 4 programmes
claimed that government forces deliberately attacked civilians in the very areas
Colombo had declared to be safe.
While also featured in Channel 4s first programme, these claims were subsequently
presented as a case history in its second programme, Sri Lankas Killing Fields: War
Crimes Unpunished. The case history was said to examine events at Udayarkattu,
within the first no-fire zone declared by the government, during the presence of
the last United Nations aid convoy, Convoy 11, to reach that location in January
2009. Channel 4 alleged that despite having declared the area to be a no-fire zone
Sri Lankan military forces had unilaterally and deliberately shelled civilians in and
around the temporary UN food distribution hub established there, a nearby hospital
and elsewhere in the NFZ allegations which it claimed amounted to war crimes.
The simple fact is that Channel 4 disregarded or was unaware of facts which
fundamentally undermined its claims. The first pivotal material fact omitted by
Channel 4 with regard to the Udayarkattu case history is that although the
government declared a no-fire zone, the LTTE saw such zones as detrimental to its
need to retain the civilian population as a human shield and did its best to undermine
them. It maintained or placed combatants and heavy weapons in the zones and fired
at Sri Lankan military forces from within them. The Report of the Secretary-Generals
Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, confirms that On 20 January 2009,
the Government unilaterally declared a No Fire Zone (NFZ). It also notes that The
LTTE did not accept the NFZ as binding.247 This report also confirmed that the
LTTE fired at government forces from the no-fire zone. The Darusman report was
a document with which Channel 4 was very familiar. The broadcaster made several
references to it in the course of the programme.
The International Committee of the Red Cross also drew attention to the LTTEs
negative attitude to the governments declaration of no-fire zones. In a letter headed
Complaints about LTTE firing from the no fire zone area, ICRC stated:
The ICRC is aware the Sri Lankan authorities have announced the
demarcation of a new safe zone along the Mullaitivu lagoon...However,
the ICRC would like to point out that not having been agreed upon by
both parties to the conflict with the aim to shelter the wounded, sick
and civilians from the effects of hostilities or with the aim to demilitarize

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the no-fire zones in the vanni

it, the zone as such is not specifically protected under International


Humanitarian Law (IHL).248

The No-Fire Zones in the Vanni


Channel 4 clearly disregarded its obligations under the British medias Broadcasting
Code when it did not take reasonable care not to have presented or disregarded
or omitted in a way that is unfair to an individual or organisation, in this case
the Government of Sri Lanka, the material fact that the LTTE did not accept the
declaration of the no-fire zones as binding with the obvious corollary that the
LTTE continued to fire at government forces from within the NFZ. The claim in
the programme is that it was government forces, and government forces alone, who
broke the no-fire zone declaration. The LTTEs shelling at government forces from
in and around the Udayarkattu no-fire zone, and subsequently from other no-fire
zones, is not mentioned at all. In fact there is not a single reference in either of the
Channel 4 programmes to the LTTE having fired a single shell in the entire period
said to have been investigated.
It clearly follows therefore that the second material fact omitted by Channel 4
in its case history is that the LTTE were actively firing at Sri Lankan government
forces from within the no-fire zone. The reality is that they never stopped firing from
the areas that came to be designated no-fire zones by the government. The Bishop
of Jaffna, Rt Rev Dr Thomas Savundaranayagam, in a letter to President Mahinda
Rajapaksa on 25 January 2009, thanked the government for declaring a no-fire zone
on 20 January, and asked that it be extended. He also referred to the fact conspicuously
absent from the Channel 4 programme, that the LTTE was already firing artillery
and rockets at government forces from positions within the no-fire zone:
We are also urgently requesting the Tamil Tigers not to station themselves
among the people in the safety zone and fire their artillery shells and
rockets at the Army. This will only increase more and more the death of
civilians thus endangering the safety of the people.249
The Bishop of Jaffnas comments were confirmed by the US ambassador to Sri
Lanka at the time. On 27 January 2009, the ambassador put the sequence of attacks
in the first no-fire zone into a very clear context: The LTTE must immediately desist
from firing heavy weapons from areas within or near civilian concentrations. The
Government must also resist the temptation to launch retaliatory shelling into areas
populated by civilians.250 It is clear that the LTTE began firing heavy weapons first
from the no-fire zones. This pattern continued in the other no-fire zones declared

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corrupted journalism

by the government. The US government noted on 19 March, for example, in a


reference to No-Fire Zone 2: While we continue pressure on the LTTE, the U.S.
and others have pressed the government not to respond to LTTE shelling emanating
from the safe zone.251
While Channel 4 does note that there were LTTE units adjacent to the civilians,
and near to Convoy 11, their programmes case history omitted a pivotal material
fact, that the LTTE were actively firing on government forces from within the NFZ
and from within concentrations of civilians, and had been doing so for several days
before the events ostensibly recalled in the programme. Human Rights Watch, for
example, recorded that:
When the 11th United Nations Humanitarian Convoy was held back at
PTK for about a week in January due to heavy fighting...LTTE forces
immediately set up firing positions close to the convoy and started firing
artillery. The SLA responded with its own artilleryone shell struck 100
meters from the convoybut no one was injured.252
With regard to the UN convoys previous location close to Udayarkattu, the
International Crisis Group also noted that from 17 January onwards:
Over the next few days incoming and outgoing mortar and artillery fire
intensified. The LTTE were launching shells from close to PTK into
government-held territory, and incoming shells from the security forces
were striking in PTK.253
The ICG noted that when the UN was marking the northern perimeter of its
position, there was LTTE fire out from the NFZ from a short distance away toward
the front lines.254 The ICG also noted that there was a LTTE military position just
outside the UN distribution centre and a Voice of Tigers radio station was housed
in a shipping container at a corner of the site.255 The ICG also documented that
there were LTTE gun positions within 500m of the centre. The ICG also recorded
that most of the LTTE artillery was located in the no-fire zone.256
The omission of these material facts misled Channel 4s viewers.
In a 20 January 2009 communication to the government, Chris du Toit, the
UNs chief security adviser in Sri Lanka, officially confirmed that the UN were
told by the Sri Lankan army that LTTE forces were shelling government positions
with artillery and mortar fire from positions adjacent to the UN convoys position.
He stated:

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the no-fire zones in the vanni

It was reported to us that [LTTE] artillery and mortar bases have been
established in the general area of our communications hub from where
they deliver fire to your forces.
The UN adviser then requested the Security Forces Commander to inform
your respective ground commanders and artillery commanders not to deliver any
artillery, mortar or small arms fire into the general area of the hub. He then attached
the coordinates of the UN location for easy reference.257 In other words, the UN
said we know the LTTE is firing at you, using us as a shield, but please do not
fire back. Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, engaged within the Ministry of Disaster
Management and Human Rights in Colombo in monitoring the crisis in the
Vanni from at the time, provides more details of these communications between
Colombo and the United Nations. He was part of the team that responded to
the calls made by the UN. He states that the exchange of messages with the
UN culminated in the UN Resident Representative sending us a text to say
they believed the bulk of firing had come from the LTTE which was also the
description given to Wijesinha by Chris du Toit when he visited the Ministry
of Disaster Management and Human Rights, to discuss the incident and related
casualty figures. Wijesinha records that du Toit told us then that they could not be
sure from the trajectories where most of the shells had come from, but the one shell
of which they could be sure and he showed us the crater of a blown up photograph
had come from the LTTE.258
The International Crisis Group noted that from 17 January 2009 onwards
there was LTTE fire out from the NFZ from a short distance away toward the
front lines.259 The Darusman report also notes that LTTE cadre were present in
the NFZ and that The LTTE did fire artillery from approximately 500 metres
away as well as from further back in the NFZ.260 This would mean that the LTTE
had been shelling and mortaring from positions adjacent to the UN location, before
the alleged government shelling mentioned in the programme. The fact that the
LTTE had been shelling government forces and that the Sri Lankan army responded
with gunfire targeting LTTE positions perilously close to the UN convoy was not
mentioned by Channel 4. What was clear from the programme is that when the
UN informed Colombo of shelling falling short of targets close to the UN positions
government forces adjusted their fire.
All these material facts are absent from Channel 4s case history of events at
Udayarkattu.
The Sri Lankan army made its perspective on the events in the first no-fire zone
very clear:

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corrupted journalism

From the beginning in January 2009, the LTTE moved its cadres and
weapons into areas that had been declared NFZ. It attacked Security
Forces from these positions, using artillery, tanks, mortars and other heavy
calibre weapons. The LTTE was also constructing obstacles to prevent
civilians crossing over to Government controlled areas. It was a daunting
task to separate the civilians from the LTTE as the cadres were dressed in
civilian attire as camouflage.261
While Channel 4s programme researchers may or may not have been aware of
the key material fact that the LTTE were shelling the army from within the NFZ
adjacent to the UN location, Human Rights Watch has accurately described aspects
of the incident at the centre of the Channel 4 programmes claims, and interviewed
civilians about the shelling.262 Had they been so inclined, thirty seconds of Googling
on the internet by Channel 4, the programme makers or their researchers would
have brought up the Human Rights Watch report in question.
Human Rights Watch, for example, noted that at around 11:45 a.m. on January
22, Premkumar P. was travelling on his bike near the UN hub at Udayarkattu. He
told Human Rights Watch:
There was heavy shelling, especially where people gatherednear the
hospital and where the UN distributed food. People were running around,
crying. There was no shelter. Some were trying to hide under trees, like
animals. Two shells landed 50 meters ahead of me. I was very afraid.
When I reached the place where the shells landed, I saw that one person
had been injured and was being carried away. Two people were lying by
the roadside, one young man and one man about 55. They were both
dead and covered in blood. The shelling continued during the day. Later
I heard that many people were injured and killed. One body that I saw
had had its head cut off by shrapnel. We could hear where the shelling
was coming from. It was coming from the other side of the A35 road
[from the area where government forces were located]. We also heard
shelling from behind us, but these did not land in the safe zone. They landed
on government forces. The LTTE positions were too close to the distribution
center. It was impossible for shells from these [LTTE] positions to land in the
safe zone.263 (Emphasis added.)
It perhaps goes without saying that the reason why LTTE shells could not land
in the no-fire zone was because they were being fired from within the no-fire zone
itself. Human Rights Watch made this point very clearly: Several sources told

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the no-fire zones in the vanni

Human Rights Watch that LTTE forces maintained positions in the safe zone...
from which they fired on SLA positions.264 Human Rights Watch reported that
Another eyewitness, Suresh S. (not his real name), recalled the same attack to
Human Rights Watch:
We heard both outgoing [LTTE] and incoming [SLA] fire.265
The New York Times also reported on the incident in Udayarkattu. It stated that:
A shell landed near the [UN] compound on Saturday evening, and then
another early Sunday morning, killing 9 civilians and wounding more than
20, according to a memo sent by United Nations officials in Sri Lanka to
their headquarters in New York. Our team on the ground was certain
the shell came from the Sri Lanka military, but apparently in response
to an L.T.T.E. shell, the memo read. All around them was the carnage
from casualties from people who may have thought they would be safer
being near the U.N. Sadly they were wrong that night. A United Nations
official, speaking Tuesday on condition of anonymity, said the team on
the ground had suspected that the rebels were firing at government forces
from close to where civilians were taking shelter.266
Gordon Weiss also noted that:
Tiger mobile artillery units played cat and mouse with SLA artillery locator
devices. They would fire off a shell or two before hitching their howitzer
and moving quickly to a fresh location. Within minutes the spot they
had just vacated would be pummelled by incoming fire.267
A UN official, retired Bangladeshi army colonel Harun Khan, also described
events during the presence of UNs Convoy 11 in the no-fire zone which featured
in the Udayarkattu incident, and which he had accompanied:
We realised we were in serious danger...The Tamil Tigers were placing
their guns dangerously close to our location and were quite intentionally in
my view drawing fire towards the hospital. Civilians were being killed.268
(Emphasis added.)
Weiss cites a UN official who could see the barrel flashes from a Tiger heavy
artillery piece just 300 metres from [the] hospital...As the Tiger artillery sent outgoing

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corrupted journalism

rounds against the armys advance, and then quickly shifted position, he could
count off the seconds until an incoming barrage responded in an effort to destroy
the guns.269 As Weiss noted, the official had seen the Tiger gun positions that had
violated the agreed no-war zone around the hospital.270 With regard to this incident,
Weiss further noted that the Tigers appeared to have ignored the brokered agreement
meant to safeguard the wounded and medical staff...the sanctity of the hospital had
in effect evaporated.271 All this is totally absent from Channel 4s case history
of shelling involving the no-fire zone. The truth is that the LTTE had ignored the
no-fire zone and the protection the government had sought to provide for civilians
with it from the moment it had been declared.
Commenting in February 2009, UTHR activists Rajan Hoole and Kopalasingham
Sritharan clearly pointed out the LTTE was the problem regarding the no-fire zones,
not necessarily the army: How another safe zone could solve the problem is...unclear.
There is nothing to stop the LTTE moving artillery into any zone. Further, safe zones
do not provide relief for an estimated one third of the civilian population sheltering
everywhere in bunkers, because the LTTE blocked their entry. In the interest of the
civilians, diplomacy and exposure of the LTTEs conduct should have been tried to
the utmost.272 Regrettably, western diplomacy was more focused on criticising the
Sri Lankan military for responding to attacks on it from within the no-fire zone,
courting diaspora votes in British elections and in seeking to provide an escape route
for the LTTE by way of a ceasefire than with assisting with the implementation of
a way of protecting civilians.
There is a third, official, account of events at Udayarkattu totally absent from
the Channel 4 narrative which also confirms LTTE shelling. Gordon Weiss was
the UN spokesman in Sri Lanka at the time of the Udayarkattu incident. Through
him the UN stated that it was difficult to tell where the shelling was coming from:
Many civilians have been killed or injured. Our staff members witnessed the death
of civilians. But we cannot determine where the fire came from.273 In late January
2009, Gordon Weiss again noted: We dont know where the firing came from.274
In his book, The Cage, he states The Tamil Tigers located some of their artillery
weapons inside the No Fire Zone.275 Weiss also records that on 22 January, In
the early afternoon, army artillery fired along the A35, apparently responding to
outgoing fire from the Tamil Tigers.276 That is to say that there was more than one
side shelling, and that the firing was initiated by the LTTE, material facts missing
from Channel 4s case history.
The US government provides a fourth confirmation that the Sri Lankan army
was responding to LTTE shelling coming out of the Udayarkattu no-fire zone. In
a 26 January 2009 cable, the United States ambassador in Sri Lanka reported that:
According to [UN Resident Representative] Buhne (as well as military sources), the

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the no-fire zones in the vanni

LTTE is firing on government positions from the area and the Army is returning
fire...277
It is worth noting at this point that the United Nations 278, Human Rights
Watch279, The New York Times280, Reuters281, The Economist282,Weiss283, University
Teachers for Human Rights284 and the United States government285, amongst others,
have all reported or confirmed in documented instances that government forces
responded to, but did not initiate shelling within the Vanni.
On 30 January 2009, the Sri Lankan defence ministry released diagrams relating
to the LTTEs deployment of heavy and medium artillery within the Udayarkattu
no-fire zone. The Sri Lankan forces stated that they had plotted LTTE artillery gun
positions and their respective calibres through technical and intelligence sources.286
Hoole and Sritharan noted of these maps: LTTE artillery positions as shown on its
web site (defence.lk, 1/31/2009) are in fair agreement with civilian testimony...287
It should be noted that the Government diagrams did not record any of the many
LTTE heavy and medium mortar positions on these diagrams.
The United Nations provided a similar series of maps, which Channel 4 would
appear to have misread. Channel 4, for example, cited the Darusman report to
support what can now be seen as a fundamentally incomplete and inaccurate
account of events at Udayarkattu. While doing so, the programme makers either
missed or chose not to include references in the same report that government
shelling during the incidents had been in response to LTTE shelling by LTTE
artillery and mortar units near the UN hub, and inside the no-fire zone situated
near Udayarkattu. The Darusman report, for example, notes that LTTE cadre were
present in the NFZ and that [t]he LTTE did fire artillery from approximately
500 metres away as well as from further back in the NFZ.288 More importantly,
the report included an annex entitled, Artillery batteries and Projected Fire bearing
and range capabilities by the date period: Image 3.7 through to Image 3.16 in
the annex very clearly show these LTTE artillery positions in Udayarkattu, within
the no-fire zone.289
If this was not jarring enough, Channel 4 actually featured maps from the UN
report annex mentioned above in its programme, but ignored the fact that the very
same maps showed clear evidence of the LTTEs use of artillery and mortar fire from
within the Udayarkattu no-fire zones. LTTE artillery and mortar positions are clearly
present on the very UN maps Channel 4 itself referred to and featured in their own
programme. The sequence of maps appear in Channel 4s second programme, from
minutes 24:37 until 25:03. While the maps in question were incorporated as part of
a filmed sequence which was initially obscured and slightly out of focus, the relevant
details can be made out towards the end of the sequence. Channel 4 did not see
fit to mention that every one of the images show LTTE artillery emplacements in

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corrupted journalism

Udayarkattu, preferring instead to present the Udayarkattu incident as unilateral,


unprovoked and deliberate shelling by government forces. It is self-evident that
the sequence is based on the UN map reproduced above, which was itself part of
the sequence shown in the programme. It is neither in keeping with a forensic
examination, nor with the stated provision of evidence required to convict to
blatantly ignore exculpatory evidence.
There is separate, independent, evidence therefore, that in the no-fire zone
incidents subject to Channel 4s case history, there were LTTE positions just
outside a UN location and a LTTE radio station at a corner of the site, and that
the LTTE were firing at government forces from within the no-fire zone and from
positions within and adjacent to civilian locations, as well as the UN positions.
Far from being artillery or mortar attacks deliberately and accurately targeted
on civilians, there is evidence from the civilians themselves that the shelling was in
response to LTTE shell-fire from positions next to civilians and from within the
no-fire zone itself and from close to the UN location. This incident, and others,
led Human Rights Watch to make the following recommendation to the LTTE:
Do not use civilians as human shields, and take all feasible steps to avoid placing
military targets near civilians.291 In so doing it echoed the pleas of the Bishop of
Jaffna. Both appeals fell on deaf ears.
Any objective reading of the above material from Human Rights Watch, the
Report of the Secretary-Generals Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, UN
officials, and the words of the civilians themselves, would show that Channel 4s
case history of events at Udayarkattu failed to present, disregarded or omitted key
material facts with a direct bearing on the claims they were making in a way that was
very unfair to the Sri Lankan military, was self-evidently unprofessional and which
breached the British Broadcasting Code.
In making their claim that Sri Lankan forces deliberately shelled into areas the
government had declared as no-fire zones, Channel 4 was either unaware of, or
chose not to acknowledge, either the presence of LTTE combatants and heavy
weapons in the no-fire zones, or that the LTTE used these areas to launch attacks
on government forces, to which the army then responded. This policy of denial
appeared to be confirmed in an extraordinary tweet by Channel 4s Jon Snow on 15
March 2012. Following the broadcast of the second programme featuring its case
history of alleged unilateral government shelling of the Udayarkattu no-fire zone,
Jon Snow was challenged in a tweet about LTTE positions in the no-fire zone, and
the civilian casualties the LTTE themselves inflicted. In his response, Snow appears
to deny that the LTTE were present in these zones, stating that the LTTE had
already been defeated and disarmed and that the no-fire zones were exclusively
policed by the army.

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the no-fire zones in the vanni

LTTE deployment of 152mm artillery pieces, Udayarkattu No-Fire Zone


Snows claims are obviously false. The LTTE had neither been defeated or
disarmed, nor had it disarmed itself in the Udayarkattu no-fire zone. Nor was it
defeated or disarmed in No-Fire Zone 2. It was ultimately defeated in No-Fire Zone
3 on or about 18 May, after fierce fighting. LTTE combatants and heavy weapons
were not just present in all the no-fire zones, they used all the no-fire zones as cover
for their weapons and their attacks on Sri Lankan military forces. What Snow also
seems to be unaware of is that some of the fiercest fighting towards the end of the
war was exclusively within No-Fire Zones 2 and 3, within which the LTTE had
concentrated its remaining artillery and mortars. Thousands of Sri Lankan army
soldiers were killed and wounded in these zones, or by fire coming out of them. To
put Snows claims into perspective (and ignoring for a moment the Udayarkattu
incidents), in late March 2009 Sir John Holmes, the UN Under Secretary-General
for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, reported to the Security
Council that There are continuing reports of shelling from both sides, including
inside the no-fire zone, where the LTTE seems to have set up firing positions.292
The International Crisis Group documented that most of the LTTE artillery
was located in the no-fire zone.293 Weiss also confirms that even in the last days of

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LTTE deployment of 122mm artillery pieces, Udayarkattu No-Fire Zone


LTTE deployment of 130mm artillery pieces, Udayarkattu No-Fire Zone

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the siege the LTTE shelled its own people from inside the no-fire zone: Tens of
thousands of civilians attempted a breakout at the lagoon, but even at this late stage
they were driven back by the Tamil Tigers firing artillery rounds at them.294 On 7
May, a US embassy contact reported that LTTE mortar fire and LTTE artillery was
raining down in the conflict zone.295 The US government noted that on 13 May,
LTTE mortar fire intensified appreciably.296 The US government, for example,
also reported to the US Congress that an organization reported accounts from
IDPs of heavy fighting from the night of May 17 into the morning of May 18. The
IDPs were certain...that a large number, perhaps the majority, of those killed in the
NFZ during the previous 12 hours of fighting were killed by LTTE forces.297 Rajan
Hoole also reported that On the night of the 17th, LTTE cadres, facing their last
hours, shelled civilian positions.298 This was not in the final weeks of conflict,
it was in the final minutes of the conflict. The only time the last no-fire zone was
policed by the army was at the end of the war on 18-19 May 2009. Snows tweet
was absolutely untrue.
Following on from the factual inaccuracies in Snows Tweet, Channel 4s
professional short-sightedness extended to other aspects of its programmes. As
touched on in the Introduction, for example, it is ironic that the only image of artillery
in action in the conflict presented by Channel 4, an image which appeared in both
of its programmes, was actually that of a LTTE heavy artillery team. The gun team
are very clearly wearing the Tamil Tiger camouflage pattern unique to the LTTE.
Channel 4 did not make a single reference to a single artillery or mortar shell being
fired by the LTTE in either of its programmes. Channel 4 appears to have been unable
to differentiate between photographs or footage of LTTE or government artillery,
just as it was unable or unwilling to differentiate between LTTE and government
shelling during the crisis.
Channel 4s total silence regarding the LTTEs use of artillery and mortar fire from
positions within the no-fire zones declared by the government, and from amongst the
Tamil civilian population present in these and other areas under its control, is very
surprising. It is difficult to believe that Channel 4 and its programme makers were
simply unaware of LTTE shelling, mortaring and rocketing. While the Channel 4
programmes talked up the value of satellite image surveillance of the conflict area,
claiming that as a result the UN and other powers knew a great deal about what
went on in the no-fire zone, their researchers were strangely silent regarding the 2009
US government report on the crisis mentioned above, and of which they must have
been aware, which noted that:
Numerous commercial imagery-based reports issued by UN agencies and
non-governmental organizations identified evidence of shelling in the

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NFZ. U.S. government sources are unable to attribute the reported damage
to either the Government of Sri Lanka or LTTE forces.299 (Emphasis added.)
That is to say that the United States government acknowledged LTTE shelling
in the no-fire zone. And, with all the immense satellite and other technological
surveillance facilities at its disposal, it was unable to ascertain whom was shelling
whom or what in the no-fire zones. This fact is conveniently ignored by Channel
4 who, in making the categorical claims they did, apparently believed that they
were in a better position to judge than the very people on the ground and in the
air at the time.
While not mentioned at all by Channel 4, the LTTE actively used tanks, heavy
artillery, mortars and rockets against Sri Lankan forces. In 2007, at the start of the
governments offensive against the LTTE, the LTTE was known to have possessed
a wide range of artillery and mortars, including nine 152mm long-range guns, nine
130mm artillery pieces, twenty-two 122mm artillery guns, eighty 120mm mortars
and many 81mm and 60mm mortars. The LTTE also used multi-barrel rocket
launchers noted for their inaccuracy.300 In addition to this ordinance, the movement
also had hundreds of RPG-7 rocket propelled grenade launchers, and thousands
of rockets. The LTTEs use of heavy artillery can also be seen in a range of LTTEfriendly videos on YouTube.301
It is useful at this stage, to put the Udayarkattu incident into a general context that
is material to but which is otherwise wholly absent from either of the two Channel
4 programmes dealing with allegations of the shelling of civilians. It is clear that
the LTTE used artillery and mortars from within no-fire zones and in the vicinity
of civilian concentrations and hospitals or temporary medical centres. Despite the
governments declaration of no-fire zones for the protection of civilians, it is clear the
fighting spilled over into these areas, not least of which because the LTTE deliberately
chose to ignore the demarcation of the areas as demilitarised safe zones. The LTTE
had an established record of responsibility for the following actions: deliberately
shelling government forces, both from no-fire zones and from civilian concentrations
both within and outside of no-fire zones; establishing military positions within, and
firing from, the vicinity of hospitals and temporary medical points; deliberately
drawing government fire into civilian areas, civilian populations and hospitals; and
of itself deliberately shelling into civilians, civilian areas and hospitals. The Channel
4 programme was very misleading, inaccurate and professionally flawed in that it
self-evidently did not report any of these material facts. The LTTEs involvement
in each of these respects is documented below.
The LTTE used its artillery from within civilian areas and no-fire zones. On 5
March 2009, for example, the UN Secretary-General called upon the LTTE to

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remove its weapons and fighters from areas of civilian concentration, to cooperate
in all humanitarian efforts calculated to relieve the suffering of civilians, and to
immediately cease recruitment of children.302 Weiss notes that the Tamil Tigers
were placing mobile artillery pieces in areas now inundated with tens of thousands
of people.303 The dangers of doing so were clear. It is a matter of record that the Sri
Lankan army used radar-controlled counter-artillery fire which would plot where
incoming shelling was coming from and then direct return gunfire to the location
of LTTE artillery positions. The BBC reported that:
Video evidence published by The Times suggests that the Tamil Tigers
established mortar positions and military encampments within camps for
displaced people, which were then shelled by the military.304
It is a matter of record that the LTTE quite literally used Tamil civilians as
a human shield. Jacques de Maio, ICRC Head of Operations for South Asia,
said to US officials that the LTTE had tried to keep civilians in the middle of a
permanent state of violence. It saw the civilian population as a protective asset
and kept its fighters embedded amongst them. De Maio said that the LTTE
commanders objective was to keep the distinction between civilian and military
assets blurred.305 The LTTE continued to hold civilians as human shields right
until the end of the war. In reporting immediately after the end of the conflict,
The Times pointed out that it was a war crime to use civilians as a human shield,
pointing out that it was something which the Tigers can be seen to have been
doing in the photographs.306 The Times was referring to photographs taken
immediately after the conflict ended.
Foreign non-governmental organisations also reported the LTTEs deployment
of heavy weapons in the no-fire zones. The Missionary International Service News
Agency confirmed that the LTTE have artillery batteries also in the safe zones.307
The LTTE deliberately fired from civilian concentrations, especially within the no-fire
zones. The University Teachers for Human Rights documents that witnesses noted
that the LTTE was shelling from among the civilians at advancing troops and that
this provoked a response from the army, resulting in civilian deaths. They also noted
that [t]he LTTE did fire its mortars from isolated positions among...civilians.308
Witness testimony recorded by UTHR shows that the no-fire zones were abused by
the LTTE. The group cited a civilians perspective on the zones:
Experience had taught him to be cautious. He had decided that the safe
zones were the least safe as the LTTE went about in its gun mounted
vehicles firing at the Army with no thought of the civilians. 309

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The LTTEs tactics within the no-fire zones were also documented by UTHR:
The LTTE regularly moved its gun-mounted vehicles through the
NFZ, sometimes firing at the army line and quickly reversing them
eastwards next to civilian dwellings. A woman told us that when that
happened, there was nothing they could do except to sit it out keeping
their fingers crossed...The LTTE had established some mortar positions
in the NFZ in a circle-shaped space from which the civilians were kept
away. When the LTTE fired and the Army fired back, the shells fell
close, but according to those present, hardly ever harmed the LTTE
who jumped into their bunkers in good time. It was almost wholly
civilians that suffered.
University Teachers for Human Rights documented that: The LTTE has placed
guns among civilians and has been firing at military lines from among them.310
UTHR noted that [t]he popular belief is that many civilians got killed and others
maimed as a result of LTTE men ducking into a place having a group of civilian
tents after some incident or provocation, leaving the people huddled together in a
state of extreme anxiety.311 The distinguished Tamil academic S. Ratnajeevan H.
Hoole clearly pointed out the LTTE had no compunction about sacrificing the
Tamil population under their control with the Tigers ensuring that civilians will
be killed to serve their propaganda machine.312 Ariyakutti Velayutham, a 72-year
former manager of a Hindu temple, who escaped on a Red Cross ship bringing out
sick and wounded people, spoke to Reuters in late February 2006. He said the LTTE
had fired artillery from populated areas, compelling the army to target us.313 A
relief worker told Human Rights Watch that the LTTE placed their positions near
an IDP camp in Chundikulam: People were really packed together, so wherever
the SLA bombed or shelled, there were civilian casualties. But the LTTE also put
their positions right in front of the IDP camps. I saw that in Chundikulam where I
stayed in a camp. When they did this we obviously couldnt go and argue with them
because they could just beat or even shoot us.314 Photographs taken by The Times
newspaper of the last no-fire zone on the beach very shortly after the end of the war
showed rebel gun emplacements next to the refugee camp.315
The US governments report to Congress also noted:
May 9 HRW reported the experience of a witness referred to as R.
Raman. R. Raman and his family had been hiding in their bunker in
Mullivaikkala dug-out trench without any coverfor several days.
Early in the morning on May 9, a shell struck one of the tents nearby,

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killing Ramans 15-year-old nephew and wounding another nephew and


niece. Raman believed that the shell came from SLA positions and may
have been targeting LTTE forces that were deployed in the jungle about
100 meters away.
May 9 An organization reported heavy shelling in Vellamullivaikal and
Karaiyamullivaikal areas. Witnesses stated that the LTTE shelled from
civilian areas.316
In March 2009, Amnesty International placed on record that the LTTE were
attacking the Sri Lankan military from civilian areas:
The LTTE has carried out attacks from areas densely populated with
displaced Tamil families under their control, exposing the trapped
population to injury and death as a result of government ripostes.
The LTTE appears to have made no effort to protect civilians from
attacks in violation of customary international humanitarian law.
On the contrary, with their refusal to allow civilians to leave from the
shrinking territory under their control, the LTTE have put civilians at
risks from attacks. The LTTE has forcibly recruited civilians, including
children, to build bunkers and serve as troops acts which constitute
war crimes.317
Hoole and Sritharan reported that [i]njured civilians have testified that after
they moved to safe zones, the LTTE moved in with them and opened fire sometimes
standing among them. A senior man in the education field also stated that the LTTE
positioned itself next to schools and hospitals and launched artillery attacks on the
military.318 UTHR also reported that the LTTE continued to shell government
forces from amongst civilian populations right up to the end of the conflict. They
cited the experience of Revathy, who together with her siblings and brothers family,
crossed from Vattuvakkal to Mullaitivu on the night of 15 May [2009]: Revathys
impression was that the shelling was done by both parties, the LTTE shelling from
among the civilians at advancing troops.319 UTHR also noted that
By the 17th [May]...As the troops advanced, the Tigers also fired back
from among the 30 000 or so people still remaining. There was hardly
enough space to distinguish between a civilian zone and a battleground,
resulting in many deaths in the fierce cross fire. The LTTE seemed to be
using their ammunition generously in what was their last battle.320

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It is clear that the LTTE used hospitals as cover for their military operations, in
violation of international humanitarian law. Rule 28 of the ICRCs compendium
of customary international humanitarian law states: Medical Units Medical
Units exclusively assigned to medical purposes must be respected and protected in
all circumstances. They lose their protection if they are being used, outside their
humanitarian function, to commit acts harmful to the enemy. In the ICRCs
Commentary on the First Geneva Convention, examples of acts harmful to the
enemy include the use of medical units to shelter able-bodied combatants, to store
arms or munitions, as a military observation post or as a shield for military action.321
It goes without saying that actually firing any weapons and especially artillery from
positions close to or from inside medical facilities also violates humanitarian law.
The LTTEs behaviour resulted in hospitals, staff and patients being caught up in
crossfire. The ICRC complained on several occasions to the LTTE about stationing
weapons at a hospital. The ICRC noted that following complaints, the LTTE would
move the assets away, but as they were constantly shifting these assets, they might
just show up in another unacceptable place shortly thereafter.322 Dr Shanmugarajah
also confirmed that LTTE military forces used the cover of hospitals, and noted that
that his family had been wounded as a result: The LTTE had their camps located
in a 100 200 metres vicinity of the Mullaitivu hospital where I was working. My
quarters was damaged and my wife and son received injuries due to an artillery shell
in 2008. I dont know from which side it was launched. It is very difficult to guess.
Later the ICRC asked the LTTE to move their camps away from the hospital.323
Dr Shanmugarajah also noted the presence of arms dumps near the hospitals
within which he worked: I had at various points in the conflict remonstrated with
the LTTE commanders about munitions being placed near to hospital buildings.
Sometimes they were sensitive to the need to remove these munitions and at other
times my objections were ignored.324 Weiss notes that the LTTE placed mobile
artillery batteries in the vicinity of hospitals.325 Dr Sivapalan, the medical officer at
Chavakachcheri and former medical officer in the Vanni, one of the Tamil doctors
who remained in the zone until the end, confirmed that LTTE had a command
post within 100 metres of the Puthukudiyirippu (PTK) hospital something the
ICRC also confirmed to him and that the LTTE had heavy weapons and a vehiclemounted heavy weapon system very close to the hospital.326
With regard to attacks on hospitals, UTHR recorded that: A senior educator
familiar with the [PTK] hospital told us that the LTTE largely disregarded the ICRCs
request not to drive or park its vehicles in front of the Hospital, as these could be
spotted by UAVs leading to shell attacks.327 University Teachers for Human Rights
reported further that [t]he ICRC had in fact asked the LTTE not bring their vehicles
and weapons near PTK Hospital, but to no avail. Some of the hospital ambulances

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had also been taken over by the LTTE, whose leaders were using them to move
around.328 UTHR reported on the circumstances surrounding incidents in which
hospitals were hit by artillery fire: on the shelling of 9th April, Dr. Shanmugarajah
had told friends privately that the LTTE had been firing at the Army from among
civilians...Speaking to private contacts off the record, Dr. Shanmugarajah confirmed
that the casualties on 9th May were mainly from army shelling, but the LTTE had
also been firing at the Army.329 (Emphasis added.)
The 2009 United States government report into the ending of the conflict in
Sri Lanka, Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka,
also presents very clear evidence that the LTTE were recklessly shelling government
forces from within concentrations of civilians or hospital premises.330 The following
are examples of such events carried in the report. They relate to 2009:
February 16 An organization reported to Embassy Colombo that their
source witnessed limited LTTE fire coming from the Puthukkudiyiruppu
Hospital complex.331
March 30 An eyewitness who had lived in a bunker about 200 meters
behind the Putumattalan hospital reported to HRW that an LTTE vehicle
with some kind of weapon fired off two to three shells and then drove
away.332
The LTTEs intentional drawing of government artillery fire into no-fire zones
and civilian areas has also been clearly documented. The University Teachers for
Human Rights reported It appears to people that the LTTE endangers them as a
matter of policy.333 As mentioned above, a UN official, Harun Khan, described
events at the Udayarkattu no-fire zone:
We realised we were in serious danger...The Tamil Tigers were placing their
guns dangerously close to our location and were quite intentionally in my view
drawing fire towards the hospital. Civilians were being killed.334
The LTTEs deliberate shelling of civilians and hospitals under its control is clear.
This shelling served several purposes. Not only did the LTTE not acknowledge the
governments designation of certain areas as no-fire zones in which civilians would
be able to gather, the LTTE did not want the civilians it had forcibly displaced and
taken with it to move away from its control into these zones. The LTTE decided
that it was in the movements best interest, not that of the government, for the nofire zones to fail. There is no doubt that the LTTE shelled, mortared and rocketed

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into the civilians who did gather in the zone in order to get them to move back with
the LTTE, and to dissuade others from relocating to the zone. The shelling was in
addition to actively engaging military forces from within no-fire zones, knowing
full well that the security forces would engage in counter-fire. The evidence that
the LTTE shelled its own people is very clear. It is confirmed by Channel 4s own
witness, Gordon Weiss:
[T]here is good evidence that at least on some occasions the Tamil Tigers
fired artillery into their own people. The terrible calculation was that with
enough dead Tamils, a toll would eventually be reached that would lead
to international outrage and intervention. 335 (Emphasis added.)
Even more damning for Channel 4s claims, Weiss also states with regard to
the hospital at the heart of Channel 4s programmes that was said to have been hit
by artillery fire on several occasions, that a number of strikes appeared to be from
Tamil Tiger positions.336 (Emphasis added.) This is particularly significant as in that
programme Channel 4 had attributed any and all such attacks to government forces,
and never once entertained the idea that there may have been other parties involved.
The University Teachers for Human Rights provides an example of the LTTEs
deliberate shelling of civilians under its control:
Maniam lived with his family in Iranapalai, a suburb to the north of
Puthukkudiyiruppu...An exchange of shell fire was going on which
most people had learnt to ignore. The Army was planning to take
Puthukkudiyiruppu and was firing from the south. LTTE artillery was
firing from Pacchaipulmoodai just north of where Maniam was. While
listening to news from Sooriyan Radio, he noticed that at 6.11 PM LTTE
cannon changed direction and fired three shells to the southeast. He later
found out that the shells landed in Putumattalan, killing 17 civilians and
injuring 23. Maniam confronted a strong LTTE supporter about this.
The answer he got was that the whole of Puthikkudiyiruppu should be
displaced and the people must suffer. This has been a regular LTTE refrain
since the mid-1980s.337
The United States governments Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent
Conflict in Sri Lanka noted:
February 18 Sources reported to Embassy Colombo that there was
shelling in the new safe zone with large numbers of casualties. The

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SLA denied that its forces delivered the fire. The sources noted that it could
not be ruled out that the LTTE shelled civilian areas to assign blame to the
SLA.338 (Emphasis added.)
This report to Congress was based on a US government diplomatic cable,
subsequently leaked, in which it was revealed that the United Nations had been the
source for this observation:
5. (SBU) UN sources reported shelling in the new safe zone on February
18 with large numbers of casualties. The Sri Lankan Army (SLA) denies
they delivered the fire. The UN noted it could not be ruled out that the
LTTE shelled civilian areas to assign blame to the SLA.339
The US Congressional report also noted:
April 22 An Embassy Colombo source reported that at approximately
5:40 a.m., a shell hit the roof of a small church packed with people on
approximately 2 acres of property. Shrapnel exploding in every direction
killing three people and injuring eight to nine. The witness sustained
shrapnel wounds in his back. He believed the attack was committed by
the LTTE.340
May 14 A foreign government reported the experience of a family that
escaped the NFZ in a larger group of an estimated 60,000 people who
attempted to cross the Nanthikadal lagoon. A group of LTTE cadres fired
and shelled the civilians, killing many of them. The organization also
reported an account from a youth in the same group who was travelling
with 12 others; the youth stated that a shell from the LTTE struck his
group and killed the other 12.
May 14-18 An organization reported that, at the beginning of the final
operation, the SLA used shelling that resulted in some civilian casualties.
However, the IDPs to whom the organization spoke were uniformly emphatic
that the SLA shelled only in reply to the LTTEs mortar and gun fire from
among the civilians. Civilians also said that on May 15 the SLA stopped
shelling when the LTTE began destroying its own equipment.341 (Emphasis
added.)
May 17-18 An organization reported accounts from IDPs of heavy

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fighting from the night of May 17 into the morning of May 18. The IDPs
were certain, based on the direction from which the shells were coming, that
a large number, perhaps the majority, of those killed in the NFZ during the
previous 12 hours of fighting were killed by LTTE forces.342 (Emphasis added.)
The Economist noted that The army accuses the Tigers of bombing the no-fire
zone themselves, to enlist international support in calls for a ceasefire. Such callousness
would not be beyond Mr Prabhakaran.343 One month later, The Economist noted
again: [The government] has reissued its allegation that the Tigers are shelling their
own Tamil brethren in an effort to spur international calls for a ceasefire, which
America, Britain and other Western countries have been requesting for weeks. The
accusation is not implausible. Throughout a bitter, 26-year conflict, the Tigers have
never balked at killing their own people.344
It must be noted that Channel 4 claimed that there were 65 separate attacks on
hospitals and makeshift hospitals in the Vanni towards the end of the conflict. It stated
that these were deliberate attacks by the Sri Lankan army. The figure of 65 is essentially
arrived at by taking LTTE and TamilNet claims at face value. It was also unclear if
these were said to be actual hits on hospitals or impacts in the vicinity of medical
points. Dr Shanmugarajahs sworn testimony absolutely contradicts the claims made
by TamilNet and Channel 4. He stated that he was only aware of several occasions
on which hospitals or temporary medical points were hit by shell fire: Vallipuram
hospital was hit by two shells, one outside the outpatients department, the other
at the back of the hospital two people were killed and four injured in the attack;
Puthukudiyiruppu hospital was hit by two shells, one on the hospital building itself
and one in the hospital grounds, causing three deaths and ten injuries; Mullivaikkal
hospital was hit by shells in the grounds in front and behind the hospital buildings,
killing four and injuring ten people; and Vellamullivaikkals makeshift hospital was
hit by one shell, which killed five and injured ten people. Dr Shanmugarajah worked
at two of the hospitals concerned, including the Vellamullivaikkal hospital. TamilNet
alleged that Vellamullivaikkal was hit several times, resulting in the deaths of 160
civilians and the injury of many more. The exaggeration is clear. While it is clear that
Dr Shanmugarajah would not necessarily have known about all incidents involving
hospitals and makeshift medical facilities, he would have been aware of many if not
all of the instances. Channel 4 also ignored the evidence of one of its own witnesses
that the LTTE had itself shelled hospitals on several occasions.
It is documented that the LTTE shelled hospitals in the areas it controlled.
University Teachers for Human Rights Rajan Hoole confirmed that the LTTE
had a history of shelling hospitals. In 1987, for example, the LTTE shelled Jaffna
hospital multiple times, killing several patients.345 There is every possibility

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that LTTE shells hit Puthukudiyiruppu hospital in the attack cited above by Dr
Shanmugarajah. University Teachers for Human Rights also reported that senior
LTTE cadres confirmed that the movement had deliberately attacked hospitals: A
senior officer...blamed the LTTE for much of the suffering and said emphatically
that the LTTE fired shells on civilian institutions such as hospitals.346
Unlike Sri Lankan forces, the LTTE could not say they had shelled or mortared
any medical point by accident. It could only have been on purpose. The LTTE knew
every inch of what was a shrinking area of operations for them, and were very aware
of all the medical points. And, as documented by the UN, Gordon Weiss, and the
UTHR, the LTTE did shell into its own Tamil civilians and hospitals. Given the
incredibly ruthless and violent track record of the LTTE, and given the very desperate
circumstances in which this brutal organisation found itself in, there can be little
doubt that they did so or about their reasons for so doing.
These were material facts that were left out of the Channel 4 programmes. As
a result the programme materially misled its audience. More key evidence was also
missing from Channel 4s forensic examination of events in the no-fire zones.
A fair and balanced broadcaster and programme-maker working within the
Broadcasting Code would have been aware of the due impartiality required of it
when dealing with a matter of political controversy. This is an obligation to include
relevant material facts such as the publicly-available fact that the LTTE shelled
into its own civilian population actions which would have been for one reason
and one reason only, to kill and injure Tamil civilians, and especially medical staff
and patients, in order to provoke international intervention.
Any professional journalist looking at the allegations about the shelling of
civilians in the last few months of the war would have asked the simple question,
cui bono, who benefits? What possible benefit would the government have secured
from deliberately shelling civilians and hospitals? Channel 4s own witness Gordon
Weiss made the simple observation that [f ]or the SLA, it made no tactical sense
to kill civilians.347 There is no obvious benefit at all, only negative consequences
including international condemnation and pressure for intervention, the very things
it was seeking to avoid.
How then would the LTTE have benefited from the shelling of civilians and
hospitals? The answer is a simple one. As Weiss made clear, the LTTE leader Velupillai
Prabakharan chose...to play out the CNN effect of a brutal and bloody siege of
Tamil civilians on international public opinion.348 The Indian journalist M. R.
Narayan Swamy observed that Prabhakaran had schemed that this mass of semistarving men, women, and children would somehow prove to be a guarantee for his
safety by generating Western support.349 Weiss notes that by January 2009, the LTTE
were increasingly desperate to force an international intervention. Tiger cadres were

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ordered to turn on those at their mercy. They shot many hundreds who tried to cross
to the safety of government lines.350 (Emphasis added.) Given its well-documented
record for coldblooded ruthlessness, it can safely be assumed that the LTTE would
not hesitate for a moment to kill civilians under its control to further its cause and
more importantly to secure its continuation as an organisation.
As the government offensive gradually reduced the area controlled by the LTTE
even more, the movement became increasingly desperate and ruthless. It was fighting
for its very existence and realised that it was on the verge of a catastrophic military
defeat. Its only way of avoiding total defeat was for international intervention to
stop the offensive or secure a ceasefire: this was how the LTTE had avoided defeat
during a similar offensive in 1987.351 Skilled propagandists that they were, the
LTTE would have realised that the only possible way of provoking that international
intervention would be through allegations of starvation and that government forces
were deliberately killing civilians, particularly women and children and especially
patients in hospitals. Independent commentators noted that [c]learly, the LTTE
hopes that international pressure and the growing anxiety over the loss of civilian
lives will force Colombo into some compromise.352 The pro-LTTE journalist
Frances Harrison noted that the rebels prolonged the end by keeping hundreds of
thousands of women and children trapped with them. They hoped for a humanitarian
intervention. [LTTE official Seevaratnam Pulidevan] had been quite open about this
approach. He told European friends that...if enough civilians died in Sri Lanka the
world would be forced to step in. It was callous brinkmanship, played with innocent
lives.353 In May 2009, an independent Canadian geopolitical monitoring publication
noted: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) find themselves up against a
wall with no hope of launching a conventional counter-attack against the Sri Lankan
Army. As such, their survival now hinges on a worldwide propaganda war.354 And
this was precisely the card they played.
Dead and injured civilians, and especially dead and mutilated patients in hospitals,
provided the basis for this desperate propaganda war. The doctors in the hospitals
were coerced into providing vastly inflated casualty figures. And if the army was
not shelling civilians or hospitals as needed to tip the propaganda balance it is clear
from the evidence that the LTTE stepped in. There is only one reason why the
LTTE would, as reported by the United Nations, University Teachers for Human
Rights and Weiss, shell civilians and hospitals or medical points within the territory
it controlled. Unlike Sri Lankan forces who could not be expected to necessarily
know the shifting locations of hospitals and often temporary medical points, the
LTTE would know exactly where they were for the treatment of their wounded
fighters, as a covert military position or as a possible place of sanctuary for its leaders
It is not a particularly complicated or even original formula. In some instances,

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the LTTE would shell or mortar or fire rocket-propelled grenades at hospitals or


other medical points. They would have experienced video teams waiting to film and
photograph any incident and its aftermath and then immediately broadcast reports
of attacks on the hospitals along with calls for international intervention to halt
the armys offensive. Indeed, LTTE video cameramen were often in the vicinity of
hospitals that were shelled or rocketed. This sequence of events had not escaped the
attention of the international community. We repeat the US government report to
the US Congress that: The UN noted it could not be ruled out that the LTTE shelled
civilian areas to assign blame to the SLA.355
An international intervention on the back of dead and injured Tamil civilians was
precisely what the LTTE and its propaganda machine sought to force. Sri Lankas
then Foreign Secretary, Palitha Kohona, said the government had intercepted LTTE
messages to the Tamil diaspora asking it to keep up the propaganda blitz because
liberal-minded Western countries will be forced to intervene.356 There is no reason
to doubt him. On 10 May, for example, the LTTE stated that they were dismayed
that the international community had not intervened in the crisis. It claimed that
2,000 civilians had been killed in the preceding 24 hours.357 On 14 May 2011, the
LTTEs internet propaganda arm, Tamilnet, announced that the LTTE had called
upon the international community to protect the civilians from this ongoing carnage
by taking whatever measure required.358 It is clear that it was a carnage for which
the LTTE was itself in large part responsible. The degree of LTTE culpability, or
the fact that it may have considered such action, was not addressed at all in either
of the Channel 4 programmes.
It is a sad reality that the LTTEs behaviour in deliberately shelling its own people
in an effort to demonise its opponents and force international intervention is nothing
new. There are well-documented examples of belligerents in previous conflicts
deliberately shelling or mortaring their own people, often causing tremendous
carnage, and then claiming that their opponents were to blame in attempts to force
international intervention.359 Europe has been no exception. While the political
circumstances are of course very different, there were several instances of this sort
of behaviour during the Bosnian conflict in the 1990s. On 5 February 1994, for
example, a 120mm mortar bomb exploded in the open-air Markale market in the
centre of Sarajevo, close to the office of the Bosnian Presidency. Over 250 people
were killed and injured. It was up until then the worst single atrocity in the 22-month
old conflict between Bosnias Serbs, Muslims and Croats. Despite vehement denials
from the Bosnian Serbs, CNN immediately reported that Serbs were responsible
for the shocking carnage, stating it was caused by a Serb mortar bomb. The US
President Bill Clinton added to this saying it was highly likely that the Bosnian
Serbs were responsible for it. The US Secretary of State Warren Christophers

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spoke of an inner conviction that they were responsible. Lord Owen, a key
European Union negotiator at the time, described it as an unspeakable act of
barbarity.360 The shelling occurred as the Bosnian government was pushing
for more UN and NATO intervention in the Bosnian governments conflict
with the Bosnian Serb and Serbian governments. Owen noted that The Serbs
were being blamed, and the feeling was that enough was enough and that action
must now be taken. 361
The reality, however, was different. David Owen records in his memoir Balkan
Odyssey that technical experts from United Nation Protection Force (UNPROFOR)
tasked with investigating the mortar attack concluded that the mortar had been
fired from a Bosnian Muslim-controlled area, and not from a Serb-controlled zone.
Lord Owen also noted:
In addition, a senior ballistic expert in Zagreb has studied a map of likely
trajectory patterns produced by UN investigators in Sarajevo and believed
the angle at which the mortar had hit the roof of the market stall indicated
that the firing point was more likely to be 1,100-2,000 metres from the
impact than 2,000-3,000 metres, and that this would tend to indicate
that the mortar had been fired from a Bosnian army position. When this
highly charged information reached the UN in New York on Tuesday
everything was done to clamp down on the number of people who saw
it so as to reduce the chance of press leak.362
Owen recorded that these facts were used by General Michael Rose, the
British head of UNPROFOR, to pressurise Bosnian President Izetbegovic and his
government into attending key peace negotiations.363 Owen stated that General
Roses straight talking to President Izetbegovic had a powerful impact on the Muslim
leadership and that they did subsequently participate in the negotiations.364 Owen
writes that: I was in receipt of privileged information from the UN. I could not
allow a cover-up, but equally it was not for me to break the story.365 The BBC
confirmed General Roses intervention:
[I]in his memoir, Fighting for Peace, General Rose relates how three
days after the atrocity he told the Deputy Commander of the Bosnian
government forces, General Divjak, that the mortar shell had indeed
been fired from their own side, according to UN experts. That proved
to be a telling intervention from the British general. Within days the
government and the Serbs had agreed to a ceasefire which resulted,
under Nato pressure, in the removal of most of the Bosnian Serbs heavy

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weapons from the Sarajevo area, and the first loosening of the nearly
two-year siege.366
The BBC also reported that: Although the UN never publicly accused the
Bosnian Government of shelling its own people, Unprofor did accuse government forces
of firing to provoke the Serbs, and of using hospitals and public buildings as cover for such
fire. (Emphasis added.) Almost two years later, on 6 June 1996, Yasushi Akashi,
UN special envoy for Bosnia, told the German DPA news agency correspondent in
New York that there was a secret UN report confirming the Bosnian governments
responsibility for the Markale massacre. Citing this UN report, Bernard Volker, a
French journalist working for the French TV channel TF1, reported that the mortar
bomb was fired from Bosnian government positions. Volker also quoted the then
French President Mitterrand in confirmation: A few days ago Mr. Boutros Ghali
informed me that the projectile which hit the Markale marketplace in Sarajevo was
an act of (Bosnian) Muslim provocation.367 Volker subsequently won a legal case
which challenged his reporting of the event.
A few details of the LTTEs use of artillery and mortars in the Sri Lankan conflict,
especially from 2006 onwards, provides a background to its use of these weapons
from within the no-fire zones in 2009, albeit it one studiously avoided by Channel
4. The LTTE used artillery, mortars and rockets throughout its war against the Sri
Lankan government. Their use of these weapons was, in the words of a Sri Lankan
newspaper, renowned.368 They formed an integral part of the organisations strategy
and tactics and were used as a force multiplier. The Sri Lankan governments history
of the conflict, Humanitarian Operation Factual Analysis, noted that:
The arms, ammunition and equipment used by the land fighting units
of the LTTE included artillery guns, heavy and medium mortars, rocket
propelled grenades, RCLs [107mm recoilless rifles], anti-aircraft guns,
Surface to Surface Missiles, Surface to Air Missiles, small arms, anti-tank
mines and anti-personnel mines.369
The LTTE was described as being on the cutting edge of arms trafficking.370
They had no difficulty in the procurement of military hardware and purchased large
quantities of artillery guns, anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons and ammunition from
Eastern European and Eastern Asian countries, including North Korea.371 The LTTE
was able to finance the purchase of large quantities of conventional weapons out of
an annual income believed to have been between US$200-300 million. These arms
were then illegally shipped to then LTTE-controlled parts of north-east Sri Lanka
by the organisations own fleet of cargo ships.372

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The LTTE was trained in the use of artillery as early as the 1980s.373 The LTTE
formed several specialised units, namely Kittu (artillery), Kutti (mortar), Anbarasi
(anti-aircraft weapons and artillery), and Victor (anti-tank weapon systems). The
LTTE trained hundreds of its personnel as specialised artillerymen and mortar
operators. In July 2006, for example, the LTTE announced that more than one
hundred of its members, with many years of field experience, had completed
training as senior level field leaders...capable of coordinating artillery and mortar
operations in two LTTE artillery units.374
The LTTEs artillery, mortar and rocket units were aggressive and ruthless and
well-equipped with a range of both sophisticated and crude weapon systems. These
included 152mm, 130mm and 122mm artillery guns; 140mm, 120mm, 81/82mm
and 60mm mortars; multi-barrelled rocket launchers, thousands of RPG-7 rockets
as well as improvised rockets and mortars which they subsequently used within a
rapidly decreasing area of operations populated by hundreds of thousands of displaced
civilians. These units were deployed in many of the LTTEs engagements with Sri
Lankan forces, and were regularly featured on the LTTEs international propaganda
arm, TamilNet.375
It is notable, however, that once the LTTE had embarked upon its propaganda
effort from early 2009 onwards to project Sri Lankan army artillery attacks as being
deliberately and exclusively aimed at Tamil civilians and not as a response to LTTE
shelling and mortaring of government forces mention of the LTTEs use of artillery
all but vanished from TamilNet.376 The reality is that the LTTEs use of artillery,
mortars and rockets intensified as the army gradually boxed the LTTE into what
would be its final battlefield.
The Sri Lankan defence ministry stated that the LTTE possessed and used at least
twelve 130mm Type 59-1 cannons, nine 152mm Type 66 gun-howitzers, 122mm
Guns, and 107mm rocket artillery systems. It also possessed more than one hundred
and fifty 120mm mortars, more than five hundred 82/81mm mortars, four 140mm
mortars and more than seven thousand RPG-7 rocket launchers.377 The Sri Lankan
military believed that the LTTE acquired the following weapons during the 2002-06
ceasefire period alone: Nine 152mm guns, six 130 mm guns, fifteen 23mm AA-ZU
23 anti-aircraft guns, 25 23mm AA-T 2 H guns. The Tamiltigers.net website also
stated that the LTTE had nine T-55 Main Battle Tanks, and twelve 107mm Katyusha
Multi-Barrel Rocket Launchers.378
The Sri Lankan military recovered the following relevant weapons at the end of
the conflict: two 152mm artillery guns, five 130mm artillery guns, both six and 12
barrel multi-barrelled rocket launchers, three anti-aircraft weapon systems, eleven
130mm Pasilan mortars, 230 60mm mortars, 36 60mm commando mortars, 39
81mm mortars, 23 120mm mortars, 33 90mm Model C-90 shoulder fired rocket

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the no-fire zones in the vanni

launchers, 46 thermobaric (fuel-air) weapons, eight thermobaric RPG weapons, 524


RPG launchers and 5,054 rockets and 191 40mm grenade launchers. The army also
recovered 14,235 60mm mortar bombs, 5,876 81mm bombs, 3,909 82mm mortar
bombs and 1,995 120mm mortar bombs. The army also captured one T-55 Main
Battle Tank, which had been dug in and its 100mm cannon used as artillery.379
The Sri Lankan military placed on record the LTTEs use of shelling: The
LTTE attempted to create a fear psychosis amongst Security Forces personnel with
its fearsome unceasing waves of combatants prepared to die, and through its ability
to inflict maximum casualties with its artillery and mortar.380 The governments
history noted that the LTTE strongly resisted the forward movement of Security
Forces using a heavy concentration of mines, booby traps and artillery fire and that
At the later stages of the Wanni operation the LTTE intermingled with the civilians
to launch attacks, including artillery and mortar attacks, on Security Forces.381 It
is clear that the LTTE used artillery and mortars right up until the last hours and
minutes of the conflict.
Sri Lankan troops encountered LTTE artillery all the way through the last months
of the conflict. In mid-January 2009, the Sri Lankan defence ministry released footage
of the destruction of two LTTE artillery guns near Chundikulam. This footage
was subsequently placed on YouTube.382 Sri Lankan forces also captured a number
of LTTE heavy and medium mortars in the course of the campaign. In January
2009 they captured a 152mm artillery gun from the LTTE in an engagement near
Vishuamadu, in Mullaittivu. Some 70 empty shell casings surrounded the gun.383
In late February 2009 the Sri Lankan army captured two 130mm guns from the
LTTE.384 Army units advancing on LTTE bases north of the Paranthan-Mullaitivu A
35 road captured four 120mm and two 81mm mortars when they overran a LTTE
base.385 The LTTE shelled Sri Lankan army positions near Thearaavilon in the Vanni
on 10 March 2009. They posted footage of several LTTE artillery pieces firing on
these positions on the internet.386
In addition to conventional heavy artillery and heavy and medium mortars and
rockets, the LTTE also used a variety of improvised mortar and rockets. In early March
2009, for example, the Sri Lankan Army captured two pointed rocket-type missiles 10
feet in height capable of climbing as high as 300 meters when fired. They also found
a separate launcher. Each missile could carry 200kg of explosives. Government forces
also captured three 130mm artillery guns, one 122mm artillery gun, six 122mm
artillery trailers, one thermobaric weapon and a mini Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher.
They also discovered a large-scale LTTE mortar and bomb manufacturing factory
that used metal, granite, iron and chemicals for the production of explosives.387
Improvised mortars are, of course, notoriously inaccurate.
On 31 March 2009, the Sri Lankan air force attacked and destroyed a LTTE

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130mm artillery piece in Mullaitivu. Aerial footage of this action subsequently


appeared on YouTube. 388 In early April 2009, Sri Lankan forces captured a typical
LTTE arms dump in the Puthukkudiyiruppu area. The items they recovered included
500 mortars, 119 RPG launchers, 401 RPG rockets, 26 rounds of 106mm recoilless
rifle ammunition, 37 rounds of 100mm T-55 tank ammunition, 151 high explosive
60mm mortar bombs, 990 60mm illumination mortar bombs, 104 81mm mortar
bombs, nine 120mm mortar bombs, three multi-barrel rocket launcher rockets, 155
122mm projectiles, 74 152mm projectiles, 560 81mm mortar fuses and six 81mm
smoke mortars.389
Later in April 2009, the Sri Lankan government released UAV surveillance
footage of LTTE cannon and mortar fire at government forces from within NoFire Zone 3. This subsequently appeared on YouTube.390 In May 2009, Sri Lankan
forces destroyed a LTTE 130mm artillery piece inside the Mullaitivu NFZ.391 The
Sri Lankan defence ministry recorded that up until 14 May 2009 its forces were still
encountering LTTE shell and mortar fire as they opened up an escape route for the
last group of hostages held in the Vellamullivaikkal area. By this stage in the conflict
the LTTE were holding a strip of land only 2km in size. As 58 Division crossed the
open coastal terrain they were subject to heavy LTTE shelling. Civilians crossing the
lagoon towards government lines told the soldiers that they were being fired upon
by the LTTE with machine guns and mortars: four civilians were said to have been
killed and another 40 injured in the LTTE fire.392
The following details relate to some of the artillery, mortar and rocket weapon
systems used by the LTTE. The 122mm cannon has a maximum rate of fire of
10-12 rounds per minute and a sustained rate of five-six rounds. It has an effective
range of 15km (9.56 miles) and a maximum range of 22km (13.76 miles). It has
an elevation of -7 to 70 and can be used in close support missions. It has a blast
radius, within which targets will be damaged, of up to 100 metres. The 130mm
cannon has a maximum rate of fire of eight-ten rounds per minute and a range of up
to 30 kilometres. It has an elevation of -2.5 to 45 and can be used in close support
missions. It has a blast radius of up to 100 metres. The 152mm howitzer cannon
has a maximum burst rate of fire of five-six rounds per minute and one round per
minute in sustained fire mode. It has an effective range of between 2000 metres and
17km (11 miles) and a maximum range of 24km (15 miles). It has an elevation of
-5 to 63. It has a blast radius of up to 200 metres.
The 120mm/122mm mortar has a range of between 166 metres and 7,000 metres,
and a 70 meter killing radius. The 81/82mm mortar has a range of between 100
metres and 3000-4000 metres, depending on the type of round used and elevation.
It has a blast radius of 35-40 metres. The 60mm mortar has a range of between 100
metres and 2000 metres, and a blast radius of about 20-25 metres. The RPG-7 rocket

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launcher fires a missile with an effective range of 200 metres. The rocket self-detonates
at about 900 metres. It has a blast radius of up to 6 metres. The 107mm recoilless
rifle has a maximum range of between 450 metres and 6,650 metres (indirect fire),
depending on the type of ammunition, and can be used in close support missions.
The rate of fire is up to six rounds per minute. These were weapons used by the
LTTE from within and within the no-fire zones.
The last word with regard to no-fire zones in the Vanni, and Channel 4s focus
on safe zones never accepted by the LTTE, should be given to the historian of the
war, C. A. Chandraprema:
A point that has to be noted is that even though the government tried to
have certain areas declared de-militarised zones, the LTTE never agreed.
In terms of the international law of armed conflict, de-militarised
zones can be established only through the mutual consent of the
warring parties. Once a demilitarised zone is established the forces of
the belligerent parties cannot remain inside it. The LTTEs consistent
refusal to acknowledge any demilitarised zone meant that there were
never any demilitarised zones anywhere in Sri Lanka even though people
continued to refer to a so called no fire zone. In fact after the battle of
Iranapalai, there was a bizarre situation where there were no terrorists
anywhere in Sri Lanka except inside the area referred to incongruously
as a no-fire-zone. The presence of thousands of terrorists along with
their heavy weapons inside this so called no-fire zone meant that at the
last stages, there was no firing taking place anywhere in Sri Lanka except
inside the no-fire zone.393

Notes
241 Weiss, op. cit., p. 109.
242 Sir John Holmes, Briefing on the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka, United
Nations, 26 March 2009. Full text of briefing available at <http://transcurrents.com/
tc/2009/03/most_pressing_concern_remains.html>.
243 Northern Sri Lanka SitRep 15: Heavy Fighting Continues; UN Launches
Appeal; Food Aid Delivered to Vanni, US State Department cable released by
Wikileaks.
244 See, for example, Army expands safe zone for entrapped civilians Mullaittivu,
Ministry of Defence, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Colombo, 22
January 2009, at <www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20090121_05>.
245 Sri Lanka: Security Forces declare new safety zone, Government of Sri Lanka,
Reliefweb, 12 February 2009, available at <http://reliefweb.int/node/297423>.

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246

Sri Lanka: New safety zone restricted to 2.5 sq km Army, Government of Sri
Lanka, Reliefweb, 8 May 2009, available at <http://reliefweb.int/node/308098>.
247 Report of the Secretary-Generals Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, op.
cit., p. 23.
248 ICRC letter, 20 February 2009, available at <http://www.peaceinsrilanka.org/for-therecord/the-tiger-use-of-no-fire-zones>.
249 See, Dont station artillery among civilians Jaffna Bishop to LTTE, Asian Tribune,
27 January 2009, available at <http://www.asiantribune.com/node/15327>. A copy
of this letter is attached as Appendix 2.
250 Subject: Sri Lanka: Declared Safe Zone Inoperative; ICRC Contemplates Full
Withdrawal, US Embassy Cable, 27 January 2009, available at <http://dazzlepod.
com/cable/09COLOMBO95/>.
251 Subject: A suggestion for getting many of Sri Lankas civilians out of the conflict
zone, US Embassy cable, 19 March 2011, available at <http://www.aftenposten.no/
spesial/wikileaksdokumenter/article4109483.ece>.
252 War on the Displaced. Sri Lankan Army and LTTE Abuses against Civilians in the
Vanni, Human Rights Watch, New York, 2009, available at <http://www.hrw.org/
sites/default/files/reports/srilanka0209web_0.pdf>.
253 War Crimes in Sri Lanka, Asia Report No. 191, International Crisis Group, 17 May
2010.
254 Ibid.
255 Ibid. The Voice of Tigers was the LTTEs own radio station.
256 War Crimes in Sri Lanka, Asia Report No. 191, International Crisis Group, 17 May
2010.
257 For a copy of the letter see Networks of Informers 4 The Tiger use of NoFire
Zones, available at <http://rajivawijesinha.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/networksof-informers-4-%E2%80%93-the-tiger-use-of-no-fire-zones/>.
258 Inconsistencies and deceit in the Darusman Panel-Weiss account of Convoy 11,
Policy Research & Information Unit of the Presidential Secretariat of Sri Lanka,
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Colombo, 12 July 2011, available at
<http://www.priu.gov.lk/news_update/Current_Affairs/ca201107/20110712incon
sistencies_and_deceit_in_the_darusman.htm>.
259 War Crimes in Sri Lanka, op. cit.
260 Report of the Secretary-Generals Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, op.
cit., p. 24.
261 Humanitarian Operation Factual Analysis, Ministry of Defence, Democratic Socialist
Republic of Sri Lanka, Colombo, July 2011, p. 59.
262 See, for example, Sri Lanka. War on the Displaced: Sri Lankan Army and LTTE Abuses
against Civilians in the Vanni, Human Rights Watch, New York, 2009, available at
<http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/srilanka0209webwcover_0.pdf>.
263 Ibid., p. 15.
264 Ibid., p. 156.
265 Sri Lanka. War on the Displaced: Sri Lankan Army and LTTE Abuses against Civilians
in the Vanni, op. cit., p. 15.
266 U.N. Staff and Hospital Come Under Shelling as Sri Lanka Fights Cornered

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Rebels, The New York Times, 28 January 2009, available at <http://www.nytimes.


com/2009/01/28/world/asia/28lanka.html>.
267 Ibid., p. 110.
268 Ibid., p. 111.
269 Ibid., p. 109.
270 Ibid., p. 125.
271 Ibid.
272 Rajan Hoole and Kopalasingham Sritharan, LTTE predator not protector of Tamil
civilian population, Transcurrents, February 2009, available at <http://transcurrents.
com/tc/2009/02/>.
273 Civilians die in S Lanka battle, BBC News, 26 January 2009, available at <http://
news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/south_asia/7850603.stm>.
274 UN says dozens of civilians killed as Tigers flee, Agence France-Presse, 27 January 2009.
275 Weiss, op. cit., note 7, p. 304.
276 Ibid., p. 116.
277 Subject: Sri Lanka: Army captures Mullaitivu; Both Sides Violate GSL-Declared NoFire Zone, US Embassy cable, Colombo, P 261220Z JAN 09, 26 January 2009,
available at <http://dazzlepod.com/cable/09COLOMBO86/>.
278 Ibid.
279 War on the Displaced. Sri Lankan Army and LTTE Abuses against Civilians in the
Vanni, Human Rights Watch, New York, 2009, available at <http://www.hrw.org/
sites/default/files/reports/srilanka0209web_0.pdf>.
280 U.N. Staff and Hospital Come Under Shelling as Sri Lanka Fights Cornered
Rebels, The New York Times, 28 January 2009, available at <http://www.nytimes.
com/2009/01/28/world/asia/28lanka.html>.
281 Die with us rebels tell Sri Lankas refugees, Reuters, 26 February 2009.
282 Sri Lankas war. Out of the Tigers cage, The Economist, 8 April 2009, available at
<http://www.economist.com/node/13446894>.
283 Weiss, op. cit., p. 116.
284 LTTE Is No Excuse For Killing Vanni Civilians, Information Bulletin No. 47,
University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka, 17 April 2009, available
at <http://www.uthr.org/bulletins/Bul47.htm#_Toc227718215>.
285 Subject: A suggestion for getting many of Sri Lankas civilians out of the conflict
zone, US Embassy cable, 19 March 2011, available at <http://www.aftenposten.no/
spesial/wikileaksdokumenter/article4109483.ece>.
286 LTTE clamps on civilian outflow: Mounts artillery batteries inside No-fire
zones Mullaittivu, Ministry of Defence, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri
Lanka, Colombo, 30 January 2009, available at <http://www.defence.lk/new.
asp?fname=20090130_F01>.
287 Rajan Hoole and Kopalasingham Sritharan, LTTE predator not protector of Tamil
civilian population, Transcurrents, February 2009, available at <http://transcurrents.
com/tc/2009/02/>.
288 Report of the Secretary-Generals Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, United
Nations, New York, 31 March 2011, p. 24, available at <http://www.un.org/News/
dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/POE_Report_Full.pdf>.

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289

Annex 3, Artillery batteries and Projected Fire bearing and range capabilities by the
date period, Report of the Secretary-Generals Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri
Lanka, United Nations, New York, 31 March 2011, pp. 191-95, available at <http://
www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/POE_Report_Full.pdf>.
290 Ibid.
291 Sri Lanka. War on the Displaced: Sri Lankan Army and LTTE Abuses against Civilians
in the Vanni, op. cit., p. 44.
292 Sir John Holmes, Briefing on the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka, United
Nations, 26 March 2009. The full text of the briefing is available at <http://
transcurrents.com/tc/2009/03/most_pressing_concern_remains.html>.
293 War Crimes in Sri Lanka, Asia Report No. 191, International Crisis Group, 17 May 2010.
294 Weiss, op. cit., p. 220.
295 Subject: Northern Sri Lanka SitRep 68, US Embassy Cable, 7 May 2009, available
at <http://dazzlepod.com/cable/09COLOMBO507/>.
296 Ibid.
297 Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka, United States
Government, Washington-DC, 2009, available at <http://www.state.gov/documents/
organization/131025.pdf>, p. 44.
298 Rajan Hoole, Doctoring the evidence, Himal Southasian, August2009, available at
<http://www.himalmag.com/component/content/article/604-doctoring-the-evidence.
html>.
299 Op. cit., p. 10.
300 Tigers enhance firepower. Acquires sophisticated, long range weaponry as the military
prepares counter measures for a decisive showdown, The Nation, 10 August 2007,
available at <http://www.nation.lk/2007/08/12/militarym.htm>.
301 See, for example, LTTE attacks muhamalai July 25, 08, YouTube, uploaded by
eelamFlavours on 27 May 2008, available at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?feat
ure=endscreen&NR=1&v=lFDm5KVibmE>. A sequence of LTTE artillery pieces
in action starts at minute 0:29.
302 Secretary-General strongly deplores mounting civilian death toll in Sri Lanka,
Statement by UN Secretary-General , United Nations, SG/SM/12126, Reliefweb, 5
March 2009, available at <http://reliefweb.int/node/299919>.
303 Weiss, op. cit., p. 133.
304 Sri Lanka rejects deaths report, BBC News, 29 May 2009.
305 Subject: Sri Lanka: S/Wci Amb. Williamsons Geneva Meetings, US
Government cable, 15 July 2009, available at <http://www.aftenposten.no/spesial/
wikileaksdokumenter/article4109603.ece>.
306 20,000 Tamils killed in final days of Sri Lankan offensive, The Australian, 30 May
2009.
307 Sri Lanka: Fighting in North A voice from the front, they bomb us for hours,
Missionary International Service News Agency, Reliefweb, 6 February 2009, available
at <http://reliefweb.int/node/296627>.
308 Let Them Speak: Truth about Sri Lankas Victims of War, University Teachers for
Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka, Special Report No. 34, 13 December 2009.
309 Ibid.

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310 LTTE Is No Excuse For Killing Vanni Civilians, Information Bulletin No. 47,
University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka, 17 April 2009, available
at <http://www.uthr.org/bulletins/Bul47.htm#_Toc227718215>.
311 Ibid.
312 S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole, Tamil People Crushed Between Rebels and Military,
Transcurrents, 7 February 2009, available at <http://transcurrents.com/tc/2009/02/>.
Professor Hoole was appointed as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Jaffna
in Sri Lanka while seconded from his position as Senior Professor of Electrical
Engineering at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka. He was prevented from
taking up his position due to intimidation by the LTTE. He subsequently served
as Fellow of the Scholar Rescue Fund, Institute of International Education, and a
Visiting Professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia. He is the younger brother
of Rajan Hoole.
313 Die with us rebels tell Sri Lankas refugees, Reuters, 26 February 2009.
314 War on the Displaced. Sri Lankan Army and LTTE Abuses against Civilians in the Vanni,
Human Rights Watch, New York, 2009, p. 15, available at <http://www.hrw.org/
sites/default/files/reports/srilanka0209web_0.pdf>.
315 20,000 Tamils killed in final days of Sri Lankan offensive, The Australian, 30 May
2009.
316 Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka, US Department
of State, Washington-DC, 2009, available at <http://www.state.gov/documents/
organization/131025.pdf>, p. 41.
317 Stop the War on Civilians in Sri Lanka: a briefing on the humanitarian crisis
and lack of human rights protection, Amnesty International, AI index: ASA
37/004/2009, March 2009, available at <http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/
ASA37/004/2009/en/36e63f0d-f0be-4ccc-87c0-862f0c0f62a8/asa370042009en.
pdf>.
318 Rajan Hoole and Kopalasingham Sritharan, LTTE predator not protector of Tamil
civilian population, Transcurrents, February 2009, available at <http://transcurrents.
com/tc/2009/02/>.
319 Let Them Speak Part IV: The Final Phase, Special Report No. 34, University
Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka, 13 December 2009.
320 Ibid.
321 Rule 28 is cited by Weiss, op. cit., note 8, p. 306.
322 Subject: Sri Lanka: S/Wci Amb. Williamsons Geneva Meetings, US
Government cable, 15 July 2009, available at <http://www.aftenposten.no/spesial/
wikileaksdokumenter/article4109603.ece>.
323 LTTE propaganda defeated, truth revealed, The Sunday Observer (Colombo), 12
July 2009, available at <http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2009/07/12/fea02.asp>.
324 Affidavit of Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, op. cit.
325 Weiss, op. cit., p. 109.
326 Lies Agreed Upon, Ministry of Defence, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri
Lanka, Colombo, available at Lies Agreed Upon: Sri Lanka counters Channel 4 (Full
Video), YouTube, uploaded by gihangamos on 1 August 2011 available at <http://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5O1JAfRXew>.

105

corrupted journalism

327
328
329

Let Them Speak: Truth about Sri Lankas Victims of War, op. cit.
Ibid.
A Marred Victory and a Defeat Pregnant with Foreboding, Special Report No. 32,
University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka, 10 June 2009, available
at <http://www.uthr.org/SpecialReports/spreport32.htm#_ftn7>.
330 Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka, United States
Government, Washington-DC, 2009, available at <http://www.state.gov/documents/
organization/131025.pdf>.
331 Ibid., p. 24.
332 Ibid., p. 33.
333 Trauma in the Vanni: Human Grist to the Mills of Dual Hypocrisy, Information
Bulletin No. 46, University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka, 8 July
2008, available at <http://www.uthr.org/bulletins/Bul46.htm>.
334 Weiss, op. cit., p. 111.
335 Ibid., p. 109.
336 Ibid., p. 131.
337 Let Them Speak Part II: From Kilinochchi to Puthukkudiyiruppu, University
Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka, Special Report No. 34, 13 December
2009, available at <http://www.uthr.org/SpecialReports/Special%20rep34/Uthr-sp.
rp34part2.htm>.
338 Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka, United States
Government, Washington-DC, 2009, available at <http://www.state.gov/documents/
organization/131025.pdf>, p. 24.
339 Northern Sri Lanka SitRep 15: Heavy Fighting Continues; UN Launches
Appeal; Food Aid Delivered to Vanni, US State Department cable released by
Wikileaks.
340 Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka, op. cit., p.
37.
341 Ibid., p. 43.
342 Ibid., p. 44.
343 To the bitter end, The Economist, 23 April 2009, available at <http://www.economist.
com/node/13527366>.
344 The feared carnage comes to pass, The Economist, 14 May 2009, available at <http://
www.economist.com/node/13649343>.
345 Rajan Hoole, Doctoring the evidence, Himal Southasian, August2009, available at
<http://www.himalmag.com/component/content/article/604-doctoring-the-evidence.
html>.
346 Let Them Speak: Truth about Sri Lankas Victims of War, op. cit.
347 Weiss, op. cit., p. 103.
348 Ibid., p. 101.
349 Narayan Swamy, op. cit., xxiv.
350 Weiss, op. cit., p. 96.
351 The Indian government intervened during a Sri Lankan army offensive in 1987, just
as the LTTE was on the verge of defeat. Peace negotiations ensued. See India airlifts
aid to Tamil rebels, The New York Times, 5 June 1987.

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the no-fire zones in the vanni

352 No Humanitarian Pause, South Asian Outlook, Vol. 8, No. 11, May 2009,
available at <http://www.southasianoutlook.com/issues/2009/may/sri_lanka_no_
humanitarian_pause.html>.
353 Still Counting the Dead, op. cit., pp. 62-63.
354 Tamil Tiger propaganda May 13, 2009, Geopolitical Monitor, 13 May 2009,
available at <http://www.geopoliticalmonitor.com/tamil-tigers-fighting-for-survivalmay-13-2009-2134/>.
355 Northern Sri Lanka SitRep 15: Heavy Fighting Continues; UN, US Embassy
Colombo, 18 February 2009.
356 Sri Lankan Govt. Rebukes Tamil Propaganda Machine, Antiwar Forum, 16 May
2009, available at <http://original.antiwar.com/deen/2009/05/15/sri-lankan-govt/>.
357 LTTE urges IC to act in the international way, TamilNet, 10 May 2009, available
at <http://tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=29313>.
358 LTTE urges IC to save civilians in the name of humanity, SLA attacks kill 1700
in 48 hours, TamilNet, 14 May 2009, available at <http://tamilnet.com/art.
html?catid=13&artid=29360>.
359 David H Hackworth, Ruses that prompt attacks as old a trick as war itself , The
Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale), 23 November 1995. Hackworth was a nationally
syndicated defence correspondent and the United States most decorated military
veteran at the time.
360 David Owen, Balkan Odyssey, Gollancz, London, 1995, p. 255. Lord Owen was CoChairman of the Steering Committee of the International Conference on the Former
Yugoslavia.
361 Ibid., p. 257.
362 Ibid., p. 257.
363 Ibid., pp. 260-61.
364 Ibid., p. 263.
365 Ibid., p. 262.
366 Sarajevo massacre remembered, BBC News Channel, 5 February 2994, available
at <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3459965.stm>.
367 See, also, Serbs not guilty of massacre, experts warned US mortar was Bosnian, The
Sunday Times (London), 1 October, 1995, and Serbs Not Guilty of Massacre, Le
Monde, April 1996.
368 See, Fleeing LTTE abandons more heavy artillery in final showdown, The Island
(Colombo), 13 February 2009, available at <http://www.island.lk/2009/02/13/
news15.html>.
369 Humanitarian Operation Factual Analysis, Ministry of Defence, Democratic Socialist
Republic of Sri Lanka, Colombo, July 2011.
370 Tamil Guerrillas in Sri Lanka: Deadly and armed to the teeth, The New York Times,
7 March 1998.
371 See, for example, See, for example, North Korea traded with LTTE, a terror
group designated by U.S., Sankei Shimbun (Tokyo), 26 September 2009; North
Korea: Illegal Exporting of Weapons to Sri Lanka Guerilla Groups, DailyNK
(Seoul), 27 September 2009, available at <http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.
php?cataId=nk00100&num=2709; and N Korea sold weapons to LTTE says security

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corrupted journalism

expert, BBC Sinhala, 2 October 2010, available at <http://www.bbc.co.uk/sinhala/


news/story/2010/10/101002_weapons.shtml>.
372 John Solomon and B. C. Tan, Feeding the Tiger: How Sri Lankan insurgents fund
their war, Janes Intelligence Review, l August 2007, available at <http://www.c-cft.
org/publication/pdf/FeedingtheTiger.pdf>.
373 Weiss, op. cit., p. 45.
374 LTTE leader pays homage to Lt. Seelan, artillery units complete training, TamilNet, 16
July 2006, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=18819>.
375 See, for example, Shelling of Sri Lankan hospital renews fears for civilians, News
Blog, The Guardian (London), 2 February 2009, available at <http://www.guardian.
co.uk/news/blog/2009/feb/02/sri-lanka-hospital-shelling?INTCMP=SRCH>. For
regular TamilNet coverage of the LTTEs use of artillery, see, for example, Tamil Net
articles: SLA, LTTE clashes continue in Northern Front, TamilNet, 18 December
2008;Artillery duel in Northern Front, SLA closes roads to transport casualties in
Jaffna, TamilNet, 16 December 2008; Clashes erupt in Jaffna FDL, TamilNet,
16 October 2008; Tiger artillery fire kills SLA soldier in Jaffna, TamilNet, 26
September 2008; SLA, LTTE clash in Kilaali FDL, TamilNet, 17 August 2008;
LTTE, SLA exchange artillery fire in Jaffna FDLs, TamilNet, 16 July 2008; SLA
mortar base neutralised in artillery fire LTTE, TamilNet, 4 June 2008; SLA,
LTTE clash in Naakarkoayil FDL areas, TamilNet, 5 May 2008; Tigers attack SLN
point in Mannaar city, TamilNet, 5 May 2008; LTTE, SLA exchange artillery fire
in Thenmaraadchi, TamilNet, 18 April 2008; LTTE, SLA exchange artillery fire
in Thenmaraadchi, TamilNet, 2 April 2008; Artillery duel in Northern Front,
TamilNet, 9 March 2008; LTTE, SLA exchange artillery fire in Vadamaraadchi,
TamilNet, 4 March 2008; LTTE, SLA exchange artillery fire across Jaffna lagoon,
TamilNet, 12 February 2008; 42 SLA killed in Mannaar clashes LTTE, TamilNet,
12 February 2008; Outgoing artillery fire rocks Mannaar city, TamilNet, 12
February 2008; Tiger artillery barrage destroys SLA bulldozers, TamilNet, 6 February
2008; Tiger artillery targets Palaali airbase, fighting intensifies in Jaffna, TamilNet,
28 January 2008; SLA suffers casualties in Tiger artillery strike, TamilNet, 9 January
2008; SLA artillery fire kills 2 civilians in Pooneryn, TamilNet, 8 January 2008;
Artillery exchanges continue on New Years day in Northern FDLs, TamilNet, 1
January 2008; Artillery duel continues in Jaffna, TamilNet, 21 December 2007;
SLA, LTTE artillery duels intensify in Jaffna, TamilNet, 20 December 2007; SLA
soldier killed, 11 wounded in artillery attack in Mannaar, TamilNet,15 December
2007; Heavy fighting in Mannaar, TamilNet, 22 November 2007; Explosions rock
Pooneryn, TamilNet, 7 November 2007; Heavy artillery duel, clashes in Northern
FDL positions, TamilNet, 30 October 2007; SLA trooper killed, 2 injured in LTTE
artillery attack in Thenmaraadchi, TamilNet, 28 October 2007; Heavy artillery
exchange at Naakarkoayil FDL, TamilNet, 7 September 2007; Artillery duel in
northern front, civilian shot dead in Chaavakachcheari, TamilNet, 27 September
2007; STF, LTTE exchange mortar fire in Ampaarai, TamilNet, 25 September
2007; Artillery duel in Mannaar, hospitals on red alert, TamilNet, 24 September
2007; 2 SLA troops injured in artillery duel in Thenmaraadchi, TamilNet, 14
September 2007; Heavy artillery exchange at Naakarkoayil FDL, TamilNet, 7

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the no-fire zones in the vanni

376

377

378
379
380
381
382
383
384
385
386
387

September 2007; Artillery duel in northern FDLs, TamilNet, 29 August 2007;


LTTE, SLA exchange artillery fire in Thenmaraadchi FDL, TamilNet, 20 August
2007; SLA suffers heavy casualties in shelling duel, TamilNet, 10 April 2007;
Artillery duel along Jaffna FDLs, TamilNet, 27 March 2007; LTTE shells hit
Manthuvil Base, TamilNet, 7 March 2007; U.S., Italian Ambassadors wounded in
shell fire in Batticaloa, TamilNet, 27 February 2007; SLA, LTTE exchange mortar
fire near Muhamalai FDL, TamilNet, 4 February 2007; Tiger artillery fire kills 4
SLA soldiers at Panichchankerni, TamilNet, 20 January 2007; One SLA trooper
killed, two injured in Vadamaradchi, TamilNet,18 January 2007; Heavy exchange
of artillery fire at Thenmaradchi FDLs, TamilNet, 14 January 2007; SLA, LTTE
exchange rocket fire at Muhamalai FDL and TamilNet, 10 January 2007.
The only two references in 2009, for example, were Tiger shelling reaches Palai,
Mukamaalai, Kilaali areas, TamilNet, 10 March 2009, available at <http://www.
tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=28676>, and Tigers blast 6 Sri Lankan
artillery positions in Vanni, TamilNet, 11 March 2009, available at <http://www.
tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=28685>.
Humanitarian Operation Factual Analysis, Ministry of Defence, Democratic Socialist
Republic of Sri Lanka, Colombo, July 2011, p. 16. They made up part of the US$34
million worth of LTTE weapons and war materiel recovered after the war by the Sri
Lankan military.
See, LTTEs Military Capability, Tamiltigers.net, undated, available at <http://
ttnet.bravehost.com/weaponary/weaponary.html>.
See, Annex F, Humanitarian Operation Factual Analysis, Ministry of Defence,
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Colombo, July 2011.
Humanitarian Operation Factual Analysis, Ministry of Defence, Democratic Socialist
Republic of Sri Lanka, Colombo, July 2011, p. 15.
Ibid., p. 53 and p. 59.
SLAF destroys two moving tiger artillery, YouTube, uploaded by
lordhiru on 15 January 2009, available at <http://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=AWU41KOKets>.
Security troops capture LTTEs 152mm Howitzer Artillery Gun, Sinhalaya.com,
30 January 2009, available at <http://sinhalaya.com/news/eng/2009/security-troopscapture-ltte%E2%80%99s-152mm-howitzer-artillery-gun/>.
See, for example, 130 mm Arty Gun Fire, YouTube, uploaded by
MCNS2009, 26 February 2009, available at <http://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=dyxn4x88SUs>.
Fleeing LTTE abandons more heavy artillery in final showdown, The Island
(Colombo), 13 February 2009, available at <http://www.island.lk/2009/02/13/
news15.html>.
Tigers blast 6 Sri Lankan artillery positions in Vanni, YouTube, uploaded
by YouEelam on 12 March 2009, available at <http://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=neNtqa8WcDs>.
Large scale of weapons FOUND by Sri Lankan Army | Photo 02, NowPublic Photo
Archives, 5 March 2009available at <http://www.nowpublic.com/world/large-scaleweapons-found-sri-lankan-army-photo-02>.

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corrupted journalism

388 LTTE 130mm cannon destroyed by Sri Lankan Air force northeast of
Puthukkudiyirippu, YouTube, 31 March 2009, available at <http://www.youtube.
com/watch?v=VRdiX7fddmI>.
389 Massive LTTE military Items recovered, Lanka-e-news, 5 April 2009 available at
<http://lankaenews.com/English/news.php?id=7422>.
390 Escaping civilians from LTTE hostage 1, YouTube, uploaded by infoDeptSriLanka
on 20 April 2009, available <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkOWdjyQiE8&
feature=player_embedded#!>.
391 Ltte moves an Artillery Gun inside the NFZ at Mullaittivu, YouTube, uploaded
by ravcey on 2 May 2009, available at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1Rxr7neQg>.
392 The final rescue mission on the way; LTTE continue to fire at escaping civilians,
15 May 2009, Ministry of Defence, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka,
Colombo, available at <http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20090515_09>.
393 Gotas War, op. cit., p. 463.

110

the sri lankan army and civilians in the vanni

C hapter S ix

The Sri Lankan Army and civilians in the


Vanni
From what has happened we cannot say that the purpose of bombing or shelling
by the government forces was to kill civilians...ground troops took care not to
harm civilians...It is hard to identify any other Army that would have endured
the provocations of the LTTE, which was angling for genocide, and caused
proportionately little harm.
The University Teachers for Human Rights 394
It was noted that the LTTE is not permitting the civilians to come out of
Mullaitivu and Killinochchi. This is a very unfortunate situation...Innocent
civilians must not be used as human shields.
Statement by Catholic Bishops Conference in Sri Lanka, September 2008 395
It remains a credit to many of the front-line SLA soldiers that...they so often
seem to have made the effort to draw civilians out from the morass of fighting
ahead of them in an attempt to save lives.
Gordon Weiss 396

The Channel 4 programmes have at their centre the story of the approximately 300,000
Tamil civilians who found themselves in the crossfire between government and LTTE
forces, all within a gradually decreasing area of north-east Sri Lanka, ultimately no bigger
than New Yorks central park. These civilians had been forcibly displaced by the LTTE,
and the Sri Lankan army stated that its campaign was a humanitarian operation aimed
at freeing them as well as re-establishing government control in the areas previously
dominated by the insurgent movement. On 10 April 2009, the Sri Lankan armed forces
announced the start of the largest hostage rescue mission in the world.397

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The Sri Lankan military stated that it undertook operations in the Vanni aware of
the dangers to the civilian population, but was intent on a Zero Civilian Casualty
policy:
The Government of Sri Lanka made every effort to protect civilians in
the conflict zone through the creation of Safe Corridors and No Fire
Zones, and by adhering to a Zero Civilian casualty policy that had
been conveyed to all troops through repeated training and operational
orders. Sri Lanka also took a proactive and extensive role in delivering
humanitarian assistance to these civilians before, during and after the
fighting. Despite the clear intent of the Government of Sri Lanka and
the numerous precautions taken, it was impossible in a battle of this
magnitude, against a ruthless opponent actively endangering civilians,
for civilian casualties to be avoided. 398
The government also stated that [i]n advance of the Humanitarian Operation,
Security Forces underwent extensive training and preparation tailored to achieve
a high standard of protection for civilians and to minimise casualties.399 The
preparations for what the army described as a humanitarian operation were clear.
Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister for Human Rights and Disaster Management,
speaking before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 2 March 2009, noted
government concerns about civilian casualties: Our troops, who carry handbooks
as part of their standard kit on how to conduct themselves in accordance with these
norms and standards [of international humanitarian law], know that even a few deaths
of civilians are deaths too many, and that is why currently we are holding back our
strength even at the cost of increased casualties to our forces.400
There is no doubt, however, that government artillery, mortar and small arms
fire killed and injured civilians in the no-fire zones. The government admitted this,
and circumstances within the conflict zone, most notably the enforced presence of
hundreds of thousands of civilians, made civilian casualties inevitable. Rather than
exploring this objectively, or even admit that the civilians were present because
they had been forced to accompany the LTTE, Channel 4 chose instead to make a
number of claims about the Sri Lankan armed forces and their interaction with the
civilian population in north-east Sri Lanka, accusing them of displacing civilians and
then deliberately targeting them. The programmes rejected the finding by the Sri
Lankan Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission that the armys actions were
proportional.401 Channel 4 inferred that government forces conducting security
operations into No-Fire Zone 2 and then No-Fire Zone 3, and attacking LTTE
positions within those zones was somehow a war crime in and of itself. Channel 4

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the sri lankan army and civilians in the vanni

claimed that government forces seemed determined to maximise casualties and


presented as a case history allegations that the army deliberately set out to kill
civilians during its rescue mission of those people being forcibly held by the LTTE.
Channel 4s narrative was fundamentally flawed and misleading from the
beginning. While claiming to tell the story of the 300,000 Tamil civilians, Channel
4 misled its viewers and any wider audience. Jon Snow claimed that the hundreds
of thousands of Tamil civilians were driven from their homes by government forces
who appeared to see all Tamil civilians as virtually indistinguishable from the fighters
of the Tamil Tigers. Both assertions are untrue. Channel 4 then further claimed that
following the fall of Kilinochchi, tens of thousands of displaced Tamil civilians
began an exodus eastwards. They had nowhere to go, they just knew they had to
leave. Channel 4 appears to be in denial regarding the actions and behaviour of the
LTTE. Regarding the massive forced displacement of civilians that is at the heart of
the tragedies that would subsequently unfold, Channel 4 was either amazingly naive
or simply disingenuous, in any instance deeply unprofessional.
Did the army force the civilians from their homes? Human Rights Watch, no
friend of the Sri Lankan government, provided an unambiguous answer at the time:
Retreating from Sri Lankan Army (SLA) advances, the LTTE has forcibly
taken along all civilians under its control. As the territory held by the
LTTE has shrunknow a short, narrow strip on the northeast coast of the
islandthe civilian population has been dangerously forced into a smaller
and smaller space. In violation of the laws of war, the LTTE...refused to
allow civilians to flee the fighting, repeatedly fired on those trying to reach
government held territory, and deployed forces near densely populated
areas. The civilians who remain under LTTE control, including children,
are subject to forced recruitment into LTTE forces and hazardous forced
labor on the battlefield.402 (Emphasis added.)
Human Rights Watch makes clear that it was the LTTE that deliberately forced
the displacement. Even if Channel 4 somehow managed to miss or chose to ignore
the enforced displacement of Tamil civilians, better journalists and human rights
groups did not. They reported that 300,000 civilians within the LTTE-controlled area
had been forced to accompany the LTTE in its retreat to the coast. On 28 January
2009, for example, Human Rights Watch further reported that:
The LTTE has long prevented civilians under its control from fleeing to
government-held areas. As the LTTE...retreated into its stronghold in
the northern Vanni area since the start of a Sri Lankan army offensive in

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corrupted journalism

October 2008, the rebel group...forced civilians deeper into territory they
control...Altogether, an estimated 250,000 civilians are now trapped in
the small part of Mullaittivu district that remains under LTTE control.403
Amnesty International also confirmed that As the Tigers have lost territory,
they...forced thousands of Tamil civilians to move with them.404 (Emphasis added.) In
February 2009, the BBC noted that UN says there are credible reports to suggest
that the Tamil Tigers are preventing civilians from leaving and a number of those
trying to get away are being shot at and in some cases killed.405 In April, the British
and French governments noted that [i]t is clear that the LTTE...have been forcefully
preventing civilians from leaving the conflict area and we deplore their determination
to use civilians as a human shield.406 Later that month, the Economist reported that
at least 60,000 more [civilians] (and perhaps twice that number) remain as hostages
of the Tigers.407 In early May, Amnesty International stated: At this point, an
estimated 50,000 civilians are still being held as human shields by the Tigers in a
small coastal strip in northeastern Sri Lanka, surrounded by the Sri Lankan army on
three sides.408 Human Rights Watch made it clear at the time that LTTE forces are
increasingly deployed near civilians in violation of the laws of war...it is considered
to be human shielding, which is a war crime.409 The displaced population was
described by one commentator as protective sandbags for the LTTE.410
A central claim by Channel 4 was shown to be untrue. It was the LTTE and not
the army that forced hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians from their homes.
Weiss provides the reason for this forced displacement, something which is key to
the events in the last few weeks of the conflict:
[T]he presence of civilians served multiple purposes for the Tiger
command. Primarily a civilian population was a buffer against an allout assault by the army. Too many pictures of dead children transmitted
around the world would attract outrage, and might limit the political
resolve of the governments coalition and weaken its support from foreign
governments.411
Had Channel 4 News done anything more than superficial research into the
conflict, or were even interested, they would have realised that this was not the
first time the LTTE had forced a civilian population to accompany them as the
organisation retreated in the face of an army offensive. Weiss, for example, records
that: In April 1996, a massive army offensive forced the Tamil Tigers to withdraw
from Jaffna. They retreated into the jungle and villages of the Vanni to the south,
along with between 300,000 and 400,000 civilians who in just a few hours were

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the sri lankan army and civilians in the vanni

intimidated into leaving their houses, jobs and villages.412 Channel 4 appears to
have ignored the clear fact that the LTTE were party to a pattern of intimidation and
forced displacement. It would have contradicted its narrative. Weiss also documented
the LTTEs attitude towards Tamil civilians: The safety of civilians always came a
distant second to their political and military objectives.413
The United Kingdoms Broadcasting Code, to which Channel 4 is answerable,
places a requirement for due accuracy on broadcasters. The programmes claims
about the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians clearly breached
Section 2, Section 5 and Section 7 of the Broadcasting Code. The relevant sections
are: Section 2.2: Factual programmes or items or portrayals of factual matters
must not materially mislead the audience; Section 5.7: Views and facts must
not be misrepresented; Section 5.12: In dealing with matters of major political...
controversy...an appropriately wide range of significant views must be included;
and Section 7.9: broadcasters should take reasonable care...that material facts have
not been presented, disregarded or omitted in a way that is unfair to an individual
or organisation.414 Channel 4s claim that the Sri Lankan government forcibly
displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians is simply untrue. In both of the Channel
4 programmes, the broadcaster and programme makers clearly misled their audience.
Far from providing definitive, factual, forensic evidence, the Channel 4
programmes are also surprisingly erratic in providing figures for the number of
displaced civilians figures that are crucial given the subsequent claims made in the
programme. In the first programme, Jon Snow first claims that between 300,000400,000 civilians were involved. He then states that By the end of January 2009,
the remaining Tamil Tigers and as many as 400,000 civilians were now trapped by
Sri Lankan government forces. The 400,000 figure is cited a second time. Channel
4 was itself party therefore to a 25 percent margin of error in its own figures. In
December 2008, Human Rights Watch put the number of civilians in the Vanni at
between 230,000 and 300,000 civilians.415 At the end of January 2009, the BBC
reported that [t]here are thought to be about 250,000 civilians in the area in which
the rebels are still operating.416 Time reported in early February that there were as
many as 250,000 civilians in the Vanni.417 In February 2009, Human Rights Watch
put the number of civilians at more than 200,000.418 In February 2009 the UN
World Food Program estimated the number to be 250,000.419 In March, the US
government put the number of civilians at 120,000-150,000.420 The Consortium of
Humanitarian Agencies put the number at between 75,000 and 150,000. The UN
Resident Coordinator estimated the number to be between 120,000 and 180,000.
Along with the BBC and others, the government initially thought there were fewer
civilians in the area than was the case: it accepts that about 300,000 civilians were
being held by the LTTE.421

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corrupted journalism

Channel 4s cavalier approach to facts and figures regarding the number of people
displaced by the LTTE manifested itself at all levels. Having claimed that between
300,000-400,000 civilians were initially displaced, it then reduced this figure to a
quarter of a million internally displaced people at the end of the war. This was again
inaccurate. Amnesty International stated, for example, that there were 300,000 IDPs
following the conflict.422 The number of officially registered displaced civilians at
the end of the crisis was 294,000.423 In this instance, Channel 4 was 50,000 people
out in their estimate.
Weiss confirms that the LTTE deliberately inflated its claims regarding how many
civilians were inside the area it controlled: In 2008, Tamil Tiger functionaries claimed
that 450,000 people were inside the Vanni. A higher population figure strengthened
the Tamil claim on the international political stage and amongst the Tamil diaspora
to a Tamil homeland. It also meant that they could claim greater benefits from the Sri
Lankan government, which had continued to exercise its writ over Tiger-controlled
territory by supplying a full range of government health and education services.424
Perhaps needless to say, Channel 4s figure more closely follows that of the LTTEs.
Channel 4 rightly accuses the Sri Lankan government of initially underestimating
the number of displaced civilians; they were not the only ones, most humanitarian
agencies and several other governments also underestimated the figures. It is ironic,
however, for Channel 4 then to seemingly deliberately inflate the initial number
of displaced civilians, presumably to imply a larger and more convenient civilian
death toll.
Channel 4s central claims that the Sri Lankan army deliberately set out to kill
civilians, that they sought to maximise civilian casualties, and that government
forces...appeared to see all Tamil civilians as virtually indistinguishable from the
fighters of the Tamil Tigers are repeatedly contradicted by Channel 4s own star
witness and by respected human rights organisations.
Gordon Weiss made the simple observation that [f ]or the SLA, it made no tactical
sense to kill civilians.425 Writing in April 2009, the Economist echoed Weiss: nor does
the government, in the wars twilight weeks, wish to commit a massacre.426 He noted
that for thirty-seven months [the army] had worked its way meticulously across the
territory controlled by the Tigers, at great cost to young Sinhalese soldiers.427 That
is to say they had been deliberately trying to avoid civilian casualties something
they had been trained to do and something they had managed to accomplish during
the offensive in eastern Sri Lanka, which had preceded the final northern phase.
In contrast to Channel 4s claim that the army sought to kill as many civilians as
possible in the no-fire zones, Weiss noted that Sri Lankan army commanders and
senior political leaders declared...their intention to prick the Vanni pocket and
drain it of its civilians.428 He also documents that this appeared to have been largely

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successful: army assaults pierced the guerrillas defences, and tens of thousands of
civilians escaped in small batches or great waves.429
Weiss describes the behaviour of the Sri Lankan army towards the end of the
Vanni operation:
58th Division troops overran 20,000 civilians crouching in bunkers inside
the No Fire Zone. Using loudspeakers as they inched forward through the
jungles and across the rice paddy fields, troops summoned people towards
their lines, despite the ferocious fighting and shelling all around...On the
whole...the vast majority of people who escaped seem to have been received
with relative restraint and care by the front-line SLA troops, who quickly
passed them up the line for tea, rice and first aid.430
Weiss records that the army clearly sought to distinguish between civilians and
LTTE fighters, something not easy given the that the insurgents often wore civilian
clothing: the army probed the Tiger defences, and calculated how to separate civilians
from cadres. That is to say to differentiate who, as LTTE fighters, were legitimate
targets, and who as civilians were not. He restates this, noting further that in the last
few days [c]ommandos were fighting their way through a tent city, hurling grenades,
trying to distinguish Tiger fighters from civilians...Thousands of people streamed
across the lagoon to the safety of army lines as soldiers urged them on. Tiger cadres
fired at both soldiers and civilians.431 Weiss noted of the Tamil civilians attempting
to flee the LTTE controlled area that if they survived the jungles, minefields, booby
traps and shelling, and managed to cross the Tiger lines, they might be shot in error
by government forces.432 Weiss also observed of the government forces:
It remains a credit to many of the front-line SLA soldiers that, despite
odd cruel exceptions, they so often seem to have made the effort to draw
civilians out from the morass of fighting ahead of them in an attempt
to save lives. Soldiers yelled out to civilians, left gaps in their lines while
they waved white flags to attract people forward and bodily plucked the
wounded from foxholes and bunkers. Troops bravely waded into the
lagoon under fire to rescue wounded people threading their way out of
the battlefield or to help parents with their children, and gave their rations
to civilians as they lay in fields, exhausted in their first moments of safety
after years of living under the roar and threat of gunfire.433
Weiss provides an additional description of the treatment of civilians as they
encountered government forces: The front-line soldiers who received the first

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civilians as they escaped to government lines, those who guarded them in the camps
and the civilian and military doctors who provided vital treatment distinguished
themselves most commonly through their mercy and care.434 This attitude appeared
to be across the services. The International Committee of the Red Cross commended
the Sri Lankan navy for its role in the medical evacuations by sea of sick and injured
civilians during the Vanni operation.435
Perhaps the most objective description of what happened in the no-fire zones,
and the behaviour of the Sri Lankan army in the no-fire zones in stark contrast
to the picture presented by Channel 4 is that provided by University Teachers for
Human Rights. They could not have been more clear:
In the context of the present war which took a heavy toll on the lives of soldiers,
these ordinary men have shown remarkable restraint towards civilians when
they come to contact with them. The civilians are uniformly scathing about
the LTTE, and frequently found the Army helpful and considerate...It is
hard to identify any other Army that would have endured the provocations of
the LTTE, which was angling for genocide, and caused proportionately little
harm.436 (Emphasis added.)
University Teachers for Human Rights stated:
From what has happened we cannot say that the purpose of bombing or
shelling by the government forces was to kill civilians. As pointed out earlier,
ground troops took care not to harm civilians. But the decision to go in and
take the area meant that it had to counter the LTTEs firepower with its own
firepower, inevitably leading to large civilian casualties.437 (Emphasis added.)
UTHR also noted that:
At the beginning of the operation the Army had used some shells which
resulted in some civilian casualties. However, the IDPs are uniformly
emphatic that the Army shelled only in reply to the militants mortar and gun
fire from among the civilians.438 (Emphasis added.)
UTHR reported on the armys entry into the no-fire zone on 8 February 2009:
On [8 February 2009] the 58th Division came through the jungles north
of Udayarkaddu and entered the safe zone. Through loudspeakers they
invited the people to come. An estimated 20 000 who were at Iruddumadu

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went to the Army as the LTTE had withdrawn. Many civilians had fled
east because of the shelling. Others who tried to escape were shot at by the
LTTE a phenomenon that was to last until 16th May. At Iruddumadu,
civilians commended the conduct of the Army.439 (Emphasis added.)
UTHR also described the behaviour of the very Sri Lankan army unit referred
to in Channel 4s programme as being present in No-Fire Zones 2 and 3:
Soldiers who entered the No Fire Zone on 19th April 2009 and again on
the 9th and 15th May acted with considerable credit when they reached
the proximity of civilians. They took risks to protect civilians and helped
across the elderly who could not walk. Those who escaped have readily
acknowledged this.440
Channel 4 and its many researchers appear to have overlooked or ignored these
pivotal first-hand accounts by a key Sri Lankan human rights organisation of events
in the conflict area about which they made claims.
The US government also noted in a report to the US Congress that an
organization reported that, at the beginning of the final operation, the SLA used
shelling that resulted in some civilian casualties. However, the IDPs to whom the
organization spoke were uniformly emphatic that the SLA shelled only in reply to
the LTTEs mortar and gun fire from among the civilians.441 This was confirmed by
Hoole and Sritharan: Residents at Thevipuram said that the governments counter
artillery attacks were so accurate that they generally went over them eastwards
towards the area from which the LTTE originally launched shell attacks and then
vamoosed.442 The US government also reported: Civilians...said that on May 15
the SLA stopped shelling when the LTTE began destroying its own equipment.443
Weiss provides evidence of the behaviour of the soldiers as they advanced into
the no-fire zones. Weiss quotes a LTTE child soldier: We could see the SLA soldiers
about three hundred metres away and they were waving their hands at us to come...
as the people ran away the LTTE shot at them...some people were hit but we just
kept going.444 He also provides a general picture:
By most accounts, despite isolated cases of looting by soldiers, the army
did their best to retrieve the wounded and transport them to hospitals.
One old man, left alone and with a wounded leg in the burning tent city,
was retrieved by soldiers and was then able to notify his family that he
was alive because he could recall his sons telephone number in Germany.
There were many acts of mercy that emerged from the inferno of civil

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war. The bedraggled columns of civilians were massed and counted, fed
as well as possible and then transported by truck and bus to waiting
internment camps in Vavuniya. Front-line soldiers gave their own rations
to the terrified civilians.445
UTHR reported on the interaction between civilians and soldiers, including in
circumstances where there were provocations by the LTTE:
As they reached the front-line of the military, they had been received
courteously and given a meal and drinks. Since the civilians had been in
fear and hunger for long they had delved into the food and in the end there
was not enough food. One older military officer, who was announcing in
crude Tamil over the speakers tied high up on the palmyrah trees, gave
his own food parcel to a refugee and went without a meal himself. This
particular officer was shown on television (Eye Channel) making the
announcement over the speakers, and the lady pointed him out as a very
good and kindly man and related this story.
There are many grateful testimonies from IDPs of how military personnel
put them-selves at great risk in checking and taking them in as they came
in groups to the front-lines and surrendered to the military. There are
reports of many instances where when the checking process had begun,
a group of militants had appeared, and taking cover behind the trees,
started shooting, and often killing some military personnel. The military
have, by all reports, invariably taken cover, but avoided retaliating in order
to protect the civilians from getting minced in the cross fire. Invariably
in all such instances the civilians had felt desperately sure that even if
they survived the cross fire, they would become victims to angry revenge
killings. After the shooting subsided and the militants withdrew, they had
invariably been received well.446
Once again, this independent perspective, from a human rights organisation
hostile to the government, presents a relevant viewpoint contradicting the claims
made by Channel 4. The well-documented behaviour of the Sri Lankan army, as
reported by Weiss and the University Teachers for Human Rights, contrasts somewhat
with the lurid claims subsequently broadcast by Channel 4 after the first programme
that Sri Lankan soldiers behaved as simply brutal beasts... their hearts are like that
of animals, with no sense of humanity and that They shoot people at random,
stab people, rape them, cut their tongues out, cut womens breasts off. Channel 4

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also broadcast claims that the hearts of Sri Lankan soldiers had turned to stone
and that they had also subsequently turned into vampires.447 This is journalism
more in keeping with the now defunct News of the World newspaper rather than a
responsible broadcaster. The contrast with the claims made by Channel 4 as part
and parcel of its case history in its second programme that government forces were
seeking to maximise civilian casualties, and the reality provided by Channel 4s own
commentator Weiss, the UTHR and the civilians themselves could not be more clear.
It is worth noting that Weiss stated that the behaviour of Sri Lankan soldiers
mirrored the attitude taken by the nation at large:
In Colombo, as television images appeared of those civilians who had
escaped and were now in internment camps, many dozens of private
individuals, schools, banks, religious institutions, department stores
and newspapers began drives to raise money, food and clothing for the
bedraggled enemy, to the considerable credit of a population that had
lived in fear of random Tamil Tiger terrorism for three decades.448
It is a matter of record that the Sri Lankan army used radar-controlled counterartillery fire which would direct gunfire to the location of LTTE artillery positions.
The Sri Lankan army responded to incoming LTTE artillery, rocket and mortar fire.
This would be aimed at the positions from which the LTTE had fired. This was
confirmed by independent defence experts who analysed dozens of aerial photographs
taken by The Times newspaper of the final positions in the last days of the fighting.
Charles Heyman, editor of the magazine Armed Forces of Britain, for example, said
of the arrangement of the army and rebel firing positions that It looks...likely that
the [LTTE] firing position has been located by the Sri Lankan army and it has then
been targeted with air-burst and ground-impact mortars.449 That is to say that the
army fire was aimed at Tiger firing positions. Independent sources have made it clear
that the LTTE would deliberately fire from hospitals and other civilian locations in
attempts to draw government fire into those areas. They may well have succeeded
on occasion.
In a programme looking at human rights abuses notably the killing of civilians
and the shelling of civilians within no-fire zones, and the resultant casualties
Channel 4 ignored material facts and clear evidence provided by reputable human
rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and
University Teachers for Human Rights, the United Nations, the United States and
Channel 4s own expert, Gordon Weiss, of which the following are examples.
In September 2008 the Sri Lankan Catholic Bishops Conference publicly
highlighted the fact that the LTTE was preventing Tamil civilians from leaving the

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conflict zone and was using them as human shields: It was noted that the LTTE is
not permitting the civilians to come out of Mullaitivu and Killinochchi. This is a very
unfortunate situation. We ask the LTTE not to hinder the innocent civilians from
proceeding to safer areas as the war is escalating and the lives of these innocent civilians
are greatly endangered. Innocent civilians must not be used as human shields.450
The Sri Lankan army was accused of deliberately shelling hospitals in the Vanni.
The army has consistently denied any attacks, and it has to be said there would
have been no tactical or strategic advantage whatsoever in any such attacks. Such
attacks would have had obvious negative consequences. The Puthukkudiyiruppu
Hospital featured in a number of these accusations. An early claim about this
hospital provides a case study in the unreliability of such allegations. On 1 February
2009, Tamilnet alleged that Puthukkudiyiruppu Hospital had been shelled for a
second time in a week...killing at least two people and injuring at least five others.
The compound sustained two direct hits.451 The following day Tamilnet claimed that
the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) shelled Puthukkudiyiruppu (PTK) hospital Sunday night
killing nine civilians, including patients and their family members in the ward. More
than 15 civilians were injured.452 Tamilnet reported that a source at Vavuniyaa District
Secretariat told TamilNet Monday that it was a premeditated massacre as the military was
given instructions by the SL Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Associated Press
reported that Three artillery barrages struck a hospital in Sri Lankas chaotic war zone,
slamming into its pediatrics ward and its womens wing and killing nine patients.453
The contradictory nature of the reporting of this alleged incident was immediately
apparent. This is highlighted by reports in the Daily Mail and by the BBC. While
the Daily Mail stated that The U.N. confirmed the hospital was struck yesterday by
artillery shells throughout the day, the reality however was that the UN was merely
repeating information provided by a third-party. The Daily Mail clearly showed that
the UN spokesman Gordon Weiss was passing on second-hand information about the
alleged shelling: It seems to have struck the paediatric ward.454 (Emphasis added.)
Dr Thurairajah Varatharaja, one of the Tamil government doctors who subsequently
admitted to having been forced by the LTTE to make false statements, is quoted
in the Daily Mail as stating that the shells appeared to have come from the army.
The BBC reported that the UN admitted: It is not clear who fired them.455 The
Daily Mail stated that Dr Varatharaja reported that the shelling caused extensive
damage to the overcrowded hospital.456
On 6 February, however, the Sri Lankan Air Force released aerial video footage
taken by a Beechcraft surveillance airplane on 5 February at around 1.55pm, during
a reconnaissance mission over Puthukkudiyiruppu area.457 The video footage clearly
shows the buildings of the Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital. The footage shows no
damage caused due to artillery fire or aerial bombardment. There is certainly no

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visual evidence to support claims that the shelling caused extensive damage to the
overcrowded hospital. The pediatric and womens wards show no damage whatsoever.
Dr Shanmugarajah subsequently stated The hospital may have come under shelling
after we vacated it on February 4 but not prior to that.458
It is noteworthy that there was an interesting propaganda slant put on the alleged
and subsequently discredited claims that the Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital was
deliberately shelled by the Sri Lankan army. In an attempt to maximise international
outrage, it was claimed that the childrens and womens wards were attacked.459 An
Associated Press article quoted Weiss: It seems to have struck the pediatric ward,
a 30-bed ward filled to overflowing. The last communication that we had from our
staff member on the ground was that they were still counting the dead.460 Weiss
would seem to be citing what was said to have been a text message from a UN worker
in the hospital which said: Women and kids wards shelled. God, no words. Still
counting the dead bodies.461
On 7 February 2009, however, Weiss appeared on CNN news. He stated that
shells didnt strike the hospital. They were in the vicinity of the hospital. He also
said We dont know whos attacked the hospital.462 The implications are clear.
If the alleged shelling was in the vicinity of the hospital, then it is clear that the
womens and childrens wards could not have been hit after all: they are part of the
hospitals main building complex. It then follows that there could not have been the
uncountable deaths within those wards. The story was nevertheless sent around
the world by international news agencies such as Associated Press which was once
again quoting from Tamil doctors, or anonymous sources, subject to intimidation
from the LTTE.
Channel 4s programmes ignored the fact that the LTTE deliberately cited their
heavy gun and weapons system positions and combatants in the no-fire zone and
within concentrations of civilians, and in and around hospitals. The reason why there
were disproportionate civilian casualties was because the LTTE were deliberately
keeping civilians in harms way by using them as human shields.
With regard to Channel 4s central accusation that the Sri Lankan army
deliberately sought to kill Tamil civilians, as presented in the second case history
in Sri Lankas Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished, UTHR co-founders Hoole
and Sritharan could not be more clear: One cannot, thus, on the evidence charge
the army with premeditated killing or maiming of Tamil civilians, but it could have
acted with greater imagination and restraint.463
In two programmes ostensibly dealing with the abuse of human rights, the shelling
of no-fire zones and the resultant casualties amongst civilians in those areas, as well
as claims of deliberate attempts to kill Tamil civilians, it is astonishing that Channel
4 did not once refer to any of the above material facts.

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Notes
394

A Marred Victory and a Defeat Pregnant with Foreboding, Special Report No. 32,
University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka, 10 June 2009, available
at <http://www.uthr.org/SpecialReports/spreport32.htm#_ftn7>.
395 Statement by Catholic Bishops Conference in Sri Lanka, 23 September 2008.
396 Weiss, op. cit., p. 217.
397 Sri Lanka: The largest hostage rescue mission in the world launched, Government
of Sri Lanka, Reliefweb, 10 April 2009.
398 Humanitarian Operation Factual Analysis, Ministry of Defence, Democratic Socialist
Republic of Sri Lanka, Colombo, July 2011, p. 3.
399 Ibid., p. 71.
400 Sri Lanka: Civilian circumstances dire, Integrated Regional Information Networks,
Reliefweb, 5 March 2009, available at <http://reliefweb.int/node/300018>.
401 The Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission was a commission of inquiry
appointed by the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in May 2010 to investigate the
facts and circumstances which led to the failure of the 2002 ceasefire agreement, the lessons
that should be learnt from those events and the institutional, administrative and legislative
measures which need to be taken in order to prevent any recurrence of such concerns in the
future, and to promote further national unity and reconciliation among all communities.
The commission submitted its report to the President on 15 November 2011.
402 War on the Displaced. Sri Lankan Army and LTTE Abuses against Civilians in the Vanni,
Human Rights Watch, New York, February 2009.
403 Sri Lanka: Urgent Action Needed to Prevent Civilian Deaths, Human Rights
Watch, New York, 28 January 2009, available at <http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/
docid/498178afc.html>.
404 Shocking video from Sri Lankan camp for displaced civilians, Amnesty International
USA, 7 May 2009, available at <http://blog.amnestyusa.org/iar/shocking-video-fromsri-lankan-camp-for-displaced-civilians/>.
405 Tamil Tigers target civilians, BBC News, 16 February 2009, available at <http://
news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7893201.stm>.
406 Britain accuses Tamil Tigers of using civilians as human shields. David Miliband,
the Foreign Secretary, and his French counterpart said that Tamil Tiger rebels in
Sri Lanka were using civilians as human shields, which was preventing them from
leaving the conflict zone, The Daily Telegraph, 16 April 2009, available at <http://
www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/srilanka/5161118/Britain-accuses-TamilTigers-of-using-civilians-as-human-shields.html>.
407 Civilians escape the Tigers. Sri Lankas army enters the last redoubt of the Tamil
Tigers, The Economist, 20 April 2009, available at <http://www.economist.com/
node/13522269>.
408 Shocking video from Sri Lankan camp for displaced civilians, Amnesty International
USA, 7 May 2009, available at <http://blog.amnestyusa.org/iar/shocking-video-fromsri-lankan-camp-for-displaced-civilians/>.
409 War on the Displaced. Sri Lankan Army and LTTE Abuses against Civilians in the Vanni,

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Human Rights Watch, New York, February 2009. For a detailed analysis by Human
Rights Watch of the development of LTTE restrictions imposed on civilians in the
Vanni, see Sri Lanka Trapped and Mistreated: LTTE Abuses against Civilians in the
Vanni, Human Rights Watch, New York, 15 December 2008, available at <http://
www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/12/15/trapped-and-mistreated-0>, and, Displaced and
Detained: The Plight of Civilians in Sri Lankas Vanni Region, Human Rights Watch,
New York, December 2008, available at <http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/12/22/
besieged-displaced-and-detained>.
410 Michael Roberts, Blackmail during the Endgame in Eelam WarIV, 13 April 2012
<http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/blackmail-during-the-endgame-ineelam-war-iv/>.
411 Weiss, op. cit., p. 108.
412 Ibid., p. 84.
413 Ibid., p. 114.
414 The Ofcom Broadcasting Code, Ofcom, London, 28 February 2011, available at <http://
stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/broadcasting/broadcast-codes/broadcast-code/>.
415 Trapped and Mistreated: LTTE Abuses against Civilians in the Vanni, op. cit.
416 Civilians die in S Lanka battle, BBC News, 26 January 2009, available at <http://
news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/south_asia/7850603.stm>.
417 How Sri Lanka Tamed Its Tigers, Time, 3 February 2009.
418 War on the Displaced. Sri Lankan Army and LTTE Abuses against Civilians in the Vanni,
op. cit.
419 Sri Lanka: 250,000 People in War Zone Need Food, World Food Program, 6
February 2009, available at <http://www.wfp.org/stories/sri-lanka-vanni>.
420 Subject: A suggestion for getting many of Sri Lankas civilians out of the conflict
zone, US Government cable, 19 March 2011, available at <http://www.aftenposten.
no/spesial/wikileaksdokumenter/article4109483.ece>.
421 Lies Agreed Upon, op. cit.
422 Sri Lanka: Unlock the Camps in Sri Lanka: Safety and dignity for the displaced now,
Amnesty International, New York, ASA 37/016/2009, 10 August 2009, available at
<http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA37/016/2009/en>.
423 See, Sri Lanka: Resettlement of IDPs and challenging road to peace and economic
recovery, Asian Tribune, 14 April 2011, available at <http://www.asiantribune.com/
news/2010/04/14/sri-lanka-resettlement-idps-and-challenging-road-peace-andeconomic-recovery>.
424 Weiss, op. cit., p. 178.
425 Ibid., p. 103.
426 Sri Lankas war. Out of the Tigers cage, The Economist, 8 April 2009, available at
<http://www.economist.com/node/13446894>.
427 Weiss, op. cit., xxiv.
428 Ibid., p. 113.
429 Ibid., p. 3.
430 Ibid., p. 181.
431 Ibid., p. 211.
432 Ibid., p. 103.

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433
434
435

Ibid., p. 217.
Ibid., p. 186.
ICRC commended Sri Lanka Navy for evacuating Tamil civilians safely during the
war, Colombo Page, 21 June 2011, available at <http://www.colombopage.com/
archive_11A/Jun21_1308594615CH.php>.
436 A Marred Victory and a Defeat Pregnant with Foreboding, University Teachers for
Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka, Special Report No. 32, 10 June 2009.
437 Ibid.
438 Ibid.
439 Let Them Speak Part II: From Kilinochchi to Puthukkudiyiruppu, University
Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka, Special Report No: 34, 13 December
2009, available at <http://www.uthr.org/SpecialReports/Special%20rep34/Uthr-sp.
rp34part2.htm>.
440 A Marred Victory and a Defeat Pregnant with Foreboding, op. cit.
441 Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka, United States
Government, Washington-DC, 2009, available at <http://www.state.gov/documents/
organization/131025.pdf>, p. 43.
442 Rajan Hoole and Kopalasingham Sritharan, LTTE predator not protector of Tamil
civilian population, Transcurrents, February 2009, available at <http://transcurrents.
com/tc/2009/02/>.
443 Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka, op. cit., p. 43.
444 Weiss, op. cit., p. 217.
445 Ibid., p. 212.
446 LTTE Is No Excuse For Killing Vanni Civilians, Information Bulletin No. 47,
University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka, 17 April 2009, available
at <http://www.uthr.org/bulletins/Bul47.htm#_Toc227718215>.
447 The Sri Lankan soldiers whose hearts turned to stone, Channel 4 News, 27 July
2011, available at <http://www.channel4.com/news/the-sri-lankan-soldiers-whosehearts-turned-to-stone>.
448 Weiss, op. cit., p. 186.
449 20,000 Tamils killed in final days of Sri Lankan offensive, The Australian, 30 May 2009.
450 Statement by Catholic Bishops Conference in Sri Lanka, 23 September 2008.
451 Shelling hits hospital, ICRC shocked, TamilNet, 1 February 2009.
452 SLA shells PTK hospital, 9 killed, 15 wounded, TamilNet, 2 February 2009.
453 Ibid.
454 Were still counting the bodies, Daily Mail, 2 February 2009.
455 Deadly strike on S Lanka hospital, BBC News, 2 February 2009, available at <http://
news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7863538.stm>.
456 Were still counting the bodies, Daily Mail, 2 February 2009.
457 To view the aerial footage, see, LTTE lies on Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital, YouTube,
uploaded by SriTube89 on 6 February 2009, available at <http://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=FhDrJc8BuXE>, and Air Force beechcraft exposes how LTTE has taken UN
for a ride (5th Feb, 2009), YouTube, uploaded by TerroristWatchdog on 9 February
2009, available at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncQaOljUQcE&feature=pla
yer_embedded>.

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458
459
460
461
462
463

See, Sergei Desilva-Ranasinghe, Information Warfare and the Endgame of the Civil
War, Asia Pacific Defence Reporter, May 2010.
See, for example, Sri Lankan army shells hit childrens hospital, The Daily Telegraph,
2 February 2009.
Artillery attack on hospital in Sri Lankas war zone kills 9 patients, CBC News,
1 February 2009, available at <http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2009/02/01/
srilanka-hospital.html>.
Packed Sri Lanka Hospital Shelled, Sky News, 2 February 2009, available at <http://
news.sky.com/story/667068/packed-sri-lanka-hospital-shelled>.
Sri Lanka - UN Denying Attack on Puthukkudiyiruppu (PTK) Hospital on CNN,
YouTube, uploaded by Thambapanniya on 8 February 2009, available at <http://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-sRfV61-eA>.
Rajan Hoole and Kopalasingham Sritharan, LTTE predator not protector of Tamil
civilian population, Transcurrents, February 2009, available at <http://transcurrents.
com/tc/2009/02/>.

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C hapter S even

How many people died in the Vanni?


In the end, like Hitler, Tiger logic claimed it was better to perish in a great
Gotterdamerung than to compromise. Tragically, the Tamil people had little say
in framing this nihilistic strategy. They were taken along strictly for the ride, so
to speak.
Thomas A. Marks, Maoist Insurgency Since Vietnam 464
Who knows how many people died? We dont know and it would be foolish for
anyone to say that they know. But we do know what we dont know.
Gordon Weiss 465
Two years after the end of the war, there is still no reliable figure for civilian
death.
The UN Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka

466

Channel 4 claims that government shelling and actions in the Vanni resulted in
the deaths of as many as 40,000 civilians, and probably more. It is sadly all too
obvious that there were a large number of civilian deaths in the last few months
of the Sri Lankan conflict. Whatever the final figure, one death was one too many.
It is a simple statement of fact that all of these casualties could have been avoided
had 300,000 civilians not been forced by the LTTE into a war zone. The LTTEs
deliberate use of the civilians as human shields resulted in the death of civilians in
cross fire between LTTE and government forces in the course of the grim fighting. It
was also clear from independent sources that the LTTE deliberately drew government
fire into civilian areas, and deliberately shelled into the civilians under its control
in the zone. These are some of the significant material facts ignored by Channel 4.
Human Rights Watch provided a clear picture of the situation within the Vanni
before events became the centre of a propaganda firestorm. It noted reports of a

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significant number of incidents with single-digit civilian casualties. Human Rights


Watch noted further that despite the wide use of artillery and airpower during the
recent offensive, there have been no credible reports of individual attacks causing
high civilian casualties...Vanni residents have in any case become accustomed to the
conduct of hostilities, knowledge they have used to reduce death and injury from
the fighting. The human rights organisation stated:
Sri Lankan army area bombardments are somewhat predictableshells
are fired in a slowly advancing grid pattern, giving civilians familiar with
this tactic time to flee in advance of the shells. Aerial bombings are often
preceded by spotter planes, effectively warning the population of impending
attacks. In addition, almost all civilians in the Vanni have constructed
rudimentary bunker shelters, often on the orders of the LTTE.467
Channel 4s 40,000 mortality figures appears to have relied upon, or at the very
least shared, a figure taken from Gordon Weisss book (which was itself the top end
of his guesswork), and speculative media accounts which were then reproduced in a
report provided to the United Nations Secretary General. The 40,000 figure is very
controversial. In addressing such a serious and obviously controversial allegation,
Channel 4 ignored the requirement laid down in the British Broadcasting Codes that
In dealing with matters of major political...controversy...an appropriately wide range
of significant views must be included. The broadcaster and programme makers
ignored a range of mortality figures that were contemporaneous.
Leaving aside claims that the mortality figure claimed by Channel 4 is very
exaggerated, the methodology of Channel 4s claim, and that of Weiss, is also
immediately questionable. A central issue is that there is no accepted figure for how
many civilians were actually displaced into the Vanni by the LTTE. This is a key
figure as it is the figure which has to be put against the number of those civilians
who subsequently emerged from the war zone. There is also not the slightest attempt
whatsoever in Channel 4s programmes, or in Weisss book, to differentiate in any
mortality figure they claim between how many of those said to have been killed were
LTTE cadres (there were estimates that up to 20,000 LTTE fighters were killed in
the last few months of fighting), how many were last-minute, often underage, illegal
conscripts taken from the displaced population and thrown at the advancing army,
how many may have been press-ganged civilian auxiliaries or labourers, or how many
civilians Channel 4 claims to have died were actually killed by the LTTE. Any such
differentiation was made all the more difficult by the fact that many of the LTTEs
combatants, regulars and conscripts, and none of its press-ganged civilian auxiliaries
or labourers wore uniforms.

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Weisss estimates of civilian mortality are important because his claims in The
Cage that 10,000 40,000 civilians may have died, have been widely cited. What
is also important to know is that Weiss himself admits he does not know, stating in
April 2011: Who knows how many people died? We dont know and it would be
foolish for anyone to say that they know. But we do know what we dont know.468
Weisss Rumsfeld-esque we do know what we dont know only but adds to concerns
about taking his figure at face value.469
As is normal, in utilising his book, a sensationalist western media and reports
have used the higher figure mentioned by Weiss rather than the lower one. It is
clear, however, that Weisss estimate is derived at best from a crude arithmetical
deduction, which was roughly 330,000 minus approximately 290,000. This is the
basis for Weisss top-end 40,000 figure. The trouble with Weisss figure is that his
own underlying figure changed significantly enough to discredit it. In January 2009,
for example, Weiss claims that there were 330,000 civilians in the zone.470 One
year later it changes to a claim that [a]bout 300,000 civilians...were trapped.471
It is also worth noting that in December 2008 Human Rights Watch stated that
There are an estimated 230,000 to 300,000 displaced persons currently trapped
in the Vanni conflict zone.472 And one year on from his 300,000 figure, in his
book Weiss jumped back to the 330,000 figure. The trouble for Weiss is that it is
difficult to balance his 2010 figure of 300,000 with the fact that 294,000 of these
civilians were subsequently registered as IDPs at the end of the crisis.473 Weiss
2010 figure of 300,000 is important because it is obvious that Weiss subsequent
40,000 figure is a rounded off figure based on 330,000 minus 294,000. This crude
arithmetic does not work with his 2010 figure. There is also no attempt whatsoever
to differentiate between civilians, cadres, conscripts or civilians killed by cadres.
The 40,000 dead figure appears to have established itself as what Norman Mailer
described as a factoid, something that looks like a fact, could be a fact, but in fact
is not a fact.474
A particularly significant viewpoint disregarded by Channel 4 and the programme
makers is that again provided by the University Teachers for Human Rights. UTHR
has urged caution in making precisely the sort of claim to which Channel 4 has
been party:
We...pointed out that in giving casualty figures, the distinction between
civilians, conscripts and cadres has not been clearly made...The only
accurate means of finding out casualties is to count and alternatively
to have a clear idea of what was happening on the ground. In their
absence, technology and statistical formulae may turn out to be very
misleading.475

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It is clear that Channel 4s claims were based on crude and inconsistent guesswork,
prefaced by the claim we do know what we dont know. University Teachers for
Human Rights have dealt with the final death toll in considerably more detail and
candour than Channel 4:
[T]here was a real problem with gauging civilian casualties because the
LTTE figures or figures it influenced appeared to conflate civilians,
conscripts and combatants. Following the end of the war, the Government
claimed that nearly 23 000 terrorists were killed. Taking this figure, along
with how the LTTE was making up its fighters, it would not be wide off
the mark to say that more than 13 000 of this number were made of recent
conscripts who did not want to fight and family men forced to dig bunkers.
This would account for a huge chunk of the total dead...Thus although
figures attributed to the UN have been considered authentic, there are
many imponderables, such as who gave the figures from the ground and
whether they adequately distinguished between civilians and (enforced)
combatants. From the third week of January 2009 until the end of March
civilian casualties were relatively high because there was constant fighting
as the Army advanced and the LTTE fired from among civilians.476
UTHR also noted:
In conclusion, the civilian casualties after 19th April need careful
research...We know that on the May 14th and May 17th night, the LTTE
was to a large extent responsible for civilian deaths. When an organisation
fell apart in that manner, one section joined the civilians and escaped,
another section feeling abandoned by the leadership and facing certain
death from a Government that did not want to accept surrender, lost its
balance and was angry with the others seeking to protect their life. We
also pointed out that in giving casualty figures, the distinction between
civilians, conscripts and cadres has not been clearly made.477
In a separate report, researched and published in the last weeks of the conflict,
the University Teachers for Human Rights provided an average daily mortality
figure, divided between those killed by artillery fire and those shot by the LTTE for
trying to escape:
Shells fall in the no-fire zone almost every day and take a heavy toll on
civilians. Persons in regular touch with those who have escaped confirm

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that an average of 15 to 20 people die each day; either killed by shells


or shot by the LTTE attempting to drive fear into would-be escapees.478
This figure appears to have been confirmed by the United Nations. In April
2009, Sir John Holmes, Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, was
asked about the number of civilians and people killed. He stated he could not give
any verified figures. He stated that there were reports that about a dozen people were
being killed a day sometimes more, sometimes less.479 The University Teachers
for Human Rights also cited an informed, eyewitness account of civilian casualties,
a study entitled What happened in the Vanni? An Experience from the Battleground,
as a source for events in the conflict zone. Written by a former leftist activist with
a close relationship with the LTTE, it provided an eyewitness account of events in
the conflict zone:
When the people were under the LTTEs control, they saw themselves
completely as hostages. That too was how the Tigers treated them...In
the course of rescuing over a lakh of hostages, over a thousand civilians
were killed.480
A lakh is a unit in the South Asian numbering system equal to one hundred
thousand. This account states that in the rescuing or freeing of one hundred thousand
civilians, one thousand civilians were killed. This is tragic but such figures do not
amount to the 40,000 deaths claimed by Channel 4.
One of the fundamental failings of both of the Channel 4 programmes, itself a
breach of several sections of the Broadcasting Code, is that the programmes consistently
ignored or understated the human rights abuses committed by the LTTE. This has
also resulted in the absence of material facts in the programme in question. While
citing a large number of civilians said to have been killed by government forces, the
programme did not in any way investigate or quantify deaths as the result of LTTE
actions.
In one instance alone, for example, University Teachers for Human Rights
reported that on 14 May, the LTTE killed 500 civilians near Nanthikadal Lagoon
as they tried to cross to the other side or to Vattuvakkal to the south.481 UTHR also
points out that over 1,000 civilians were also shot dead by the LTTE while trying
to escape their control from a point opposite Putumattalan Hospital.482 There are
dozens of other examples of the LTTE killing civilians in and around the no-fire
zones. Weiss himself states that the LTTE shot, executed and beat to death many
hundreds of people and ensured the deaths of thousands of teenagers by pressganging them into the front lines, and [killed] those children and their parents who

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resisted.483 None of this was reflected in Channel 4s programmes. Nor was their
any attempt by Channel 4 to account for these deaths in its 40,000 deaths claim.
The controversy surrounding estimates of how many people died in the war zone
was evident from the start of 2009. This material fact and the viewpoints dealing
with the issue was absent from the programmes. In February 2009, for example,
the US Embassy noted that the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance parliamentary
group leader R. Sampanthan claimed that 2000 Tamil civilians have been killed and
4500 injured since mid-December. It also warned that Such reports from Tamil
sources cannot be confirmed and are frequently exaggerated.484 The Voice of Tigers,
the LTTEs official radio, claimed on 1 March 2009, that the Sri Lankan armed
forces had been responsible for the deaths of 2,018 Tamil civilians in January and
February 2009 in Vanni.485 These figures were repeated by UN High Commissioner
for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, on 13 March 2009, without the qualification
deemed necessary by the American embassy. Sir John Holmes, the UN humanitarian
affairs chief, stated in New York on 24 March 2009 that this figure could not be
verified: The reason we have not come out with this as our figure is because, as I
have said before, we cannot verify it in a way that you want to be able to verify, if
you put it as your public figure.
Gordon Weisss estimate of 7,000 civilian deaths, made in 2009, was also
challenged by John Holmes as unverified and unreliable. Reuters noted that Holmes
said the initial figure of 7,000 deaths had been deemed far too questionable for
official publication because the world body was not in a position to calculate a reliable
death count. It was not really present in the battle zone, he said.486 In late April a
private UN document detailed the casualties of the last three months of fighting.
According to verified data, some 6,432 Tamil civilians may have died with 13,946
wounded.487 The US government has admitted that it had not received casualty
estimates covering the entire reporting period from January to May 2009. It did
place on record, however, that one organization, which did not differentiate between
civilians and LTTE cadres, recorded 6,710 people killed and 15,102 people injured
between January 20 to April 20.488 Data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism
Portal, data primarily based on figures released by the pro-LTTE Website Tamil Net,
put the casualty figure for civilians inside Mullaitivu at 2,972 till 5 April 2009.489
The United Nations Country Team in Sri Lanka reported that 7,721 people
had died in the conflict zone from August 2008 up to 13 May 2009.490 In a postwar report, the US government noted that While it is difficult to pin down solid
numbers on anything that happened in the last months of the conflict, [there are]
other relatively verifiable sources of information. It cited as one of those relatively
verifiable sources of information, the United Nations. The US embassy reported
that Unofficial UN estimates for Tamil civilian deaths over roughly the...January to

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mid-May time period are...between 7,000 and 8,000. It also noted that Those UN
estimates did not rigorously seek to exclude deaths of possible LTTE conscripts.491
At the end of May 2009, John Holmes was asked about a report in The Times
claiming 20,000 civilians may have been killed in the zone. Holmes denied it was
based on UN figures: The truth is we simply dont know. It doesnt reflect any
estimate we made for ourselves. We did have our own internal estimate until the end of
April. After that, we didnt have anyone on the ground. The Guardian reported that
Gordon Weiss claimed we have always said many thousands of people died during
the conflict: the newspaper also noted that privately, UN staff admitted they were
puzzled by the methodology used to achieve the new death toll. Someone has made
an imaginative leap and that is at odds with what we have been saying before, one
official said. It is a very dangerous thing to do to start making extrapolations.492
This is however exactly what the Channel 4 programmes did.
Channel 4s claim of 40,000 dead civilians was a speculative and methodologically
erratic figure based on very little more than media accounts, many of which were
subsequently seen to have been questionable where not simply false. They in turn
appear to have been based on the high end of Weisss guess. The UN SecretaryGeneral Ban Ki Moon dismissed mortality figures being cited by newspapers that
were considerably lower: Most of these figures do not emanate from the U.N. and
most are not consistent with the information at our disposal.493 A coordinator for
UN humanitarian relief, Elizabeth Byrs, told The New York Times that any estimate
of the death toll is based on extrapolation and guesswork.494 The BBC noted after
the end of the war that: The UN says that there are no confirmed estimates of
civilian casualties.495 The Guardian has noted that independent confirmation of
the death toll in the final days has been impossible.496 Even Weiss ultimately admits
that Despite satellite pictures...the true numbers of people trapped inside the Cage
remained uncertain. For this reason alone, nobody would ever know how many were
killed in the attempt to rescue them. 497
Even the Darusman report, cited by Channel 4 as its source for the 40,000 figure,
concluded that:
Two years after the end of the war, there is still no reliable figure for
civilian deaths.498
The Darusman report noted that The United Nations Country Team is one
source of information: in a document that was never released publicly, it established
a total figure of 7,721 killed...from August 2008 up to 13 May 2009, after which
it became too difficult to count. The Darusman report takes the UN Country
Team figure as a starting point, noting that after 13 May, the number of civilians

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grew rapidly.499 Given that the conflict ended on 18 May 2009, it is somewhat
difficult, however, to accept that 33,000 civilians were killed between 13 18 May.
Independent sources such as UTHR, which was actually on the ground in the war
zone, put the death toll at 15-20 per day.
Additionally, UTHR reported that a large number, perhaps the majority, of those
killed in the NFZ during that period died as the result of LTTE action. It is clear
from independent sources that most civilian deaths after 13 May were attributable
to the LTTE. As mentioned above, in one instance alone, University Teachers for
Human Rights reported that on 14 May, the LTTE killed 500 civilians near a
palmyra palm nursery near Nanthikadal Lagoon as they tried to cross to the other
side or to Vattuvakkal to the south.500 This was confirmed in a reference in the US
Congressional report for 14 May: A foreign government reported the experience of
a family that escaped the NFZ in a larger group of an estimated 60,000 people who
attempted to cross the Nanthikadal lagoon. A group of LTTE cadres fired and shelled
the civilians, killing many of them. The US governments report to Congress, also
noted regarding casualties between 17-18 May that The IDPs were certain, based
on the direction from which the shells were coming, that a large number, perhaps the
majority, of those killed in the NFZ during the previous 12 hours of fighting were killed
by LTTE forces.501 (Emphasis added.)
The University Teachers for Human Rights also stated with regard to responsibility
for casualties that:
Another important indicator is that the people who escaped during the last
week of the conflict blame largely the LTTE, towards which their anger
is directed...We know that on the May 14th and May 17th night, the
LTTE was to a large extent responsible for civilian deaths.502 (Emphasis
added.)
On 15 February 2010, the United Nations Country Team for Sri Lanka re-stated
that the United Nations did not have verifiable figures of civilian mortality in the
conflict zone during the time in question:
While we maintained internal estimates of casualties, circumstances did
not permit us to independently verify them on the ground, and therefore
we do not have verifiable figures of how many casualties there were.503
University Teachers for Human Rights has also revealed testimony which discredits
the claim that the government killed 40,000 civilians:

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It must be placed on record that, in the estimate of a school principal who


was there in the NFZ, about 25% of the civilian casualties in the NFZ,
averaging about 15 to 20 a day, were of people killed by the LTTE when
trying to escape. Other estimates are similar.504 (Emphasis added.)
The implications of what UTHR described are very significant. Not only would
it have meant that at the very least one quarter of an independently sourced civilian
death toll was directly attributable to the LTTE.505 This figure and the LTTE
human rights abuses that would have generated such a figure is absent from either
of the Channel 4 programmes. What is also significant is that this figure only relates
to those civilians killed by the LTTE for trying to escape. It does not include
those civilians who died as the result of the LTTE firing from positions within
civilian areas, those civilians who died as a result of the LTTEs deliberate drawing
of fire into civilian concentrations, or those civilians who died through deliberate
LTTE shelling of civilian locations. The other very significant fact is that the above
UTHR mortality figure relates to May 2009, the final month of the war. There is
self-evidently a vast difference between 15-20 deaths a day and TamilNet claims of
2000-4000 deaths per day.
Channel 4s inability or unwillingness to in any way explain the methodology or
make-up of its 40,000 deaths claim fundamentally undermines its credibility. In any
assessment of the death of civilians in the Vanni in the last months of the war, it is
almost impossible to quantify how many civilians were killed as a result of having
been press-ganged by the LTTE, either as last-minute fighters or as workers on the
battlefield. Human Rights Watchs Senior Researcher, Dr Anna Neistat, for example,
noted in February 2009: The LTTE has continued to place civilians at serious risk
by forcibly recruiting civilians for untrained military duty and for labor in combat
zones. Neistat further reported:
Since September 2008, the LTTE has increasingly forced people with
no prior military experience to fight or perform supportive function on
the front lines, which has led to many casualties. One Vanni resident
described this practice to Human Rights Watch: The workers were taken
to the frontline to dig bunkers, collect weapons from killed cadres and
SLA soldiers, and so on. It was very dangerous for civilians about 25
of my neighbors were killed while doing this work. They did not receive
any training the LTTE cadres fetched them from their homes and the
next day brought their dead bodies back. Every day, many people were
crying in my neighborhood because they lost young children; some even
beat up LTTE cadres when they brought the bodies back.506

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The LTTE were noted for the construction of earthen embankments as part
of defences for their positions during the conflict. One study of the war noted the
extent of these fortifications, which were built by large numbers of civilians, civilians
who were clearly placed at very considerable risk by the LTTE: Three metre high
earth bunds and ditch-cum-bund (DCB) fortifications were built by the LTTE using
civilian labour. Often stretching for several kilometres in length, they were designed
to forestall or delay the army by inflicting heavy casualties. The army encountered
numerous such obstacles, most notably the 55th Division, which overran 14 earth
bunds after it recaptured the Jaffna Peninsula and advanced down the north-eastern
coastline. The study stated that The largest of the LTTEs DCB fortifications were
a 22 kilometre stretch from Nachchikuda to Akkarayankulam and a 12 kilometre
long DCB ring in defence of Kilinochchi.507 These defences were shelled by the army
as a prelude to, and during, assaults. Civilian labourers were forced by the LTTE to
repair damage to the bunds in the course of the fighting in the Vanni, often during
attacks. There has been no attempt whatsoever to quantify how many of the LTTEs
press-ganged labourers were killed or injured over the months.
As mentioned above, as of late April a UN document based on verified data
stated some 6,432 Tamil civilians may have died.508 The US government placed on
record that one organization, which did not differentiate between civilians and LTTE
cadres, recorded 6,710 people killed...between January 20 to April 20.509 If one takes
the higher figure of 6,710 as of 20 April, and then adds on the higher UTHR daily
estimates from then until May 17, the mortality figure comes to 7,270. It should
also be noted that unlike Channel 4 and the programme makers, who had no access
whatsoever to the war zone, UTHR was present on the ground throughout the
conflict and conducted contemporaneous or near-contemporaneous interviews with
Tamil civilians in the conflict area. The United Nations Country Team established
a total figure of 7,721 killed...from August 2008 up to 13 May 2009.
Significantly, a recently released Sri Lankan government census report recorded
that about 7,400 people died of undefined or other causes during the months
leading up to the end of the war.510 These are perhaps nearer the true death toll
within the conflict zone.
In July 2011, UNICEF released the results of its Family Tracing and Reunification
project dealing with requests regarding missing persons since the end of the war in
May 2009. It was active in nine districts. The reunification project recorded 2,564
missing people tracing enquiries, 1,888 almost 75 percent relating to adults and
676 relating to children.511 It perhaps goes without saying that if there had been
40,000 or many more deaths in the last few weeks then there would have been
considerably more than 2,576 missing persons tracing requests.
It is self-evident that the mortality figures issue is very controversial, not least of

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which because there is a considerable difference between Channel 4s claim of 40,000


and independent figures in the region of 7,000 deaths. There is no set figure. This
was not reflected in the programme.
Dr Shanmugarajah, one of the dedicated Tamil doctors who remained in the
conflict zone throughout the last months of the war, provides an eye-witness account
of mortality levels in the Vanni. He was in charge of a team of more than ten doctors
and fifteen theatre nurses:
As a matter of course we kept meticulous records of casualties and fatalities
during this period. Our computerised records were lost in the last days
of the fighting but I would say that there were between 500-600 deaths
in March 2009 and in all about 2,500 deaths up to the end of the crisis
that I was aware of. 512
His testimony is important for two reasons. Firstly, his hospital was at the epicentre
of the medical response to the conflict in the last few months of the war. His evidence
is crucial precisely because his is a first-hand account. Secondly, his testimony is vital
because he was one of the doctors forced by the LTTE to provide grossly inflated
casualty figures to the western media. This is touched on in Chapter 3. These sorts
of inflated figures were accepted at face value by a sensationalist western media.
There is an additional analysis which touches on mortality figures, especially
with regard to the last month of the war in the second and third No-Fire Zones,
and for a considerable additional area around surrounding the zones. At the request
of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, in May 2009 the Science
and Human Rights Program of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science (AAAS), a reputable non-profit research and advocacy group, acquired and
analyzed commercial high-resolution satellite imagery of the no-fire zone (NFZ)
and surrounding environs in northeastern Sri Lanka.513
The satellite analysis by AAAS identified three gravesites within the area
encompassed by No-Fire Zones 2 and 3, and for a considerable area surrounding
them, and counted the growth in graves at all three sites over time, using all imagery
up to and including the image gathered on May 24. The southernmost graveyard
contained 342 graves.
The analysis noted:
The second graveyard identified in this study was located approximately
3.6 kilometers northwest of the previously described location. The layout
of graves was very similar to the previous site, consisting of evenly-spaced
rows and columns. Its scale however, is far larger than the first, as illustrated

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in Figure Seven. First identified in imagery from May 6, this site consists
of an estimated 960 graves on that date. Unlike the first site, this graveyard
exhibits no signs of growth between May 6 and May 10, nor between
May 10 and May 24. One noteworthy characteristic of this site is that it
was identified in media reporting as belonging to the LTTE...The final
graveyard analyzed by this study was located 4.3 kilometers northwest
of the second graveyard, and almost 8 kilometers northwest of the first
gravesite described above. Identified in media reports as being a burial
ground for civilians, this location differed substantially from the others
in its organization and size...In total, 44 burials were identified at this site
on May 6, with no changes observed between May 6, May 10, and May
24. Again, the irregularity of this site made counting of the graves very
difficult, and many graves are undoubtedly not visible in the imagery. In
all three gravesites reviewed, a total of 1,346 likely graves are estimated
to be in the imagery by May 24, 2009. The majority of the graves were
present by May 6, with little change after that except in the southernmost
graveyard. The southernmost site grew an estimated 28% between May
6 and May 10, and grew another 20% between May 10 and May 24.514
The single most relevant observation with regard to the AAAS satellite analysis
is that it would have picked up on 30,000 deaths within one week or ten days that
would have needed to have taken place to augment the UN Countrys Teams 7,721
fatalities to reach the 40,000 deaths claimed by Channel 4.
It is important to establish TamilNets credibility with regard to the claims it made,
and continues to make about the Sri Lankan conflict. The need for clarity with regard
to the claims made by TamilNet is because several international sources have used
it as a source for their claims regarding mortality in the Vanni, as well as for claims
about the shelling of hospitals and temporary medical points. Their credibility can
be tested with regard to any number of its claims. TamilNets tendency to massively
inflate casualty figures was highlighted in reporting by Agence France-Presse in
January 2009. In the aftermath of a shelling incident in the vicinity of Udayarkattu
on 26 January 2009, the United Nations reported that ten civilians were killed. The
UN spokesman, Gordon Weiss, noted that the UN were present but were unable to
ascertain who was responsible for the civilian casualties: Our staff members were at
the scene to witness it...We dont know where the firing came from.515 While the
UN, whose personnel saw the whole event and indeed were at its epicentre clearly
stated that ten people had died, TamilNet ultimately claimed 300 deaths for the
same event. TamilNet asserted initially that more than one hundred civilians were
killed and hundreds of wounded patients were helpless without medical attendance

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in the attack.516 Later that same day TamilNet subsequently increased the death toll
to over 300, with several hundred wounded.517 The Sri Lankan military spokesman
Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara dismissed TamilNets claims as cheap propaganda:
They (Tamil Tigers) are creating a situation, trying their level best to stop the military
onslaught. They are trying to win international sympathy. When TamilNets claims
are set against the UNs figures, he may have had a point. TamilNet railed at the UN
for having contradicted its claims: The UN...has not only forfeited all its rights,
including the right to monitor what is happening, to the genocidal government of
Colombo, but also comes out with blatant lies aimed at protecting the perpetrator
of war crime.518 In other reports, TamilNet also categorically denied statements
by the Sri Lankan government that the LTTE had fired at the fleeing civilians in
Vanni.519 Both Weiss and UTHR, as well as civilian testimony have unambiguously
shown this claim to be a lie.
A comparison between the sworn testimony of Dr Shanmugarajah and claims
made by TamilNet about the Vellamullivaikkal makeshift hospital in which
Dr Shanmugarajah served until the war ended is also revealing. He states that
Vellamullivaikkal hospital was hit by one shell of which he was aware, that killed
five and injured ten people. His sworn testimony absolutely contradicts the claims
made by TamilNet. TamilNet alleged that the hospital was hit several times. On 2
May, for example, TamilNet claimed that 64 civilians were killed and 87 wounded
in an attack on the Vellamullivaikkal hospital.520 On 13 May, TamilNet claimed that
army shelling had killed more than 100 civilians at the Vellamullivaikkal hospital.
TamilNet claimed it was the third time it had been hit in five days.521 TamilNet
claimed that there were 38 casualties alone near the main theatre.522
TamilNets claims about individual events in the Vanni at the time have also
been false. One specific example are its claims about the artillery attack on Our
Lady of Roses Roman Catholic Church in Valaignarmadam, in April 2009. On
22 April 2009, TamilNet claimed that Sri Lanka Army artillery fired at the
church, injuring Rev Father James Pathinathar, a prominent Catholic priest.523
The following day, TamilNet reported that Sri Lanka Army shells had hit the
church two days running, killing 14 civilians.524 TamilNet claimed that The
SLA has attacked the church despite repeated calls from Jaffna Diocese not to
target the church where 17 priests and 22 nuns were continuing to serve their
congregations. The truth was very different. The University Teachers for Human
Rights organisation independently documented the attack on the Roman Catholic
church at Valaignarmadam:
On 22nd April a single shell fell in the church and Fr. James Pathinathar
was injured...After the last incident of shelling, a senior educationist

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who was a few hundred yards south of the church, told us that based on
what the people gathered of the shells origin and trajectory, the general
consensus was that the LTTE fired it. Another shell which fell the next
day, led to the amputation of one of Fr. Vasanthaseelans legs. He and
Fr. Pathinathar were subsequently removed by ICRC ship. Fr. Pathi is
credited by several persons who were in the NFZ of having tried to protect
would-be-conscripts.525
The Valaignarmadam incident was also reported by the US government which
stated that the LTTE shelled the church on 22 April: a shell hit the roof of a small
church packed with peopleThe witness sustained shrapnel wounds in his back.
He believed the attack was committed by the LTTE.526 The church was providing
sanctuary for young Tamils seeking to avoid being used as forced conscripts by the
LTTE. UTHR was also in a position to provide an essential background to the LTTE
artillery attack at Valaignarmadam:
Illamparithy and Elilan of the LTTEs political wing had several times
called on the church fathers and asked for permission to go into the
church and take the runaways and those evading conscription. The fathers
refused...Finally, Illamparithy, Elilan and Malaimakal, a senior woman
cadre, came...and gave notice to the fathers that whether they allow it or
not, they are coming to take what they regarded as their property [the
would be conscripts]. Finally...a large number of LTTE cadres, including
police and military, surrounded the church in the style of a military
operation. They barged in. They went into the church with their guns,
but the victims evidently did not want to give up without a fight. The
LTTE opened fire and killed four persons inside the church. As panic
and terror spread the church emptied. The LTTE brought a stream of
buses, packed the young and moved them away in quick succession to
Mullivaykkal...The people were at boiling point. By then the LTTE
was conscripting randomly...The people gathered at the church, began
shouting at the LTTE and threw stones at them. The LTTE police was
called in to clear the environs of the church of irate civilians by firing into
the air and manning a barricade.527
The UTHR noted that the LTTE subsequently returned after 20 April:
Ilamparithy and Elilan once more came to the church and wanted the
fathers to move to Mullivaykkal. The fathers refused. There was at this

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juncture nothing but mutual aversion between them and the LTTE. On
an earlier occasion the fathers had wanted the LTTE to surrender in order
to spare the civilians the enormous suffering imposed on them. The LTTE
had become very angry.528
A day later the LTTE shelled the church.
TamilNet was party to disinformation right to the end of the conflict in the Vanni.
On 19 May, for example, a TamilNet report claimed that Prabhakaran was alive and
safe, two days after he had been killed in fighting with the Sri Lankan military.529
The credibility of TamilNet, especially with regard to its political orientation and
the reliability of its casualty figures, can be gauged from the above examples.
While trying to present its programmes as a forensic examination of events in
the Vanni, Channel 4 ignored perhaps the most scientific method of verifying its
claims that 40,000 civilians died in the last months and weeks of the conflict. There
is an objective, scientific and forensic way of correlating deaths to injuries in war
situations. Robin M Coupland and David R Meddings, a surgeon and epidemiologist
respectively, published a study in the British Medical Journal which examined the ratio
between those killed and injured in armed conflict since 1940. The study concluded
that During the fighting of war the number of people wounded is at least twice the
number killed and may be 13 times as high.530 Professor Guenter Lewy established
a 2.65 wounded to dead ratio for civilian casualties in the Vietnam war.531 Tirman
writes of a plausible 5:1 ratio of wounded to killed.532 The implications of these
ratios are very clear with regard to the war in the Vanni. Applying the CouplandMeddings model to Channel 4s alleged figure of 40,000 dead, then there should
have been between 80,000 520,000 wounded civilians in the Vanni after the war.
Weiss, however, records that by late June, when all civilians were inside the [postwar IDP] camps, a collection of aid agencies had made a preliminary calculation of
15,000-20,000 wounded civilians.533 If one assumes a median figure of five in the
Coupland-Meddings model, the number of wounded that would be associated with
Channel 4s mortality claim would come to 200,000. If one lowers and inverts the
dead-to-wounded ratio to the more usual 1:3, and applies it to Weiss 15,000-20,000
figure for wounded civilians, it would point to a mortality figure of 5,000 6,666.
This is very close to the UNs 7,000 figure before it was subjected to sustained
propaganda and media sensationalism. With regard to the wounded figure, the US
government also reported that on 12 May 2009, the ICRC confirmed that since
mid-February it had evacuated nearly 14,000 sick or wounded civilians and their
relatives.534 A very large number of the sick or wounded civilians were accompanied
by one or more relatives. On 7 May, the ICRC noted that of the wounded and ill

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how many people died in the vanni?

civilians who had been evacuated there are 1,800-2,000 people still being treated
in hospitals.535
UTHR co-founder Rajan Hoole was also aware of the dead-to-wounded ratio,
and extrapolated his own figures, taking the standard dead-to-injured ratio of 1:2.
Hoole took into consideration those evacuated by the ICRC: nearly 14,000 patients
and their caregivers from Mullaitivu...treated in Trincomalee and the Indian facility
in Pulmoddai. He estimates that only 50 percent of those evacuated were injured
or sick: the other half was made up of their caregivers. He also considers 1,400
injured taken by the army to Padaviya Hospital after the war ended. He notes that
The injured transported by the ICRC, treated by the MSF at Vavuniya and by
government doctors at Padaviya account for nearly 6700 dead, or about 5500 up to
7 May. Hoole adds an estimate for those who may have died from 7 May onwards.
His total is about 13,000 dead.536 One may debate whether the appropriate ratio
might be 1:3 or 1:5 rather than 1:2, as well as the apportionment of responsibility
for the casualties, but it is still very far from the 40,000 figure plucked from out of
the air by Channel 4.
Unlike Channel 4, in August 2011 Reuters objectively summed up the debate
about the Vanni casualty toll: The United Nations has disavowed an internal tally
that showed about 7,000 civilians died, which was leaked to the media. Reuters
stated that accounts of up to 40,000 or more deaths have yet to be substantiated
by any independent authority.537 Simply put, the Channel 4 claims are absolutely
unsupported, and are wildly inconsistent with scientifically-proven mortalityto-wound ratios. Channel 4s star witness, Vany Kumar, would have the world
believe that 20,000 people died in the last five days of the crisis. Even TamilNet, in
propagandistic overdrive at the time, did not claim that 4,000 people died per day.
It is difficult not to sympathise with the Permanent Secretary of the Defence
Ministry Gotabaya Rajapaksas response to the 40,000 deaths claim: This a vague
accusation, based on even vaguer arithmetic which keeps getting repeated with out
any sort of critical analysis by people who should know better.538

Notes
464
465
466

Thomas A. Marks, Maoist Insurgency Since Vietnam, Routledge, 1996, p. 236.


The Fight for Sri Lanka Gordon Weiss at ANU, Australian National University,
8 April 2011, available at <http://www.anu.edu.au/vision/videos/3751/>.
Report of the Secretary-Generals Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, United
Nations, New York, 31 March 2011, p. 41, available at <http://www.un.org/News/
dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/POE_Report_Full.pdf>.

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467

Displaced and Detained: The Plight of Civilians in Sri Lankas Vanni Region, Human
Rights Watch, New York, December 2008, available at <http://www.hrw.org/en/
reports/2008/12/22/besieged-displaced-and-detained>, p. 25.
468 The Fight for Sri Lanka Gordon Weiss at ANU, Australian National University,
8 April 2011, available at <http://www.anu.edu.au/vision/videos/3751/>.
469 It is unclear whether Weiss was being consciously ironic. The American Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made the following statement regarding what the US
government knew in Iraq: There are known knowns. These are things we know that
we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know
we dont know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we dont
know we dont know.
470 Weiss, Tiger Blood, op. cit.
471 Hell or High Water, Foreign Correspondent, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 9
February 2010, available at <http://www.abc.net.au/foreign/content/2010/s2814960.
htm>.
472 Displaced and Detained: The Plight of Civilians in Sri Lankas Vanni Region, Human
Rights Watch, New York, December 2008, available at <http://www.hrw.org/en/
reports/2008/12/22/besieged-displaced-and-detained>, p. 25.
473 See, Sri Lanka: Resettlement of IDPs and challenging road to peace and economic
recovery, Asian Tribune, 14 April 2011, available at <http://www.asiantribune.com/
news/2010/04/14/sri-lanka-resettlement-idps-and-challenging-road-peace-andeconomic-recovery>.
474 See, Wesley Pruden, Ah, theres joy in Mudvilles precincts, The Washington Times,
23 January 2007. The word is defined by the Compact Oxford English Dictionary as
an item of unreliable information that is repeated so often that it becomes accepted
as fact; The Compact Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, Clarendon Press,
2008.
475 A Marred Victory and a Defeat Pregnant with Foreboding, op. cit.
476 Ibid.
477 Ibid.
478 LTTE Is No Excuse For Killing Vanni Civilians, Information Bulletin No. 47,
University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka, 17 April 2009, available
at <http://www.uthr.org/bulletins/Bul47.htm#_Toc227718215>.
479 Press conference on Sri Lanka by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs,
UN Department of Public Information, Reliefweb, 15 April 2009, available at <http://
reliefweb.int/node/304828>.
480 Cited in Let Them Speak Part III: At Sea in Mattalan: Escape invites Death and
Staying is Worse, University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka, Special
Report No. 34, 13 December 2009, available at <http://www.uthr.org/SpecialReports/
Special%20rep34/Uthr-sp.rp34part3.htm#_Toc248476270>.
481 Let Them Speak: Truth about Sri Lankas Victims of War, op. cit.
482 A Marred Victory and a Defeat Pregnant with Foreboding, op. cit.
483 Weiss, op. cit., pp. 141-42.
484 Northern Sri Lanka SitRep 15: Heavy Fighting Continues; UN, US Embassy cable,
Colombo, 18 February 2009.

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how many people died in the vanni?

485

No Humanitarian Pause, South Asian Outlook, Volume 8, Number 11, May 2009,
available at <http://www.southasianoutlook.com/issues/2009/may/sri_lanka_no_
humanitarian_pause.html>.
486 Ban denies UN covered up death toll in Sri Lanka, Reuters, 2 June 2009,
available at <http://www.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/Asia/Story/
A1Story20090602-145445.html>.
487 6,432 Tamil civilians killed in fighting, Evening Standard (London), 24 April
2009, available at <http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23680464-6432tamil-civilians-killed-in-fighting.do>. See, also, Q&A - Civilians at the end of Sri
Lankas war 27 Apr 2009, Reuters, 27 April 2009, available at <http://reliefweb.int/
node/306261>: in late April 2009, Reuters noted that A U.N. working document,
a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, says 6,432 civilians have been killed and
13,946 wounded in fighting since the end of January.
488 Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka, US Department
of State, Washington-DC, 2009, available at <http://www.state.gov/documents/
organization/131025.pdf>, p. 15.
489 No Humanitarian Pause, South Asian Outlook, op. cit.
490 Report of the Secretary-Generals Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, op. cit.
p. 40
491 US embassy cables: Doctors pressured to release civilian casualty figures during
Sri Lankan conflict, The Guardian, 16 December 2010, available at <http://www.
guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/216277>.
492 Sri Lanka death toll unacceptably high, says UN, The Guardian, 29 May 2009,
available at <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/29/sri-lanka-casualtiesunited-nations>.
493 Ban denies UN covered up death toll in Sri Lanka, op. cit.
494 Robert Mackey, Sri Lanka Disputes Report of 20,000 Dead, The New York Times,
29 May 2009, available at <http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/29/sri-lankadisputes-report-of-20000-dead/>.
495 Sri Lanka rejects deaths report, BBC News, 29 May 2009.
496 As the shells fell, we tried to save lives with no blood or medicine, The Guardian,
15 September 2009, available at <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/15/
sri-lanka-war-on-tamil-tigers>.
497 Weiss, op. cit., p. 210.
498 Report of the Secretary-Generals Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, op. cit.
p. 40.
499 Ibid., p. 40.
500 Let Them Speak: Truth about Sri Lankas Victims of War, University Teachers for
Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka, Special Report No. 34, 13 December 2009.
501 Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka, United States
Government, Washington-DC, 2009, p. 44, available at <http://www.state.gov/
documents/organization/131025.pdf>.
502 A Marred Victory and a Defeat Pregnant with Foreboding, op. cit.
503 UN statement on former spokesman views, United Nations in Sri Lanka, 15
February 2010, available at <http://www.un.lk/media_centre/for_the_record.php#>.

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504 Let Them Speak: Truth about Sri Lankas Victims of War, op. cit.
505 Ibid.
506 Recent Developments in Sri Lanka, Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, February 24, 2009, Testimony of Dr. Anna Neistat, Senior Researcher,
Emergencies Division, Human Rights Watch, New York, available at available at
<http://omiusajpic.org/files/2009/02/neistattestimony090224p1.pdf>.
507 Sergei De Silva-Ranasinghe, Strategic Analysis of Sri Lankan Militarys CounterInsurgency Operations, Strategic Analysis Paper, Future Directions International,
Australia, 12 February 2010. This paper was first published as Good Education: Sri
Lankan Military Learns Insurgency Lessons in Janes Intelligence Review, December 2009.
508 6,432 Tamil civilians killed in fighting, Evening Standard (London), 24 April 2009,
available at <http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23680464-6432-tamilcivilians-killed-in-fighting.do>.
509 Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka, US Department
of State, op. cit. p. 15.
510 See, Enumeration of Vital Events 2011, Department of Census and Statistics, Ministry
of Finance and Planning, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Colombo,
2011, and Sri Lanka government publishes war death toll statistics, BBC News
Article, 24 February 2012.
511 Overview of ongoing government efforts to trace and reunify missing children in
Northern Sri Lanka, UNICEF, July 2011. For a copy of the UNICEF release see
<http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20110711_03>.
512 Affidavit of Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, sworn 10 May 2012.
513 High-Resolution Satellite Imagery and the Conflict in Sri Lanka, AAAS Scientific
Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program, Washington-DC, May 2009,
available at <http://srhrl.aaas.org/geotech/srilanka/srilanka.shtml>.
514 Ibid.
515 Dozens of civilians die in Lanka fighting, The Nation (Islamabad), 27 January 2009,
available at <http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-englishonline/international/27-Jan-2009/Dozens-of-civilians-die-in-Lanka-fighting>.
516 100 civilians feared killed, countless wounded, artillery barrage on safety
zone, TamilNet, 26 January 2009, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.
html?catid=13&artid=28144>.
517 More than 300 civilians feared killed, people bleed to death on streets,
TamilNet, 26 January 2009, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.
html?catid=13&artid=28151>.
518 Biased UN official misleads humanity, safely sitting in Colombo - Vanni
journalist, TamilNet, 26 January 2009, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.
html?catid=13&artid=28154>.
519 Tigers deny firing at civilians, accuse SLA, urge for international monitors,
TamilNet, 11 February 2009, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.
html?catid=13&artid=28373>.
520 SLA massacres patients with targeted shelling, 64 killed in hospital, TamilNet, 2 May
2009, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=29240>. The
name of the area in which the hospital was located in also know as Mulli-vaaykkaal.

146

how many people died in the vanni?

521

SLA barrage inflicts carnage, makeshift hospital reports disaster, TamilNet, 13 May
2009, available at < http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=29351>.
522 SLA shells hospital again, several killed including doctor, ICRC worker, 13 May
2009, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=29345>.
523 SLA shells Church in Valaignarmadam, Fr. James Pathinathar wounded, TamilNet, 22
April 2009, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=29125>.
524 SLA shelling on church kills 14, Caritas-HUDEC Vanni director wounded,
TamilNet, 23 April 2009, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.
html?catid=13&artid=29135>.
525 Let Them Speak: Part III At Sea in Mattalan: Escape invites Death and Staying is
Worse, University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka, Special Report
No. 34, 13 December 2009.
526 Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka, United States
Government, Washington-DC, 2009, available at <http://www.state.gov/documents/
organization/131025.pdf>.
527 Let Them Speak: Part III At Sea in Mattalan: Escape invites Death and Staying is
Worse, op. cit.
528 Ibid.
529 War crime in the massacre of LTTE officials, TamilNet, 19 May 2009, available at
<http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=29409>.
530 Robin M. Coupland and David R Meddings, Mortality associated with use of
weapons in armed conflicts, wartime atrocities, and civilian mass shootings: literature
review, British Medical Journal, 319 (7207), 14 August 1999, pp. 407410.
531 Cited in John Tirman, The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in Americas Wars,
Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 321. John Tirman is the Executive Director and
a Principal Research Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technologys Center
for International Studies. Tirman is author, or co-author and editor, of twelve books
on international affairs. See, also, Guenther Lewy, Americans in Vietnam, Oxford
University Press, 1980. Professor Lewy is an author and political scientist who is
professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
532 Tirman, op. cit, p. 335.
533 Weiss, op. cit., p. 321.
534 US embassy cables: Doctors pressured to release civilian casualty figures during
Sri Lankan conflict, The Guardian, 16 December 2010, available at <http://www.
guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/216277>.
535 Subject: Northern Sri Lanka SitRep 68, US Embassy Cable, 7 May 2009, available
at <http://dazzlepod.com/cable/09COLOMBO507/>.
536 Rajan Hoole, Doctoring the evidence, Himal Southasian, August2009, available at
<http://www.himalmag.com/component/content/article/604-doctoring-the-evidence.
html>.
537 Sri Lanka says avoiding civilian deaths was impossible, Reuters, 1 August 2011,
available at <http://in.reuters.com/article/2011/08/01/idINIndia-58562720110801>.
538 Ibid.

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corrupted journalism

C hapter E ight

Humanitarian Access to the Vanni


In early 2008, we had already discussed a disaster plan with the Government
Agent in Mullaitivu.
Dr Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, Medical Superintendent Mullaitivu

539

Both of Channel 4s programmes made serious allegations that the Sri Lankan
government had deliberately obstructed humanitarian access to the Vanni, deliberately
withholding food and medical supplies from the war-affected civilian population
within the LTTE-controlled areas in the last months and weeks of the war. In so
doing the first programme made particular reference to a makeshift hospital run by
Dr Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, as referred to in Chapter 3.
The first point that should be made in respect of the civilian population forcibly
displaced by the LTTE is one outlined by Channel 4s own witness, Gordon Weiss.
He confirmed that the Sri Lankan government...had continued to exercise its writ
over Tiger-controlled territory by supplying a full range of government health and
education services.540 Weiss notes that As in the rest of Sri Lanka, each district had a
government agent and subsidiary bureaucrats, reporting to Colombo and administering
services even in the Tiger-controlled areas.541 Throughout more than two decades of
war, the government had accepted and acted on its responsibility for that part of its
civilian population under the control of the LTTE. It did so in the full knowledge that
the LTTE was diverting a significant part of this assistance to its own ends.
The renewal of conflict in the Vanni disrupted the provision of basic services to
the civilian population from 2006 onwards. This disruption worsened considerably
when the LTTE forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians and moved
them deeper into the Vanni, into what would soon become a battle zone. It is clear,
nevertheless, that the government continued to provide as much of a humanitarian
lifeline as possible. This was despite the ongoing and intensifying war, and the fact
that land routes were eventually closed due to the fighting.

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humanitarian access to the vanni

A UN briefing on 9 March 2009 stated: We need to send to the NFZ at least


3,000 MT of food per month for a caseload of 200,000 people. The UN had been
able to deliver more than this by road until mid-January. Because of the dislocation
caused by the conflict, from mid-February to mid-May, the ICRC was able to deliver
just 2350 tonnes of food. The Government of Sri Lanka tried to fill the gap. From
January 2008 to early May 2009, for example, the government arranged for 58,393
metric tons of essential items to be sent to Killinochchi and Mullaitivu districts
alone. This was in addition to the excess rice paddy available in the districts, the
very large buffer stocks maintained on location, and 33,383 metric tons supplied
to co-operative outlets during 2008 up to January 2009. After the World Food
Programme and other organisations relocated to Vavuniya towards the latter part of
2008, during a four-month period from October that year, the WFP sent 11 convoys
delivering 7,694 metric tons of food to the districts of Killinochchi and Mullaitivu. In
October 2008, when WFP consignments were delayed, the Commissioner-General
of Essential Services (CGES) intervened and directed the Government Agent in
Vavuniya to purchase and dispatch to Killinochchi and Mullaitivu an emergency
consignment costing Rs. 63 million of sugar, lentils, flour and vegetable oil. The
CGES issued orders to maintain a three month buffer stock of 750-1,000 metric
tons in each district costing Rs. 43 million.
With the commencement of the use of sea routes in January 2009, and in spite
of the unwillingness of commercial vessels to sail to Mullivaikkal and Putumattalan
because of seaborne attacks on shipping by LTTE craft, the CGES made arrangements
to send 4,218 metric tons of food by sea, but was only able to deliver 3,150 metric
tons by sea. Large quantities of medicines were also delivered using the sea routes.
This too was not without its difficulties. On 28 April 2009, for example, the merchant
vessel MV Thirupathi with a cargo of 1,068 metric tons of essential items had to be
diverted to Jaffna as the LTTE prevented the unloading of supplies at Putumattalan.
There is no doubt that shortfalls in food supplies for the civilian population
displaced by the LTTE were approaching critical levels by the end of the war. Dr
Shanmugarajah has noted that Some comment has been made about the prevalence
of malnutrition in the area in which I was based. I can say that I saw very few cases
of malnutrition. They were mild to moderate in nature.542
Every month, between 500,000-600,000 litres of fuel was sent by the government
to each district, in the full knowledge that it may well have been diverted by the
LTTE for its own use. The fuel was to be used primarily for the operation of hospital
generators, emergency vehicles and essential services such as transport. Fuel was also
made available to operate vehicles of UN, ICRC and other agencies as well as other
non-governmental organisations engaged in humanitarian assistance. When the UN
left the crisis zone, its supplies of fuel were redistributed amongst other organisations,

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including the medical services. Kerosene oil was also supplied to households to ensure
that the civilians could cook, operate their farming equipment, and help with other
household requirements.
The Sri Lankan government continued to staff and run hospitals in the LTTEcontrolled conflict areas and provided medical supplies at regular intervals in quarterly
cycles. There were approximately 900 government health staff in Mullaitivu and
Killinochchi alone. Medical supplies for hospitals in LTTE-controlled areas were
handed over to the Regional Director of Health Services at Omanthai. These supplies
and services were supplemented by the ICRC and other International NGOs.
Following the forced civilian displacement, government health services provided by
the Northern Provincial Council moved with the people towards Mullaitivu together
with health staff.543
As part of the government infrastructure within LTTE areas were a number of
Tamil doctors in government service. The testimony of these doctors, who were
present in the shrinking war zone until the end, contradict the claims made in the
programmes.
Given that Dr Shanmugarajah and his temporary hospital featured so prominently
in Channel 4s claims, as outlined in Chapter 4, his testimony with regard to
the medical services he and his colleagues were able to provide in very trying
circumstances to the civilian population is very important. In a sworn statement
Dr Shanmugarajah recorded that after the fall of Killinochi to government forces
and the displacement of civilians into other LTTE-controlled areas, he and his
colleagues followed the population and established a series of temporary hospitals
in which they then worked. They began in the Mullaitivu district general hospital
until 5 January 2009, and then moved to makeshift medical centres at Vallipuram
from 5-27 January; Thevipuram from 28 January until 15 February; Mullivaikkal
West from 15 February until 3 May; and then Vellamullivaikkal from 3-15 May
2009. These makeshift hospitals were usually situated within school buildings. Dr
Shanmugarajah stated:
As doctors and medical administrators we had already prepared a disaster
contingency plan. The war had previously disrupted the provision of
medical services and we had also had the experience of coping with the
Tsunami disaster and its effects on hospitals and medical services in our
area. In early 2008, we had already discussed a disaster plan with the
Government Agent in Mullaitivu.544
It must be recalled that the tsunami which devastated the Indian Ocean on 26
December 2004 struck Sri Lanka and caused a humanitarian disaster. Over 35,000

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Sri Lankans were killed on the day, at least 21,000 were injured and over 550,000
displaced.545 Dr Shanmugarajah also noted that his doctors and administrators had
received training in disaster management from non-governmental organisations
such as Oxfam and others. Channel 4 claims that the government obstructed the
supply of medicines to the doctors in the Vanni and that as a result they did not
have sufficient drugs. Dr Shanmugarajah contradicts this claim:
As part of our disaster management plans, we had stockpiled medical
supplies and drugs from 2008 onwards. In 2008 we had 30 fridges
dedicated for the use of drugs. This then went down to 14 fridges as we
relocated to a series of makeshift hospitals...In December 2008 we received
a large shipment...of about 60% of the supplies required for the next 12
month period and we thereafter were supplied once every 3 months and
in the later stages of the war these supplies came by ship via the ICRC.
There was a problem with supply during the last 5 days of the conflict
when all ship movement was disrupted.
Dr Shanmugarajah confirmed that he and his doctors had access to medical drugs
until the end of the conflict: Because of our emergency disaster planning our stock
of medical drugs and anaesthetics lasted us until the end of the crisis and anaesthesia
was available right up until we ceased surgery on about the 13th May 2009. These
essential drugs were kept in fridges run by generators:
We had approximately 6 generators for hospital use but by the end of the
conflict we only had three that were still working. These maintained power
to the temporary operating theatres, drug fridges and other essential needs.
The generators were single-phase and ran a simple line. We also stockpiled
fuel with which to keep our generators going. These supplies were added
to when the United Nations withdrew their presence in September 2008:
we received some of their fuel supplies. We had named officials who were
in charge of supervising medical supplies, fuel and transport. We did face
attempts by criminals to steal our fuel.
Dr Shanmugarajah was also able to give an insight into the scale of the disaster
planning he and his colleagues had put into action: When we moved from the
district hospitals into other parts of the Vanni we took with us more than 30 truckloads of equipment and supplies, equipment and supplies which we then moved
with us as and when we set up makeshift and temporary medical centres.546 He said
the doctors knew times would be difficult and had stocked up on medical supplies

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and that they had enough medical supplies until the end of conflict. He also said
they were able to run generators and refrigerators in the medical centres until the
last moment.547 He placed this on record in his affidavit:
[E]ven on the 15 May 2009, until the time the Sri Lankan Security Forces
rescued us we operated the hospitals with sufficient stocks of medicine.
The Hospitals refrigerators too functioned until the 15 May 2009 with
generator power. The medicine sent by [Government of Sri Lanka] to
the Hospitals and Make Shift Hospitals in the LTTE controlled area
in Wanni was received through ICRC. Towards the end of the conflict
the medicine were transported by sea under the auspicious (sic) of the
ICRC.548
There is little doubt that the humanitarian supplies provided by the government
to the population in the Vanni were diverted to some degree by the LTTE. The
doctors in the Vanni confirmed that the LTTE took food and medical shipments
sent by the government. Dr Shanmugarajah stated: The LTTE grabbed a major
part of the food stocks for the use of their cadres which was sent by the Government
through the ICRC ship.549 Dr Thurairajah Varatharaja said that on eight occasions
the Government sent medicines and related supplies after the no-fire zone was
declared and the LTTE diverted these from the doctors to treat their own injured
cadres and then forced the doctors to state that there was a shortage of medical
supplies. 550 The International Crisis Group supported the claim made by the Tamil
doctors:
While the LTTE generally did not take food when it was initially
transferred from the government or WFP to local government officials,
it did as the food moved to other distribution points. Witnesses reported
that LTTE policy after late January 2009 was to take around 25 per cent
of the food for their cadres. 551
In March 2009, for example, the UN revealed the diversion of high-energy
therapeutic food supplies intended for severely malnourished children to LTTE
fighters in combat zones in Sri Lankas north: The UN deplores that such lifesaving items, destined for severely malnourished children, were diverted from their
intended purpose.552 One can also assume, going on the ICG figures, that at least
one quarter of the doctors much-needed medical supplies were also diverted by the
LTTE at the very same time that the LTTEs propaganda website, TamilNet, were
claiming shortages of medicines for civilians in the Vanni.

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Channel 4s accusations of government obstruction of humanitarian access to and


from the Vanni are contradicted by Dr Shanmugarajahs account of how casualties
were dealt with:
We would receive those who had been injured into our temporary hospitals
and provide them with medical and surgical treatment as necessary. The
patients would then be evacuated by the International Committee of the
Red Cross. In an earlier part of the crisis they were evacuated by road
to government hospitals in Vavuniya. Towards the end of the crisis, the
ICRC evacuated our patients by ship to hospitals in Trincomalee. I am
proud to say that we were able to save most of the people who came into
our medical centres at the time. We stopped operating on the evening
of the 13th May and for 14th and 15th May we were only able to offer
first-aid services. The war ended on 15th May.553
When transportation by sea commenced casualties were treated at Trincomalee
and Padaviya hospitals, which were quickly upgraded with supplies and equipment.
An Indian field hospital established in Pulmudai also provided emergency treatment.
There were 12 evacuations by sea between 11 February and 23 March 2009,
bringing out 4,128 people. The fourteenth batch of 488 patients and civilians
was evacuated on board MV Green Ocean on 26 March 2009.554 All in all about
14,000 patients and care-givers were evacuated from the war zone. Simply put,
had the government been as obstructive as Channel 4 claims, no-one would have
been evacuated.
It is also noteworthy that the International Committee of the Red Cross
commended the Sri Lankan navy for its role in the medical evacuations by sea of
sick and injured civilians during the Vanni operation. The ICRC noted that the
navy personnel:
[D]isplayed a strict discipline and respect of rules of engagement and at
the same time a very respectful and kind attitude to help those in need.
In that regard in addition to all others who contributed to this medical
evacuation, we wish to express our special thanks to the Director General
for Operations, at the Navy HQ, the Officiating Commander Eastern
Naval Command, in Trincomalee, and to the Deputy Area Commander
North, in Jaffna. They spent many sleepless hours coordinating the
operation and played a crucial role to make it a success. These days
demonstrated that soldiering is a noble profession.555

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The reality, as confirmed by the ICG, was that the LTTE was stealing at least onequarter of all humanitarian assistance provided by the government and international
NGOs to the war-affected civilians in the Vanni. The UN has also documented
that the only force obstructing the evacuation of wounded or ill civilians from the
Vanni was the LTTE. These are material facts that were absent from the Channel 4
programmes, which as a result misled their viewers. The disregarding and omission
of these material facts was also unfair to the Sri Lankan government. Despite the
fact that the British media regulators Broadcasting Code commits broadcasters and
programme makers to the inclusion of significant viewpoints when dealing with
matters of major political controversy, these facts and others were absent from both
of Channel 4s programmes.

Notes
539 Affidavit of Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, sworn 10 May 2012.
540 Weiss, op. cit., p. 178.
541 Ibid., note 9, p. 317.
542 Affidavit of Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, sworn 10 May 2012.
543 For a more detailed account of the governments humanitarian activity in the conflictaffected areas, see Sri Lankas Humanitarian Effort, published by the Presidential Task
Force for Resettlement, Development and Security in the Northern Province 2011,
Colombo, 2011.
544 Affidavit of Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, sworn 10 May 2012.
545 Preliminary Damage and Needs Assessment, Asian Development Bank, Japan Bank for
international Cooperation and World Bank, 2005, available at <http://www.adb.org/
Tsunami/sri-lanka-assessment.asp>.
546 Affidavit of Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, sworn 10 May 2012.
547 Lies Agreed Upon, op. cit.
548 Affidavit of Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, sworn 19 September 2011.
549 LTTE propaganda defeated, truth revealed, Sunday Observer (Colombo), 12 July
2009, available at <http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2009/07/12/fea02.asp>.
550 Ibid.
551 War Crimes in Sri Lanka, Asia Report No. 191, International Crisis Group, 17 May 2010.
552 See, for example, Sri Lanka: UN denounces misuse of food destined for children,
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 12 March 2009, available
at http://www.irinnews.org/Report/83430/SRI-LANKA-UN-denounces-misuseof-food-destined-for-children>; and UN Sri Lanka statement, 10 March 2009,
Reliefweb, available at <http://reliefweb.int/node/300720>.
553 Affidavit of Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, sworn 19 September 2011.
554 Sri Lanka: 14th batch of patients and civilians trapped in Mullaithivu evacuated
with the naval assistance, Government of Sri Lanka, Reliefweb, 26 March 2009,
available at <http://reliefweb.int/node/302613>.

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555

ICRC commended Sri Lanka Navy for evacuating Tamil civilians safely during the
war, Colombo Page, 21 June 2011, available at <http://www.colombopage.com/
archive_11A/Jun21_1308594615CH.php>.

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C hapter N ine

The Mobile Telephone footage


The fact that editing in any form has been applied to the recordings submitted for
authentication will quite understandably generate skepticism or even suspicion...
United Nations technical assessment of footage screened by Channel 4 556

As a major part of the evidence for its claims that the Sri Lankan army was
involved in the deliberate and systematic execution of captured or surrendered
LTTE members, Channel 4 screened what was said to have been mobile telephone
video footage of executions of captives. Jon Snow states that they were naked Tiger
prisoners, and that the killing was recorded on a mobile phone by Sri Lankan
government forces. Channel 4 also presented some more footage of an execution
of three people whom it states appear to be Tiger fighters. The broadcaster also
screened additional video or mobile telephone footage which it claimed constituted
evidence of the rape and sexual assault of women. The simple reality is that these
claims cannot be sustained.
The authenticity of the mobile telephone video footage shown in the Channel
4 programmes, particularly that said to show the execution of bound prisoners,
continues to be called into question. The footage shows clear signs of some form of
editing, and it is still not clear whether it was filmed with a mobile telephone or video
camera. It is also unclear when it was filmed and the meta data within the footage
contradicts initial claims about dating. Channel 4 says the footage was filmed on
mobile cameras: technical and digital experts who analysed the images say that it had
to have come from a video camera with optical zooming or from mobile telephone
video footage that was subsequently edited.
A Sri Lankan government analyst pointed out that there are 30 frames at the end
of the video stream that contained a letter A against a blank background, something
which is not consistent with original footage from a mobile telephone. An expert
commissioned by Philip Alston, the then Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial,

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summary or arbitrary executions, also confirmed that The multimedia file submitted
for analysis actually contains 17 frames of the uppercase letter A in white against a
red background. The presence of this character is suspect, though not conclusive.
Both the Sri Lankan and UN experts agree therefore that there were at least 17
suspicious frames added to the original footage. Alston himself admitted that there
were some unexplained elements in the video.557
The editing aspect of the footage is important given that Channel 4 claims that
the footage is trophy footage spontaneously filmed by soldiers on mobile telephones.
This claim, central to Channel 4s narrative, would be fatally undermined if the
footage was found to have been previously edited perhaps even on a computer
or doctored in any way, as is believed by the government to have been the case.
The unexplained characteristics of the multimedia file submitted for analysis,
especially the file integrity issues arising in the final 17 frames of video was described
by the UN as a potentially suspicious feature.558 It should be noted that in video
the presence of just one frame anomaly is enough to identify an edit point which
can be used to manipulate the video. These clear concerns notwithstanding, Channel
4 somewhat surprisingly has claimed with regard to the tests that Forensic video
analyst Jeff Spivack concluded that the technical attributes of the images were entirely
consistent with mobile phone footage. He also said there was no evidence of editing
or image manipulation.559
A second technical report provided to the present United Nations Special
Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr Christof Heyns,
noted:
The fact that editing in any form has been applied to the recordings
submitted for authentication will quite understandably generate
skepticism or even suspicion...This analyst again repeatedly requested
access to the device purportedly used to make the recordings for the
purpose of comparing photo response non-uniformity and image sensor
noise profiles present in the recordings submitted for analysis with
exemplar recordings generated by the device. To date, the device has not
been made available, nor has information regarding the specific make
and model of the device. The identity and status of the person(s) who
created the video files is unknown to this author. In the absence of the
actual device, authenticity of the recordings cannot be determined to an
absolute certainty.560
The Government of Sri Lanka has also continued to challenge several of the
technical findings of the report, pointing out, amongst other things, that:

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Initially, the experts concluded that the video (2009) was an unedited
original video recording on a Phillips brand mobile telephone available
in Sri Lanka. This level of certainty does not appear justified as another
expert concluded that the extended video (2010) was edited using
Philips software but using a Nokia model 6600 series mobile telephone
for recording. The first expert then changed his conclusion so as to be
consistent with the later conclusion by Fredericks. However there does
not appear to be any basis for the change other than the opinion of the
second expert which taints Spivacks opinion. The expert Fredericks
has generally identified the devise used for recording the extended
video to be a Nokia 6600 series model. He also states that it is clear
that that the camera used to record this segment (images 765 and 766)
has an ability to jump to a 2X [200%] zoom. The zoom appears to be
an optical zoom, since digital zoom artifacts are not present. Having
checked the standard specifications relating to this series of mobile
telephone, it is apparent that the mentioned series do not have optical
zoom capability.561
The UNs 2010 report stated that The multimedia file submitted for analysis,
VideoDJ.3gp, cannot be authenticated to an absolute certainty without access to the
device purportedly used to make the recording for further testing and comparison.
Both the Sri Lankan government and the United Nations technical experts have
repeatedly requested Channel 4 to provide a copy of the mobile telephone footage
that was aired by them in order to ascertain the authenticity of the footage. Channel
4 has not done so. The Sri Lankan government has confirmed that Channel 4 has
not provided them with a copy of the footage that is in their possession.562
When SiriHewawitharana, one of the worlds leading experts in the field of video
technology, analysed the video he stated that it did not come from a mobile phone
and that the quality of motion vectors was high. He also noted that the video has
cinema drop frame data, indicating it was filmed with a cinema film camera and
never came from a mobile phone or a normal video camera.
Hewawitharana also noted that the version of the video examined by the United
Nations was different from the footage he had examined: somehow the videos
technical metadata was changed; it indicates that someone tried to change the
metadata to show that it is from a mobile camera. Doing so created more metadata
anomalies. This, he stated, accounted for the fact that the UN technical analyst said
it has 17 frames of anomaly that he cannot explain. He also noted that the report
by the second UN video specialist produced findings that are quite the opposite to
that of the first video specialist. His findings clearly indicate that the first video did

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not come from a mobile phone at all and the video was edited and created on July
15, 2009, two months after the war against terrorism ended.
Hewawitharana concluded that the Channel 4 footage was filmed on a cinema
type camera (which is rare since average cameras are not cinema type), then transcoded
to a mobile camera format to show that it came from a mobile camera. In doing
so, the transcoded video leaves all the cinema video metadata intact and this is
the section which indicates that the video never came from a mobile camera. UN
specialist Grant Frederick came to the conclusion that this video (Video 1) is edited
and used an optical zoom. Those were my observations as well. An edited video is
not acceptable in a Court of Law.563
There is a second, equally important, issue regarding the footage in question.
While Channel 4 has repeatedly claimed that the footage definitely shows Sri Lankan
soldiers killing bound LTTE captives, the UN experts quite rightly from a forensic
point of view do not jump to that conclusion. The 2010 Technical Note prepared
by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary
executions, clearly stated:
Of course, there is no way to confirm solely from this recording the identity
of the potential victims or the shooters. Neither whether the shooters were
actually Sri Lanka military members as opposed to Tamils dressed in Sri
Lanka military uniforms, nor whether the potential victims were Tamils
or instead innocent victims of another ethnic group can be determined
from this recording.564 (Emphasis added.)
This critical point was also noted in a subsequent United Nations analysis of the
footage. In a second examination of the mobile telephone video footage in question,
the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary
executions stated in 2011:
It should be stressed however that the claim is not being made here that
any specific individuals are guilty or that State responsibility has been
established.565
For all its claims made of the footage by Channel 4, the mobile telephone footage
left more questions unanswered than answered most significantly the issue of whom
may have been shooting whom.
Accepting that the video or mobile telephone footage did record the real execution
of soldiers or civilians, the question Channel 4 did not and cannot answer is whether
it is possible that the gunmen doing the shooting and the filming were LTTE

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cadres and the people being killed were captured government personnel or Tamil
or Sinhalese civilians? Both of the reports commissioned by the UN Special
Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions said there was no
way of so doing.
The director of the Channel 4 programmes, Callum Macrae, said the gunmen
must have been army soldiers because they were wearing Sri Lankan army uniforms
and spoke Sinhalese. For the very serious allegations being made in his programme,
this is an unacceptably naive but understandably self-serving position to take. It
is perhaps fortunate that Macrae was not in a position of responsibility in 1939.
Following his logic, he may have accepted at face value Nazi claims that Polish soldiers
had attacked German border posts on the German-Polish frontier on 31 August
1939, claims then used by the Nazis as a pretext for their invasion of Poland. The
BBC reported on 1 September 1939, that [The invasion] follows yesterdays report
on German radio that the border town of Gliwice had been raided by a group of
Polish soldiers, who had all been shot dead.566 The simple fact is that the attackers
were Polish-speaking German troops, dressed in Polish uniforms, who left behind
dead bodies in Polish uniforms. The bodies were in fact those of prisoners from
concentration camps; they were dressed in Polish uniforms, killed and left behind.
The bodies that were left behind were described by the Germans as Konserve i.e.,
canned goods (which also led to the German code name for the operation, Operation
Konserve).567
Channel 4 may have been unaware that the LTTE had on numerous occasions
posed as government soldiers while killing civilians. It is also a matter of record
that the LTTE were very media conscious, and videoed as many of their actions
as possible. One of the best documented instances it was filmed by the LTTE
themselves was when the LTTE used Sri Lankan army uniforms in an attack at
Anuradhapura, the Anuradhapura Jaya Sri Maha Bohdi massacre, on 14 May 1985,
in which 146 civilians were murdered.568 There is in any instance ample film footage
of LTTE cadres wearing uniforms similar to those of government forces.569 The
University Teachers for Human Rights have also confirmed the LTTEs deliberate
misuse of army uniforms, mentioning, for example, that in February 2009 [a]n
LTTE reconnaissance unit wearing army uniforms had gone about five miles behind
army lines.570 There is little doubt that the LTTE would not have hesitated to kill
prisoners for propaganda reasons. Weiss notes that the organisation appear to have
slaughtered captured soldiers and policemen with especially terrifying ferocity.571
In November 2010, the BBC reported an alleged confession by captured LTTE
fighters of the torture and execution of 26 Sri Lankan servicemen in January 2009.
UTHR also records that the LTTE slaughtered their captives out of hand in the last
months of the war.

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Channel 4s mobile telephone footage was also said to include images of Issipriya.
Having apparently been ignorant of Vany Kumars clear LTTE links and military
training, as outlined in Chapter 3, Channel 4 was also seemingly unaware that
another of their alleged civilians, Issipriya, who featured in both programmes, was
in fact another LTTE member. Shoba, nom de guerre Issipriya, was born in 1982 in
Jaffna and was subsequently recruited by the LTTE and underwent military training
in the Wanni. She then served in the LTTE military wing and was subsequently
attached to the Voice of Tigers, the official radio station of the LTTE. She was
presented by Channel 4 as nothing more than a civilian Tamil TV presenter on a
LTTE station. What was said to have been her dead body was shown in both of
Channel 4s programmes with the obvious inference that government forces had
killed a civilian. For a non-combatant there are a surprising number of pictures
of her in military uniform.572
One difficulty for Channel 4, however, is that the female body at minute 38:30
of the programme said to be that of Issipriya by Channel 4 in Sri Lankas Killing
Fields, in June 2011, is seemingly not the same body previously claimed by Channel
4 to be that of Issipriya on its news item of 30 November 2010.573 Leaving the
evidentiary quandary regarding identification aside, and the inference in the 2011
and 2012 programmes that she was executed by government forces, Channel 4 had
a different spin on events in its 2010 news item, noting more accurately that it is
unclear how she died.
Keen to preserve the sensationalist value of Issipriya being a non-combatant, in
its 2010 news item Channel 4 once again reported at face value convenient claims
by an unidentified LTTE colleague of Issipriya. Trying to offset the fact that she
was an LTTE member, the colleague claimed that because of a heart condition
[s]he never carried a gun and her physical condition did not permit her to go to
the battlefield. Channel 4 was in fact parroting more claims made by TamilNet.574
Interestingly, the same LTTE claims contradicted Channel 4s central assertion that
Issipriya was killed on the battlefield in the immediate aftermath of the defeat of the
LTTE. TamilNet claimed that she had been detained by the Sri Lankan army on 23rd
or 24th of May 2009, while staying in D8/Zone 4 of the Cheddikulam internment
camp, according to the wife of the medical practitioner, a media worker who was also
interned in the camp at that time. TamilNet then also claimed that the video footage
shown on Channel 4 showed 18 July 2009 as the date of recording. In any instance,
Channel 4 overlooked the obvious, which was that even if the questionable and
self-serving assertion about her health was true, the battlefield quite simply came to
Issipriya and there is no doubt that she would have been expected to fight. The LTTE
were desperately throwing every possible fighter into the battles against government
forces in the final days in May 2009. They were even forcibly conscripting children

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and sending them into combat with just a few hours military training. Issipriya
was a senior, fully-trained combatant. An Observer article made it very clear that
all trained LTTE cadres were thrown into the fighting. It quoted a female LTTE
member: Many cadres had been killed or injured...so the administration staff were
sent to the front line.575 The vast majority of committed LTTE cadres of which
Issipriya was a senior member either died fighting or killed themselves with their
cyanide tablets, bullets or grenades.576
It is simply impossible to ascertain from photographs how Issipriya died. The
material fact ignored by Channel 4 is that she was a fully-trained combatant who
appears to have died on the battlefield.
The claim made by Channel 4 underpinning the alleged mobile telephone footage
of LTTE combatants said to have killed by government forces is that the government
were pursuing a systematic policy of executing many captured or surrendering LTTE
members. The Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission, however, states
that a total of 11,954 former LTTE terrorists were captured or surrendered, several
thousand of which were clearly senior or hard-core members. They were detained
in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and other emergency legislation in Sri
Lanka. This figure alone belies the Channel 4 claim that there was a systematic
policy of executing captured or surrendering LTTE combatants. These are 11,954
examples proving Channel 4s allegations wrong.
As of 26 September 2011, a total number of 8,240 of those former LTTE
combatants were said to have already been rehabilitated and released. There were
then 2,727 former combatants still undergoing rehabilitation or whose involvement
in serious acts of terrorism are still being investigated. The Lessons Learned and
Reconciliation Commission stated that it is expected that all detainees will be released
in the future on the completion of the rehabilitation programme.577 As of June 2012,
there were less than 700 ex-LTTE cadres still undergoing rehabilitation.578
The International Crisis Group has noted that the rehabilitation of these former
LTTE cadres has been in accordance with a detailed internationally-assisted Action
Plan for the National Framework for the Reintegration and Rehabilitation of ExCombatants was adopted on 5 October 2009. Developed by the human rights
ministry, with the cooperation of the United Nations Development Programme,
the International Labour Organisation and ICRC, the five-year, US$75million plan
contains procedural safeguards for the rights of those detained and tasks the attorney
general with developing a framework to establish the legal basis for the detention of
ex-combatants, to lay out the criteria that determine their status, to address the issue
of amnesties, and to provide for judicial guarantees and procedural safeguards.579
There are also questions that must be asked about a yawning credibility gap
between the footage and the commentary in the programmes. Jon Snow claimed in

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the first programme that naked corpses filmed in situ or being moved onto trucks
showed signs of having been raped or abused even though there was no visible sign
or indication of any abuse on the bodies. Much is inferred from the fact that some of
the bodies are naked or semi-clothed. When challenged on this issue, the director of
the programme, fell back on the comments of an anonymous forensic pathologist
who would not have seen any more than any other viewer which was a number of
naked and semi-clothed male and female bodies in various positions.580
There are photographs of similar groupings or rows of dead combatants, male and
female, from previous engagements over the years in the course of the Sri Lankan
civil war. Some are naked and semi-naked. There were no claims made then that
they were somehow evidence of rape or sexual abuse.
An image of a dead body, particularly one subject to traumatic injuries, can be
jarring, especially to viewers within societies that have not experienced the sort of
relentless war to which most Sri Lankans had been exposed. It is standard procedure
in most if not all armies that combatants who have been killed, wounded or captured
are searched for weapons and documents. Every dead insurgents body in Iraq and
Afghanistan would have been stripped and searched. In Sri Lanka, LTTE cadres
fought both in and out of uniform. Many of their cadres killed on the battlefield were
women who were also searched: one can assume many would have been stripped or
partially stripped for the search. When the American foreign correspondent Marie
Colvin was wounded in Sri Lanka in 2001, in an exchange of fire between her LTTE
guides and the Sri Lankan army, she was detained by the soldiers. She relates how
the soldiers were very suspicious that she might be hiding weapons or grenades
on her person and that she was stripped to her bra.581 Never one to hold back on
accusations against the Sri Lankan government, at no time did she allege that this
was part of any sexual assault.
The need for thorough searching of terrorists, alive or dead, whether male or
female, is in very large part a consequence of LTTE tactics. The Washington Post
reported in 2009 on the indignities that the need for security had visited upon Sri
Lankans, including women. Writing about searches on bus passengers, its reporter
noted that:
[T]he womens line that took twice as long to navigate. Thats because
female officers rummaged through womens purses and bags before moving
on to their breasts, even feeling the insides of their bras for explosives. They
didnt stop there. They patted down their groins and occasionally looked
inside their underwear. Pregnant women routinely had their swollen bellies
squeezed or prodded, just to make sure. Women are often singled out for
scrutiny because, in Sri Lankas 25-year civil war, more than two-thirds of

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the Tamil Tiger suicide bombers have been women, according to experts
from the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations.582
The newspaper quoted an Indian woman who made frequent business trips to
Colombo: The frisking in Sri Lanka now is very intimate, and it feels shocking and
rude. But its a question we are asking in India and maybe all over the world, also:
Is it worth it if it stops even one female with a bomb in her bra?
The FBI have stated that the LTTE invented both the suicide bra and suicide
belt. The Washington Post also pointed out that it was a female LTTE suicide bomber,
Thenmuli Rajaratnam, also known by her nom de guerre Dhanu, who killed
former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991 with such devices. It
also reported that on 9 February 2009, at the height of the Vanni crisis, a female
suicide bomber detonated explosives at a checkpoint as female members of the
Sri Lankan army frisked her. The blast killed 28 people.583 The explosives were
hidden in her undergarments. In November 2007 a female suicide bomber
detonated explosives hidden in her bra in an attempt to kill a Sri Lankan cabinet
minister, Douglas Devananda. The minister escaped injury, but three security
men were wounded in the incident. The bra bombing was caught on security
camera footage.584 A woman suicide bomber pretending to be pregnant seriously
injured the Sri Lankan army commander and killed several of his security team in
Colombo in April 2006.
A Human Rights Watch researcher suggested in The Washington Post article that
there needs to be more training in Sri Lanka to screen civilians in a respectful way.
The researcher may have had a point. If the mobile telephone footage is authentic
then it may well be that the LTTE bodies, male and female, might have been searched
and treated with more respect. Naked and partially-clothed female bodies are not
automatic evidence of rape or sexual assault. Were bras checked for explosives or
hidden documents or valuables? One can presume they were. One may well ask
whether inappropriate comments were made or whether some bodies were not
treated with due respect. This has been a feature of most wars, and certainly most
recently in Afghanistan and Iraq.585 In September 2005, for example, the US Army
opened an investigation into video footage of American soldiers standing around
what appear to be dead bodies. Other photos include graphic images of severed body
parts and what appear to be internal organs spilling from bodies onto the ground.
The New York Times reported that The images are said to come from Afghanistan
as well as Iraq. Their authenticity has not been determined.586 Lewd behaviour on
the part of some of the people searching the bodies for weapons or explosives, or
posing with bodies, may have been in bad taste but it does not constitute the sorts
of war crimes alleged by Channel 4.

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Accusations of sexual misconduct were also out of keeping with the documented
behaviour of the Sri Lankan army. In an October 2009 letter signed by Melanne
Verveer, the US ambassador-at-large for global womens issues, and addressed to Sri
Lankas Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, the US State Department noted that
in the most recent phase of the conflict, from 2006 to 2009...we have not received
reports that rape and sexual abuse were used as tools of war, as they clearly have in
other conflict areas around the world.587
For all Channel 4s hype that its programmes presented evidence required
to convict, the mobile telephone footage left more questions unanswered than
answered most significantly whom was shooting whom and whether or not there
had been digital manipulation of the footage. Accepting that the video or mobile
telephone footage did record the real execution of soldiers or civilians, the question
Channel 4 did not and cannot answer is whether it is possible that the gunmen
doing the shooting and the filming were LTTE cadres and the people being
killed were captured government personnel or Tamil or Sinhalese civilians? The
report commissioned by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary
or arbitrary executions said there was no way of so doing. And there is the equally
crucial question of whether or not the footage was edited or tampered with in some
other way.

Notes
556

557
558

559
560

Report of Mr. Jeff S Spivack A Forensic Video Analyst. Forensic Video Analysis
Supplemental Report Re: Authenticity of Digital Video/Audio Recording of Purported
Sri Lanka Executions, in Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or
arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, A/HRC/17/28/Add.1, United Nations Human
Rights Council, Geneva, 27 May 2011, p. 443, available at <http://www.ohchr.org/
Documents/Issues/Executions/A-HRC-17-28-Add1.pdf>.
Deeming Sri Lanka execution video authentic, UN expert calls for war crimes probe,
UN News Centre, New York, 7 January 2010, available at <http://www.un.org/apps/
news/story.asp?NewsID=33423>.
Technical Note prepared by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or
arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, in relation to the authenticity of the Channel
4 videotape, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 7
January 2010, available at <http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/executions/docs/
TechnicalNoteAppendix.pdf>.
Sri Lanka execution video appears authentic, Channel 4 News, 7 January 2010,
available at <http://www.channel4.com/news/sri-lanka-execution-video-appearsauthentic>.
Report of Mr. Jeff S Spivack A Forensic Video Analyst. Forensic Video Analysis
Supplemental Report Re: Authenticity of Digital Video/Audio Recording of Purported

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561

562
563

564

565

566
567

Sri Lanka Executions, in Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or


arbitrary executions, op. cit.
Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, Christof
Heyns, A/HRC/17/28/Add.1, United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva,
27 May 2011, pp. 481-82, available at <http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/
Executions/A-HRC-17-28-Add1.pdf>.
Letter from the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Norway to Mr. Arne Helsingen, Chief of
TV-NRK, Embassy of Sri Lanka, Oslo, 26 September 2011, available at <http://
www.nrk.no/contentfile/file/1.7810954!srilanka.pdf>.
See, for example, UN misled on Channel 4 video by SiriHewawitharana, The Eight
Man Team, 6 August 2011, available at <http://lrrp.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/unmisled-on-channel-4-video-by-siri-hewawitharana/>. See, also, Siri Hewavitharana,
Channel 4 Video is Fake, Edited and Video taken by Video Camera, Asian Tribune,
5 June 2011, available at <http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2011/06/05/channel4-video-fake-edited-and-video-taken-video-camera>; Siri Hewavitharana, Channel-4
video a fake, concludes video forensic analyst, Globalpeacesupport.com, 13 June
2011, available at <http://www.globalpeacesupport.com/globalpeacesupport.com/
post/2011/06/13/Channel-4-video-a-fake-concludes-video-forensic-analyst.aspx>.
Siri Hewavitharana is one of the worlds leading experts on digital video systems. He
is Executive Director IPTV Systems Australia. He also currently serves as the chief
architect of Optus Network Systems Design Broadcast and Satellite TV operations.
He is a former Head of CISCOs global broadcast and digital video practice and of
Systems Engineering for Star TV Hong Kong. Products that he worked on won two
Emmy awards, including one for outstanding technical achievement, and the second
for a film to video converter. See, also, See, also, K. T. Rajasingham, Video footage
fake: Media expert Siri Hewa picks up holes in UN Rapporteurs findings, Asian
Tribune, 4 June 2010, and Mahinda Gunasekera, Just a fake New Channel 4 Video
Alleging Extra-Judicial Killings in Sri Lanka, The Island (Colombo), 11 June 2011,
available at <http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=articledetails&code_title=27557>.
Technical Note prepared by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or
arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, in relation to the authenticity of the Channel
4 videotape, 2010, available at <http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/executions/
docs/TechnicalNoteAppendix.pdf>.
Technical Note by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary
executions, Mr. Christof Heyns, in relation to the authenticity of the second,
extended Channel 4 videotape regarding Sri Lanka, in Report of the Special
Rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, A/
HRC/17/28/Add.1, United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva, 27 May
2011, p. 427, available at <http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Executions/AHRC-17-28-Add1.pdf>.
1939: Germany invades Poland, BBC On this day, available at <http://news.bbc.
co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/september/1/newsid_3506000/3506335.stm>.
See, for example, James J. Wirtz and Roy Godson, Strategic Denial and Deception:
The Twenty-First Century Challenge, Transaction Publishers, 2002, and John S. Craig,

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Peculiar Liaisons in War, Espionage, and Terrorism of the Twentieth Century, Algora
Publishing, 2005.
568 Missing Parts Of The Story of Sri Lankas Killing Fields_Part05, Channel Sri
Lanka, 6 July 2011, YouTube, available at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v96X-eiQ_s&feature=related>.
569 See, for example, LTTE: Tamil Eelam Special forces in Action. Uyir Ampukal,
YouTube, uploaded by ragukum on 22 January 2008, available at <http://www.
youtube.com/watch?v=4KEm_ZmWh60&feature=related>.
570 Let Them Speak: Truth about Sri Lankas Victims of War, op. cit.
571 Weiss, op. cit., p. 80.
572 For pictures, see, for example, LTTE journalist, Isaipriya, brutally murdered by
Sri Lankan army, News of AP, available at <http://www.newsofap.com/newsofap29718-37-ltte-journalist-isaipriya-brutally-murdered-by-sri-lankan-army.html>. See,
also, Issipriya not just an innocent civilian as portrayed by the Channel 4, Asian
Tribune, 20 June 2011, available at <http://gtkisaru.blogspot.com/2011/06/issipriyanot-just-innocent-civilian-as.html>.
573 Sri Lanka war crimes video: womans body identified, Channel 4 News, 8 December
2010, available at <http://www.channel4.com/news/sri-lanka-war-crimes-videowomans-body-identified>.
574 New evidence emerges on war crimes committed on Isaippiriyaa, TamilNet, 5 December
2010, available at <http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=33177>.
575 Two of us fled. 75 other women killed themselves with grenades, The Observer
(London) 12 April 2009, available at <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/
apr/12/sri-lanka-female-tamil-tigers>.
576 See, for example, 300 LTTE cadres may have committed mass suicide, Daily News
& Analysis, 17 May 2009, available at <http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report_300ltte-cadres-may-have-committed-mass-suicide_1256631>.
577 Report received by the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission from the
Commissioner General for Rehabilitation dated 27th September 2011.
578 About 11,000 ex-LTTE cadres rehabilitated. Only 698 cadres under rehabilitation,
Daily News (Colombo), 8 June 2012, available at <http://www.dailynews.
lk/2012/06/08/news40.asp>.
579 Sri Lanka: A Bitter Peace, Asia Briefing No. 99, International Crisis Group, 11
January 2010. See also Manjula Fernando, Reintegration of ex-combatants before
months end, Daily News, 22 September 2009.
580 Exclusive interview with Callum McCrae, Director of Sri Lankas Killing Fields
produced by Channel 4, Groundviews, 21 June 2011, available at <http://
groundviews.org/2011/06/21/exclusive-interview-with-callum-mccrae-director-ofsri-lankas-killing-fields-produced-by-channel-4/>.
581 Marie Colvin, On the Front Line: The Collected Journalism of Marie Colvin, HarperPress,
London, 2012.
582 Emily Wax, Privacy Goes Public in War-Torn Sri Lanka. At Military Checkpoints,
Modesty is a Casualty, The Washington Post, 3 March 2009.
583 See, also, Female suicide bomber kills 28 as Sri Lankan army closes in on desperate
Tiger rebels, The Daily Mail, 9 February 2009.

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584 See, for example, Caught on camera: Lanka bra bombers blast, Ibnlive.com, 1
December 2007, available at <http://ibnlive.in.com/news/female-suicide-bomberexplodes-govt-office/53388-2.html>, and Video showing LTTE Tamil Tiger Terrorist
Suicide Bomber, YouTube, 3 December 2007, available at <www.youtube.com/
watch?v=Wd2godP6zCE>.
585 See, for example, US condemns troops who allegedly posed with dead suicide
bombers in Afghanistan, World news on msnbc.com, 18 April 2012, available at
http://worldnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/18/11262685-us-condemnstroops-who-allegedly-posed-with-dead-suicide-bombers-in-afghanistan?lite>, and
Army Investigates Photos of Iraqi War Dead on Web, The New York Times, 27
September 2005, available at <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/28/international/
middleeast/28site.html>.
586 Army Investigates Photos of Iraqi War Dead on Web, The New York Times, 27
September 2005, available at <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/28/international/
middleeast/28site.html>.
587 No recent evidence of rape as weapon in Lanka: US, Rediff.com, 5 October 2009,
available at <http://news.rediff.com/report/2009/oct/05/no-evidence-of-rape-usedas-weapon-in-lanka-us.htm>.

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C hapter T en

A Forensic Investigation?
Channel 4 made much of its claim that both of its programmes on Sri Lanka were
forensic examinations. It specifically claimed of its second programme that it
forensically examines four specific case studies and investigates who was responsible.
The reality is that both programmes fell very short from providing a forensic
examination of the key issues they raised. One does not have to be a devotee of CSI:
Crime Scene Investigation to realise the deep flaws in Channel 4s claims.
A working definition of forensic is:
Relating to, used in, or appropriate for courts of law or for public
discussion or argumentation...Relating to the use of science or technology
in the investigation and establishment of facts or evidence in a court of
law.588
There was very little science or technology or court-level argumentation in any of
the programmes. To use a very simple analogy involving the Udayarkattu incident,
Channel 4s first case history in the second programme. It is one thing to definitively
claim that a victim was deliberately targeted and shot by an armed man something
the programme in effect alleged on a larger scale with allegations of government
shelling in the Udayarkattu incident. As any CSI: Crime Scene Investigation viewer
would confirm it is a very different set of circumstances, however, if the person in
the analogy was shot as the result of crossfire between different armed men, and if
one of the shooters was hiding behind the victim, and may have fired first. In the
Udayarkattu incident analogy, Channel 4 claimed there was one shooter and one
shooter only, the Sri Lankan army. Human Rights Watch, the United Nations, Weiss
and the New York Times, however, have confirmed that the Udayarkattu incident was
the result of a shoot-out between two shooters shelling between the government and
LTTE with the LTTE firing from positions dangerously and possibly deliberately
close to civilian populations, and with the government responding to LTTE shelling.
Of additional relevance to any forensic examination of the Udayarkattu incident

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is that the victims of the shelling were present in the conflict zone because they were
part of the civilian population that had in effect been abducted by the LTTE. To
return to the simple analogy mentioned above, the victim caught in the gunfire was
in a situation where an armed man was firing from behind him and the victim was
only there in the first place because he had been abducted by the armed man using
him as a shield and firing from behind him. Independent sources have also stated that
the army responded to LTTE shelling: in the analogy, therefore, the man firing from
behind the abducted victim fired first. This would present a very complicated crime
scene, very different from the mono-dimensional one presented in the programme.
In the sort of forensic investigation claimed by Channel 4 of the programme,
an investigation claimed to be the equivalent of establishing facts or evidence in a
court of law, the fact that there were not one but two armed men and that both
were firing and that the victim was only there in the first place because he had been
abducted by the armed man firing from behind him, who was also the first to fire,
could very well qualify as exculpatory evidence, evidence favourable to the defendant
in a criminal trial, which would clear or tend to clear the defendant of guilt. Channel
4 neither revealed or established any of these facts. While claiming to be forensic,
the programme would have failed in the investigation and establishment of facts
or evidence in a court of law. Channel 4s claims would not last a minute of crossexamination in a British court. It is of course much easier to make such an allegation
stick if one is the prosecutor, judge and jury, a position adopted by Channel 4 in the
programmes. The Channel 4 programmes present a forensic investigation more
in keeping with that of a kangaroo court.
The programme has also consistently failed in another key, related, forensic,
respect outside of the Udayarkattu incident. To return to a simple analogy, let us say
that a person was killed by gunfire, and there is clear evidence that there was gunfire
coming from multiple sources, then in a court of law it has to be proved that the
gunshot in question came from a particular source or even a particular weapon. In
this analogy, Channel 4 has not just not proved where the gunshot has come from,
it has not even mentioned that there was gunfire coming from other sources, nor
even the possibility that there may have been other such sources. While citing the
deaths of civilians, throughout both of the programmes Channel 4 ignored the fact
that both sides were using artillery and mortars, and that there is prima facia evidence
that the LTTE fired first.
To continue with the analogy, the programme additionally ignored evidence
that this other hitherto unmentioned participant may have deliberately drawn
gunfire towards the victim or even deliberately shot the victim. None of these relevant
forensic facts were aired in Channel 4s forensic examination of events. This forensic
shortcoming applied to all references to government shelling in both of the Channel

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4 programmes, and was certainly relevant in two of the programmes case studies.
The programme ignored forensic evidence establishing that the LTTE shelled out
of the no-fire zones at the Sri Lankan army and at civilians, evidence provided by
Channel 4s own witness Gordon Weiss, the University Teachers for Human Rights,
the United Nations, the United States Government and Human Rights Watch.
It is appropriate here to comment on Channel 4s attempt to legitimise its claim
to having presented a forensic case in its programmes by including comments in
the second programme by the distinguished human rights lawyer, Professor William
Schabas. The innate flaw running throughout the pretence of a forensic examination
presented by Channel 4, is that the experts marshalled by the channel, and who are
then asked certain questions, are not subject to any cross examination. As is clear
from the above analogies, and is clear from most if not all of the claims made in the
programmes, if experts such as Professor Schabas are asked to comment on a skewed
or partial picture then their response will be necessarily incomplete. Had Professor
Schabas been asked questions based on an objective and truly forensic reading of
events his answers may have been very different.
When real forensic science and technology was applied to some tangibles, it
raised fundamental questions about Channel 4s pivotal evidence, the footage
said to have been taken on mobile telephones, and specifically footage showing
the alleged execution of several naked and bound individuals. Both the 2010 and
2011 technical reports by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial,
summary or arbitrary executions, clearly state that there is no way of identifying who
is shooting whom in the footage. This did not prevent Channel 4 from claiming quite
the opposite in stating that government forces were responsible. In a real court, in
the real world, this would not be tolerated. The UNs 2010 technical report has also
quite correctly stated that the alleged footage cannot be authenticated to an absolute
certainty without access to both the original footage and the device purportedly used
to make the recording for further testing and comparison. Despite requests by both
the United Nations and the Government of Sri Lanka, Channel 4 has not provided
them with either. In a real court this would also not be tolerated.
The Channel 4 programmes also made the most of contributions by forensic
pathologists. The first Channel 4 programme included commentary from an
anonymous forensic pathologist who would not have seen any more than any other
viewer. The programme shows a photograph of rows of dead LTTE personnel and
states that the forensic expert noted that a number of them had gunshots to the
head. While Channel 4 showed long lines of dead LTTE leaders and fighters, and
alleged that they had been executed by the Sri Lankan army, Weiss describes the same
scene: The forensic teams had...identified the bodies of the...senior Tiger leaders as
they were dredged from bogs or dragged from the dune faces where they had fallen.

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They laid the fighters in long, stinking ranks, their corpses engorged, burned and
mutilated, their arms outstretched, their flesh marked by chemical burns or cyanide,
their faces contorted.589 Did Channel 4 ask their forensic pathologist whether any
visible head wounds he or she may have noted might have been consistent with
injuries incurred had they been killed in close combat with the Sri Lankan army,
had they been shot in the head by their comrades for wanting to surrender (which is
also reported as having happened to some LTTE cadres), or if they had committed
suicide by shooting themselves in the head? Might these also have been possible
reasons for gunshot wounds to the head? Were Channel 4 or the pathologist even
aware of the all-encompassing cult of suicide within the LTTE?
The second Channel 4 programme includes commentary from a named forensic
pathologist, Professor Derrick Pounder. He is the head of the Department of Forensic
Medicine at the University of Dundee and a distinguished forensic pathologist very
much at home in the clinical world of autopsies and scientific tests. In engaging
Professor Pounder they also deliberately chose a human rights activist 590 who has
noted that no one approaches any investigation with a blank mind. Everybody
comes with some preconceived notion.591 The same caveat about the value of experts,
and the sorts of skewed questions asked of them, touched on earlier with regard to
Professor Schabas, also applies to Professor Pounder.
Professor Pounder is known to advocate a minimalist approach to forensic
pathology. Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 2011, Professor
Pounder said more use of external examinations should be made to determine cause
of death. He suggested that far too many autopsies were being carried out in England
and Wales: There is a general lack of evidence about the utility of and justification
for such a high level of activity. He believes that external examinations are a more
cost-effective method of identifying cause of death. Pounder stated that While the
autopsy is an important tool in modern death investigation, an almost automatic
recourse to it is inappropriate.592 Professor Pounders Channel 4 engagement
regarding Sri Lanka was, if possible, an even more minimalist approach.593 He did
not carry out autopsies. He did not externally examine any bodies. He did not carry
out any medical or scientific tests. He did not visit the alleged crime scenes. Professor
Pounder looked at photographs and what was said to be mobile telephone footage of
dead people that may or may not have been taken three years ago, provided without
any indication of where they came from, in an office 10,000 miles from where the
bodies were said to have been found. Professor Pounders contribution to the Sri
Lankan forensic debate, while delivered with great gravitas, was very little more than
speculation about photographs something any layman would be capable of doing.
While Professor Pounder can say after viewing a photograph of someone with
multiple blast and shrapnel injuries that that person may have been killed by the

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a forensic investigation?

explosion of an artillery or mortar shell, he cannot say whether it was a government


or LTTE artillery piece or mortar tube that was responsible. Similarly, he cannot
say whether the shell that may have killed someone was fired with the deliberate
intention of killing that person, or whether it was the result of friendly fire, crossfire
or simple incompetence in sighting the weapon. As we will also see, nor was he able
to say when the photographs were taken. The same applies to photographs of what
may appear to be victims with gunshot wounds. To that extent Professor Pounders
contribution was superfluous.
There is, however, a more specific concern. The provenance of the photographs
presented to Professor Pounder for his comments was not revealed. A word of caution,
however, may be due. That word of caution was clearly articulated by Groundviews,
described by Weiss as the respected Sri Lankan citizens journal.594 In July 2011,
Weiss posted one of the photographs said to have been taken by Colonel Harun
Khan, of the deaths of civilians as a result of shelling.595 Khan, featured in Chapter
5 of Weisss book The Cage, has already been cited in this study. The shelling in
question is that featured in the first, Udayarkattu, case history in Channel 4s
second programme, and the photograph in question may have been one of those
presented to Pounder.
Groundviews, however, has noted of the photograph posted online by Weiss,
and possibly presented to Pounder, that There is however a problem with this
photograph...this photo, part of what Weiss claims is part of many other images of
the wounded and dead from these days in late January 2009 taken by Col. Harun
was actually taken 22nd August 2008 at 5.08pm, and not in late January 2009.
Groundviews further noted that [t]his emphatically does not help any advocacy,
domestic and international, to hold those responsible for alleged war crimes
accountable for their actions and calls for independent investigations to determine
the veracity of these very serious allegations. It is possible that Weiss was careless, and
posted the wrong photograph. His claims, nevertheless, resulted in a credibility gap
that plays right into the hands of those who seek to discredit this sort of evidence as
doctored, untrue or misguided.
Groundviews also flagged an issue which has implications for Channel 4s claims
about its forensic examination presenting evidence required to convict: The
problem with a single photo published in this manner...is to do with the admissibility
of this photo in a court of law...If the dates were incorrect set or the batteries were
dying in Ret. Col. Khans camera, at the very least, Gordon should have noted this in
his post. To have it discovered post facto is unfortunate, suggesting at best a complete
lack of regard for the skill of digital forensics a government can and will command
if ever these photos make it to a trial. Simply put, Groundviews observes that these
images are, to a court, no different to those employed by the LTTE and its proxies

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around the world around the end of the war, which mixed graphic footage of recent
days with library images of fighting and casualties from years ago.
Groundviews also makes a point relevant both to Weiss and Channel 4: The
question of public optics is also pertinent. For perhaps the best of reasons, the manner
in which this photo was published risks feeding into an insatiable propaganda drive
to deny and decry war crimes allegations. It may be quite tragic, but in fact, the
majority in Sri Lanka believe and will stand by what the government says. If we hadnt
flagged the discrepancy of the dates, the Ministry of Defence would surely have.
Groundviews asked when the rest of Khans photographs might be released. Weisss
response was telling: No point in releasing photos to anybody other than a judicial
body. Groundviews response was simple: meta data on cameras if incorrect cant
be used as evidence tied to specific incidents.596
The simple question to be asked of Channel 4 is whether or not the photographs
put before Pounder were those said to have been taken by Khan, and subject to the
controversy outlined above.
The superfluous nature of Professor Pounders contribution was also evident in
his comments on photographs of the bodies of LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabakharan,
and his 12-year-old son Balachandran Prabakharan. With reference to the body
of Velupillai Prabakharan, who is generally believed to have died in an attempted
break-out from what remained of LTTE positions near the lagoon in No-Fire Zone
3, Pounder speculates: A single gun shot wound to the head is a little unusual in
terms of an armed conflict it would suggest it is a targeted shot at a subject who
wasnt moving. The implication is that Prabakharan may have been executed. This
ignores a raft of accounts of the very close combat that characterised the clearing of
LTTE positions and bunkers in the coastal mangroves, swamps and thick foliage
that makes up much of what was No-Fire Zone 3. Pounder may also have been
unaware of the fact that LTTE cadres often wore body armour, which can only be
defeated by shots to the head.597 Prabakharan was known to have owned and used
body armour.598
Professor Pounder is also incorrect about the frequency of head wounds in combat.
One US Army study found that the proportion of head and neck wounds sustained
by American forces in the war in Iraq was higher than the proportion experienced in
World War II, Korea, and Vietnam wars (which had been between 16-21 percent).599
Another study found that 22 percent of American soldiers wounded in combat in
Iraq and Afghanistan, passing through the US militarys Landstuhl Regional Medical
Center in Germany, had injuries to the head, face, or neck. In the Vietnam War,
12 to 14 percent of all combat casualties had a brain injury, and an additional 2 to
4 percent had a brain injury plus a lethal wound to the chest or abdomen.600 In the
Second World War, in the Italian battle zone, 20.5 percent of American battle casualty

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hospital deaths were due to head wounds.601 Head wounds alone were responsible
for 21.5 percent of all American battle casualties in the Bougainville Campaign in
the Pacific.602 It should also be noted that the aforementioned conflicts were ones
in which helmets were worn in combat as a matter of course. While helmets were
worn by Sri Lankan combat troops, LTTE combatants appear not to have used them.
The LTTEs own view on how Prabhakaran died is perhaps more relevant than
Professor Pounders long-distance speculation three years after the event. Selvarasa
Pathmanathan, KP, the most senior surviving LTTE leadership figure, someone
party to contemporaneous information from the LTTE on the ground at the time,
stated that On Prabhakarans death the information I got was that he and a group
of 60 tigers were trapped in a strip of land adjacent to Nandhikkadal lagoon. They
had all fought to the very end and died in battle. He added: If I know anything
about Prabhakaran he would never ever have surrendered...I want to reiterate that
my leader fought to the very end and had a Veera maranam (heroic death.)603
TamilNet, the LTTE mouthpiece, clearly stated that Prabakharan had been killed
in a clash with the military on 17 May 2009.604 There was no attempt to seek any
propaganda advantage by claiming he had been captured or tortured and then
executed. This propaganda spin, bought into by Channel 4, would only emerge in
subsequent opportunist reconstructions.
It is also worth noting that Channel 4s expert Weiss also contradicts Pounders
implied reading of Prabakharans death. Weiss has stated that the most credible
account of how Prabakharan died was that following an unsuccessful attempt to
break through army lines, Prabakharan together with a group of LTTE fighters were
driven back across the lagoon. They then sought shelter on a tiny mangrove islet
just off the edge of the NFZ. Detected and then surrounded by troops, Prabakharan
and his remaining men were cut down by rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire...
with the leader being killed by a 12.7 millimetre bullet.605 A weapon of that calibre
would be in keeping with the nature of the wound to Prabakharans head. It also has
to be said that the 12.7mm heavy machine-gun is a unlikely weapon to be used for
a targeted, execution-style head-shot. It fires 600 rounds per minute and has an
effective range of 2000 metres. If Prabakharan and his companions had been trying
to cross the lagoon, they may have only presented heads and shoulders as targets.
His hands also appeared as if they had been in water for some time.
The conflicting opinions of two of Channel 4s key witnesses presents an
interesting question, especially in the light of the channels claim to be presenting
evidence required to convict. It is a very poor prosecutor indeed that presents two
witnesses with conflicting accounts about the same event. Once again, Channel 4s
claims would not last very long in a real court of law.
Professor Pounders comments regarding Balachandran Prabakharan are again

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more speculation than forensic science. Responding to what can only be described
as remarkably leading questions on the part of Channel 4, Pounder states that the
boy appears to show signs of several gunshot wounds. Pounder speculates that he
could have reached out with his hand and touched the gun that killed him. He
may or may not have been able to do so. Answering a stunningly leading question
about whether Balachandran Prabakharan had been subjected to torture, rather
than state what was plainly obvious that there were no signs whatsoever to indicate
this Professor Pounder satisfied his questioner by speculating that it was possible
the boy was made to watch the execution of his bound and blindfolded guards before
the gun was turned on him. Presumably this was mean to infer that in the absence
of any indication of physical torture, there may have been mental torture. It is of
course unclear who the people were who may have been killed around him or indeed
who they may have been. It is also equally possible that he may not have seen what
happened to these people. Pounder also uses the word likely on several occasions.
One can only speculate again how useful Professor Pounders long distance guesses
would have been when tested by a competent lawyer in a British court of law. While
Professor Pounder would have provided an ideal talking head for any television
show, his contribution to this programme was very far from a viable forensic analysis
of what actually happened. This is hardly the sort of forensic pathology one could
expect in a court and simply does not constitute the quality of evidence to support
the grave sorts of claims being made by Channel 4.
The LTTEs cult of suicide is important when considering video footage or
photographs of dead LTTE members or their family members. The British journalist
Kris Hollington reported that Every Tiger carried a cyanide pill around their neck
in the event of capture by 1991, it was estimated that at least six hundred Tigers
had ended their lives this way.606 Hoffman states that Prabakaharan...commanded
his fighters to kill themselves rather than risk capture and subsequent interrogation
by the authorities. The LTTEs rank and file responded with alacrity.607 The
psychiatrist Daya Somasundaram also documented the LTTE suicide culture: At the
end of their training they were made to wear a cyanide capsule around their necks
so that they could commit suicide if captured...As much as one-third of the LTTE
deaths may have been by this method of altruistic suicide.608 The Indian journalist
Anita Pratap confirmed of the LTTE that They would rather die than be captured
alive.609 The Guardian noted that In previous rounds of fighting, Prabhakaran,
who carried a cyanide capsule around his neck, reportedly told his bodyguards to kill
him and burn his body beyond recognition rather than allow his capture.610 This
fascination with suicide may not have been taken into consideration by Channel
4s forensic pathologists. It is very possible that the LTTE leader Prabakharan may
have chosen death rather than capture not just for himself but also for his family

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members just as many Nazi leaders did in the Gtterdmmerung they visited upon
their country, their compatriots and their families in the ruins of Berlin in May
1945. Dr Joseph Goebbels, for example, arranged for his six children to be killed by
his colleagues before committing suicide together with his wife. Prabakharan may
have given instructions for his sons escorts to kill him rather than have him fall into
government hands. John Thompson, director of the Mackenzie Institute for the Study
of Terrorism, Revolution and Propaganda in Canada has noted that Cult leaders,
when everything is collapsing around them, want to take everything with them.611
Channel 4s claims to have presented a forensic examination of the events in the
Vanni simply fail any test of the objectivity needed in any scientific approach. For
example, while citing a special UN report claiming to document government artillery
positions and their trajectories into the first no-fire zone, and reproducing diagrams
to that effect in its second programme, it neglected to show similar LTTE positions
actually within the no-fire zone.612 Several other examples of exculpatory evidence
are similarly ignored. Channel 4 also failed to test its claim that 40,000 or more
civilians may have died in the Vanni by placing that figure against scientifically- and
statistically-proven dead-to-wounded ratios in armed conflicts which would have
exposed the clearly inflated reality of its claim.
For all its attempts at forensic window dressing, Channel 4s claims that its
programmes were forensic examinations of events in 2009 ring very hollow. They
were nothing of the sort.

Notes
588 The Free Dictionary, available at <http://www.thefreedictionary.com/forensic>.
589 Weiss, op. cit., p.5.
590 Professor Pounder is closely associated with Amnesty International and was a founding
member of Physicians for Human Rights. He has served as an expert to the Committee
for the Prevention of Torture of the Council of Europe in its visits to several European
countries including Turkey and Chechnya.
591 Derrick Pounder - Full Transcript, Conversations with Pathologists, Pathological Society
of Great Britain and Ireland, available at <http://www.pathsoc.org/conversations/
index.php?view=article&catid=76%3Aderrick-pounder&id=55%3Aderrick-pounderfull-transcript&option=com_content&Itemid=74>.
592 Post-mortem rates in England and Wales should be cut, BBC News UK, 4 January
2011, available at <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12109847>.
593 It certainly seems somewhat removed from the definition of forensic pathology as
the subspecialty of Pathology that focuses on medicolegal investigations of sudden
or unexpected death. A Forensic Pathologist is primarily involved identifying the
cause of death and reconstructing the circumstances by which the death occurred.

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This is performed in a meticulous, painstaking manner. A major component of


the role involves the performance of autopsy examinations to both the external
and internal body organs to discover cause of death. They also look at tissue
sample from bodies under the microscope to assist in establishing the underlying
pathological basis for the cause of death. See, Forensic Pathology, Royal College
of Pathologists of Australasia, available at <http://www.rcpa.edu.au/pathology/
disciplines/forensicpathology.htm>.
594 See, Photographic evidence of war crimes in Sri Lanka, or not? (Updated),
Groundviews, 2 July 2011, available at <http://groundviews.org/2011/07/02/
photographic-evidence-of-war-crimes-in-sri-lanka-or-not/>. For Weisss description
of Groundviews, see January 2009 a snapshot, gordonweissauthor.com, 1 July
2011, available at <http://www.gordonweissauthor.com/blog/?p=126>. Groundviews
is Sri Lankas first and international award-winning citizens journalism website which
highlights alternative perspectives on governance, human rights, the arts and literature,
peacebuilding and other issues. The site has won two international awards for the
quality of its journalism, including the prestigious Manthan Award South Asia in
2009. Groundviews was set up under the Voices of Reconciliation Project, conducted
by the Centre for Policy Alternatives from 2005 2006 and funded by CIDA and
AusAID. From February 2007 to late 2009, Groundviews did not receive any funding
from local or international sources. From late 2010 to date, core operational costs
are met by funding from Ford Foundation. The Centre for Policy Alternatives is the
institutional anchor for Groundviews, since its inception.
595 January 2009 a snapshot, gordonweissauthor.com, 1 July 2011, available at <http://
www.gordonweissauthor.com/blog/?p=126>. The photograph is available at <http://
www.gordonweissauthor.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Shelling-photo-11.
jpg>.
596 Photographic evidence of war crimes in Sri Lanka, or not? (Updated), op. cit.
597 For video footage of LTTE use of body armour, see Tamil Tigers Latest & the Greatest
Video Song Ever, YouTube, uploaded by TamilWarriors on 27 May 2008, available at
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vzHOsirR7g&feature=related>, footage at 0:24
and elsewhere shows use of LTTE use of body armour; and Tamil tiger commando
attack in southern sri lanka jungles p2, YouTube, uploaded by tamiljaguar on 21 July
2008, available at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=
BrxTmhBJgXc>, footage begins at 05:54. The LTTEs acquisition of body armour,
for example, is mentioned in No War, No Peace, South Asia Intelligence Review,
Weekly Assessments & Briefings, Volume 3, No. 33, February 28, 2005, available at
<http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/sair/Archives/3_33.htm>.
598 See, for example, Prabhakarans gun, body armour found, The Times of India, 5
January 2010, available at <http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-01-05/
south-asia/28131530_1_body-armour-anti-aircraft-guns-nanthikadal>.
599 B. D. Owens, J. F. Kragh Jr, J. C. Wenke, J. Macaitis, C. E. Wade and J. B. Holcomb,
Combat wounds in operation Iraqi Freedom and operation Enduring Freedom,
Journal of Trauma, Vol. 64 (2), U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, Ft. Sam
Houston, Texas, USA, February 2008, pp. 295-9.
600 Susan Okie, M.D., Traumatic Brain Injury in the War Zone, New England Journal

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of Medicine; No. 352, 19 May 2005, pp. 2043-2047, available at <http://www.nejm.


org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp058102>.
601 Study of Fifth U. S. Army Hospital Battle Casualty Deaths, Wound Ballistics, Medical
Department, United States Army, Office of the Surgeon General, Department of the
Army, Washington-DC, 1962.
602 Study on Wound Ballistics-Bougainville Campaign, Wound Ballistics, Medical
Department, United States Army, Office of the Surgeon General, Department of the
Army, Washington-DC, 1962.
603 D. B. S. Jeyaraj, How Prabhakaran met his death: KP speaks out 3, 20 August
2010, available at <http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/1651>.
604 Claims and scepticism sans evidence, TamilNet, 25 May 2009.
605 Weiss, op. cit., p. 224.
606 Kris Hollington, How to Kill: The definitive history of the assassin, Arrow, 2008, p.
317.
607 Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, Columbia University Press, 1999, pp. 140-41.
608 Daya Somasundaram, Scarred Minds: The Psychological Impact of War on Sri Lankan
Tamils, Sage Publications, New Delhi, 1998.
609 Anita Pratap, Island of Blood, Penguin, 2003, p. 71.
610 Profile: Velupillai Prabhakaran, The Guardian, 18 May 2009, available at <http://
www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/18/tamil-tigers-sri-lanka-prabhakaran>.
611 Analysis At end of Sri Lankas long war, siege is best hope, Reuters, 25 March
2009.
612 See, for example, See, Annex 3, Artillery batteries and Projected Fire bearing and
range capabilities by the date period, Report of the Secretary-Generals Panel of Experts
on Accountability in Sri Lanka, United Nations, New York, 31 March 2011, pp. 19195, available at <http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/POE_Report_Full.
pdf>.

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C hapter E leven

A Failure in Media Regulation


Factual programmes or items or portrayals of factual matters must not materially
mislead the audience.
The United Kingdom Broadcasting Code 613
[I]n non-news programmes there is no requirement in the Code for issues to
be treated with due accuracy.
Ofcom, the United Kingdom Broadcasting Regulator 614
There is no room for truth in the world of sound bites.
Padraig Colman 615

The lapse in journalistic standards apparent in Channel 4s first Killing Fields


programme appalled fellow British journalists. The well-known British journalist A
A Gill was particularly critical:
The channel has accumulated a large collection of samizdat amateur
footage from mobile phones and video cameras mostly unattributed
and uncorroborated. It mixes this footage with comment from unnamed
sources with distorted voices and shadowed faces. And human rights
lawyers. It was brutal, it was shocking, but it wasnt journalism. Not a
second of this has been shot by Channel 4; none of the eyewitness accounts
comes from journalists.
Snows commentary was intemperate and partisan, and it was all held
together by assumptions. Channel 4 News has drifted from providing news
broadcasts into being an outlet for nodding spokespeople and assorted
NGOs and environmental pressure groups, or anyone who can provide

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interesting or sensational film. It follows the old American news adage,


If it bleeds, it leads.
Gill makes the very valid point that the people let down most by this programme
are the victims of this brutal war, who deserve a more measured professionalism
and due diligence. He concluded:
It really was the most astonishing and misjudged editorial decision from a
news broadcaster that has grown into the habit of poor judgment on almost
everything...This documentary was a low point in a continuing slump.616
Gills observation that Channel 4 was essentially rubber-stamping pre-packaged
material in its programme echoed criticisms of the British media previously made
by Nick Davies. In Flat Earth News he made a convincing case, supported by
considerable evidence, that the British media lies and distorts facts. His snapshot
of working practice, based on research undertaken by Cardiff Universitys school
of journalism, revealed that 80 percent of British news stories consisted wholly or
partly of news agency copy and/or information and promotional, PR, material,
often with little or no additional comment. In only 12 percent of stories did the
reporters actually do any investigative work themselves. Davies noted further that
in The Times, for example, 69 per cent of news stories were based entirely or mostly
on news agency copy and/or PR packages. He noted that 70 percent of articles
in The Times ran with claims that were not fact-checked at all. Only 12 per cent of
the newspapers articles showed any evidence that the central statement had been
thoroughly checked.617
There is very little doubt that the Channel 4 programmes on Sri Lanka were in
breach of the Broadcasting Code, as laid down by the British media regulator, the Office
of Communication (Ofcom), as well as breaching the standards of other national
regulatory regimes.618 This chapter will touch on the unwillingness or inability
of national media regulatory authorities to address clear breaches in broadcasting
standards manifest in the two Channel 4 programmes examined in this study. With
regard to the United Kingdom, the programmes breached the Broadcasting Code
with regard to harm and offence (Section Two), with regard to due impartiality
and due accuracy and because key facts and significant views were either ignored or
misrepresented (Section Five), and fairness (Section Seven).
Section Two of the Broadcasting Code, for example, outlines Generally
Accepted Standards. Section 2.2 states that Factual programmes or items or
portrayals of factual matters must not materially mislead the audience. Section
Five of the Broadcasting Code deals with Due Impartiality and Due Accuracy and

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Undue Prominence of Views and Opinions. It is a simple matter of fact that there
was an undue prominence of views and opinions in the programmes that were
overwhelmingly hostile to the position of the Government of Sri Lanka and its
understanding of events in the months and weeks towards the end of the conflict.
Sections 5.5 to 5.12 of the Broadcasting Code apply to television programme services,
of which at least four are relevant;
5.5 Due impartiality on matters of political...controversy...must be
preserved on the part of any person providing a service...
5.7 Views and facts must not be misrepresented.
5.11 [D]ue impartiality must be preserved on matters of major political...
controversy...by the person providing a service in each programme
5.12 In dealing with matters of major political...controversy...an
appropriately wide range of significant views must be included...Views
and facts must not be misrepresented.
Section Seven of the Broadcasting Code, dealing with Fairness, outlines the
principle that broadcasters avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or
organisations in programmes. Broadcasters and programme makers are mandated
by Section 7.9 to ensure that material facts have not been unfairly presented,
disregarded or omitted:
7.9 Before broadcasting a factual programme, including programmes
examining past events, broadcasters should take reasonable care to satisfy
themselves that: material facts have not been presented, disregarded or
omitted in a way that is unfair to an individual or organisation
With regard to Channel 4s Sri Lanka programmes it was not a case of the
broadcaster and programme makers simply favouring one side over another. There
simply was no alternative viewpoint whatsoever. And in addition there was simple
no reference whatsoever in the programme to any reports of the LTTEs forced
displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians and systematic and deliberate
killing of civilians and the LTTEs shelling of civilians and hospitals, reports which
emanated from the United Nations, the United States government, University
Teachers for Human Rights, Channel 4 News own witness, Gordon Weiss, and
others.

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In presenting its programme about the last few months and weeks of the conflict
in Sri Lanka, especially with regard to the shelling of civilians and civilian areas,
Channel 4 only presented one view of the situation. While the Government of Sri
Lanka chose not to engage with the programme or programme makers, there were
nonetheless a number of significant views and material facts that would have been
readily available to the programme makers but not included in the programme. It is
simply not acceptable for Channel 4 to take what appears to be the position that just
because the government chose not to engage with it or appear on its programmes,
any viewpoint or material facts challenging the claims made in the programmes need
not be addressed or included in the programme. It would have made the inclusion of
such viewpoints even more important. At the very least this breached the broadcasters
obligations under the Broadcasting Code. The broadcaster and programme makers
also need not even to have looked far from its own witnesses, especially Gordon
Weiss, for an alternative viewpoint and relevant material facts. Channel 4 did not
include the significant and material view that at no point did the LTTE accept the
establishment of no-fire zones and that they continued to deploy militarily within
them. That there was considerable artillery shelling between government forces and
the LTTE is a matter of record. It is also a matter of record that despite Channel 4s
allegations about government shelling, it was difficult to ascertain who was firing at
whom and from where. Channel 4 did not include the material fact that Sri Lankan
military forces were returning or exchanging artillery or mortar fire with LTTE
artillery or mortar units that were firing from within the no-fire zones, from within
or adjacent to civilian concentrations and from the vicinity of hospitals. Gordon
Weiss described this pattern of behaviour on the part of the LTTE in his book, The
Cage. Channel 4 did not include the significant and material view that the LTTE were
deliberately seeking to draw government artillery fire into civilian concentrations.
Weiss also described this in his book. Channel 4 also did not include the significant
and material view that the LTTE may well have deliberately shelled into its own
population in an attempt to provoke an international response to what was then
claimed to have been government shelling. This too was described by Channel 4s
own witness Weiss in his book. In addition to having been described by Weiss, all the
views above were also articulated by, amongst others, the United States government,
the United Nations, and the human rights group spoken of so highly by Weiss, the
University Teachers for Human Rights.
Channel 4 would also have been aware of most if not all of the concerns raised
in this study before it broadcast its second programme, which along with the
first did not include any alternate voices or opinions. Engage Sri Lanka, a British
organisation established in late 2011 to make the case for closer British engagement
with Sri Lanka, had already published and distributed materials criticising Channel

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4s first programme, clearly articulating a different and alternative viewpoint. In


November 2011, for example, five months before Channel 4s second programme,
Engage Sri Lanka published Appalling Journalism: Jon Snow and Channel 4 on Sri
Lanka, a 26-page, 18,000 word critique of the first Channel 4 programme.619 This
public document robustly addressed many of the above issues, was sent to and widely
distributed within Channel 4 and is available on the Engage Sri Lanka website and
elsewhere on the Internet.
It was disingenuous, self-serving and unprofessional of Channel 4 and its
programme makers not to have included any of the above significant views and
material facts in the programme.
Section 5.12 was also breached in that while Channel 4 claimed that the
programmes were a forensic examination of events they clearly misrepresented facts
in a number of its claims. Most notably it claimed that government forces drove...
hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians into an ever smaller area of the North East;
and it also claimed that government forces killed up to 40,000 civilians. The first
assertions is transparently false and the second is mired in controversy.
The Channel 4 programme levelled very serious allegations of involvement in
war crimes at named Sri Lankan politicians, civil servants and army officers. It did
so on the basis of a clearly incomplete, very questionable and inaccurate version of
events in the final months and weeks of the conflict in Sri Lanka. Channel 4s claims
that the Sri Lankan army were deliberately targeting civilians when they engaged
LTTE positions in the no-fire zones are simply not supported by observations of their
own witness, Gordon Weiss, or other independent and reliable sources. Credible
alternative viewpoints were ignored by the programme makers. It is for precisely for
this set of circumstances resulting in questionable and misleading broadcasting that
the Broadcasting Code and Ofcom exists.
If ever there was a case for Ofcom to hold a broadcaster to account for breaching
sections of the Broadcasting Code, it was both of these Channel 4 programmes.
The broadcaster has taken an unbelievably cavalier approach to the Code. The
programmes misrepresented views and facts, and it failed to present, disregarded or
omitted material facts in a way that was unfair not just to the individuals it named
and the Sri Lankan government, but also to courageous human rights groups
such as University Teachers for Human Rights who presented facts very different
to Channel 4s. Simply put, the programme makers unfairly misrepresented
events and facts and self-evidently failed to include an appropriately wide range
of significant views on a matter of major political controversy despite the Codes
requirement to do so.
The reality, however, is that media regulators have been less than rigorous in
dealing with breaches of national broadcasting and media codes. This was clearly

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demonstrated in Ofcoms response to formal complaints about the Channel 4


programmes on Sri Lanka that are at the heart of this study.
In April 2012, Sri Lanka Media Watch lodged a 389-page complaint (including
19 appendices) regarding Channel 4s March 2012 programme, Sri Lankas Killing
Fields: War Crimes Unpunished, with Ofcom. Ofcom noted that the Sri Lanka
Media Watch complaint was particularly lengthy and detailed and raised especially
detailed and lengthy concerns. The complaint raised most of the issues examined in
this study, and outlined above in this chapter, including the carefully documented
inaccuracies, false claims, omissions and lack of balance in the Channel 4 programme
that self-evidently breached the Broadcasting Code.
In response, Channel 4 claimed that the complaint posed a serious threat to the
future of...current affairs television and had the potential to be highly chilling of
free expression.620 Rather than answer the issues raised in the complaint, Ofcom
reported that Channel 4 raised concerns regarding the cost and burden placed upon
it to respond to the complaint. Amazingly, Ofcom ignored its statutory requirements
to enforce the Broadcasting Code and simply chose not to address black and white
examples of the false and misleading claims made by Channel 4. It decided not to
require Channel 4 to respond to the detailed and lengthy concerns raised in the
complaint, stating:
It is not Ofcoms intention to place a disproportionate burden on
broadcasters by asking them to comment in unnecessary detail on
very lengthy complaints, especially when there is a risk that by doing
so the broadcaster might be discouraged from producing controversial
programmes. It is essential that broadcasters have the editorial freedom
to make challenging programmes without undue interference with their,
and the audiences, right to freedom of expression. 621
Amazingly, Ofcom then went on to state that Channel 4 did not have to treat
the subject matter with due accuracy:
While all subjects in news programmes must be presented with due
impartiality and reported with due accuracy, in other non-news
programmes there is no requirement in the Code for issues to be treated
with due accuracy. 622
Ofcom dismissed the complaint by Sri Lanka Media Watch without even
bothering to require Channel 4 to respond to concerns about the programmes
inaccuracies, imbalance, omissions and other breaches of the Broadcasting Code. In

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addition, Ofcom went further and actually gave Channel 4 carte blanche not to worry
unduly about the need for accuracy in its programmes and claims. All in all, there
could not be a more clear-cut example of the failure of a media regulator.
The lack of proper, effective oversight of broadcasters and the claims they make
in their programmes appears to be a problem endemic to national media regulators.
In response to a similar complaint about the Channel 4s first Sri Lankas Killing
Fields programme, after its screening on the Norwegian television channel NRK,
the Norwegian Pressens Faglige Utvalg, the national Press Complaints Commission,
stated the NRK was fully entitled to broadcast the programme. The commission did
concede that it was a subjective programme. In response to the inaccuracies and
misrepresentations in the programme, as outlined in the complaint, the commission
stated that it had neither the resources nor the competence to investigate whether
the claims made about the government and the government forces are correct.623 It
did state that it is the indisputable task of journalism to exercise social criticism. In
other words the Norwegian Press Complaints Commission apparently believes that
journalists have the right to level whatever allegations they see fit as social criticism,
but are themselves as a regulator institutionally unable or unwilling to follow up on
complaints that the allegations may have been questionable where not false.
Similarly, in response to a complaint about the Australian Broadcasting
Corporations 7.30pm programme which televised the serious claims made by
Ms Krishnamurthy, outlined in Chapter 3, ABC stated it was unable to act. ABC
defended the programme by asserting that ABC believed that the high profile of
those against whom the allegations had been made meant that the story was clearly
newsworthy. At the same time, ABC admitted that Under the circumstances, it
was impossible to verify Ms Krishnamurthys claims. ABC admitted that The
most potentially damaging allegation made by Ms Krishnamurthy was that the
alleged shelling of hospitals had come from the direction of the ocean. ABC
stated that the story clearly attributed the allegations to Ms Krishnamurthy
and noted that they were untested. ABC further admitted that the allegations
were not presented as facts endorsed or verified by the ABC.624 The Australian
Broadcasting Corporation could not have been any more clear. It would televise
very serious criminal allegations made against named individuals, especially if they
were persons with a high profile, while fully admitting that the allegations were
untested and impossible to verify.

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a failure in media regulation

Notes
613
614
615
616
617
618

619
620
621
622
623
624

Broadcasting Code, Ofcom, 28 February 2011, available at <http://stakeholders.ofcom.


org.uk/broadcasting/broadcast-codes/broadcast-code/>.
Ofcom Broadcast Bulletin, Issue 217, 5 November 2012, pp. 32-45.
Padraig Colman, The Fog of War Channel 4 and the Fog of Words, The Island
(Colombo), 27 August 2011, available at <http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_
cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=33362>.
A. A. Gill, Judged, The Sunday Times, 20 June 2011.
Nick Davies, Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion
and Propaganda in the Global Media, Chatto & Windus, London, 2008, p.101.
Broadcasting Code, Ofcom, 28 February 2011, available at <http://stakeholders.ofcom.
org.uk/broadcasting/broadcast-codes/broadcast-code/>. Ofcom is the independent
regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries. See,
What is Ofcom? , <http://www.ofcom.org.uk/about/what-is-ofcom/>.
Appalling Journalism: Jon Snow and Channel 4 on Sri Lanka, Engage Sri Lanka,
November 2011, available at <http://www.engagesrilanka.com/images/Appalling%20
Journalism.pdf>.
Ofcom Broadcast Bulletin, Issue 217, 5 November 2012, pp. 32-45.
Ibid.
Ibid.
Letter from Pressens Faglige Utvalg to Engage Sri Lanka, Oslo, 30 March 2012.
Email from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to Sri Lanka Media Watch, 27
March 2012.

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C onclusion

For all of Channel 4s hyperbole about evidence required to convict and forensic
examinations, and despite the very serious allegations made in the programme, its
programmes on Sri Lanka amount to nothing more than a very questionable trial
by media. Channel 4s programmes followed the mundane and superficial path
outlined in Professor Susan Moellers clinical description of how the media handles
crises: [the crisis] will become a front-page, top-of-the-news story...At this point,
the story is grossly simplified: clear victims, villains and heroes are created; language
such as harrowing, hellish, unprecedented...is employed; huge numbers are tossed
off frequently and casually, with few references to sourcesThe set piece is ideal
material for television and superficial print coverage.625
If Channel 4 and Jon Snow truly believed that their Sri Lankas Killing Fields
programmes presented evidence required to convict then, in addition to the
remarkable decline in journalistic standards at Channel 4 pointed out by A A Gill,
there has also been a sharp decline in common sense. In a court of law, and indeed
in any reputable journalistic institution, unnamed and disguised witnesses making
sensationalistic and unverifiable claims about events that have been irretrievably mired
in propaganda would be treated with extreme caution. And while all the programmes
Sri Lankan witnesses were nameless, Channel 4s star witness, Vany Kumar, is
known by five separate names. Far from being an Englishwoman of Tamil descent
accidentally caught up in Sri Lankas civil war, and therefore an impartial, neutral
commentator and presented as such by Channel 4, Kumar was an active member
of the LTTE movement who had been in Sri Lanka for military training and who
had worked as a propagandist for the organisation. It would be the equivalent of an
active member of Sinn Feins publicity wing being presented on Sri Lankan television
as an impartial commentator on events in Northern Ireland.
Courts also do not like witnesses who change their testimony as Kumar did
in respect of her accounts of what happened in the last few months of the conflict.
Courts would also take a dim view of allegations being made on the strength of
mobile telephone footage which UN-commissioned experts have said could not be
sustained especially when those making the allegations refuse to allow the original
footage to be scientifically tested.

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But even more serious to any court would be the fact that Channel 4 clearly
ignored exculpatory evidence that is to say evidence which might prove the
defendant is innocent. Had Channel 4 and its researchers read Weisss The Cage, they
would have known that the very hospital at the heart of their first documentary was
hit repeatedly by LTTE artillery. Weiss himself admits as much. It is very difficult
indeed and Channel 4 made no such attempt to differentiate between the alleged
shelling by the government and that of the LTTE. The UN on the ground certainly
believed it was very difficult. If Channel 4 was not aware of that fact then it was
grotesquely incompetent and unprofessional in making the serious claims contained
in the programmes. And on an equally vital issue, Channel 4 also fails to in any way
account for the tens of thousands of people it claims were killed, that is to say how
many of them may have been LTTE cadres, forced conscripts or press-ganged civilians
killed in the fighting, and how many of them may have been ordinary civilians.
Why did Channel 4 not explain the methodology of how it arbitrarily inflated the
putative death toll from the UNs unverifiable 7,000 deaths, which similarly did not
differentiate the deaths, to one some six times higher? Why did Channel 4s alleged
death toll invert the standard conflict dead-to-wounded ratio more than ten-fold?
Neither does Channel 4 really address the issue of who may ultimately have been
responsible for their deaths. It does not even mention, for example, statements by
the UTHR that thousands of civilians were shot by the LTTE. The well-respected
legal and forensic experts paraded by Channel 4 were very articulate talking heads
responding to one set of very leading questions. Any cross-examination would have
produced different answers. Simply put, this does not add up to evidence required
to convict.
There are a number of questions which Channel 4 should answer before they
continue to back-slap themselves about how uniquely groundbreaking their
programmes were. Why did Jon Snow and Channel 4 claim that it was the Sri Lankan
army that forced Tamil civilians from their homes in 2008 when Human Rights
Watch and Amnesty International, amongst others, clearly stated it was the LTTE
that illegally forced the civilians to accompany them, ultimately to serve as human
shields? Why did Channel 4 not mention that the LTTE ignored the governments
declaration of No-fire zones? Why did Channel 4 not make a single reference to the
fact that the LTTE were using heavy artillery, mortars, rockets and tanks in the Vanni,
and were present in, and firing at government forces from, the no-fire zones? Why
did Channel 4 not mention that the LTTE had on a number of occasions shelled
hospitals in the no-fire zones? Were they aware of these shellings or that Gordon
Weiss, the UN, the US government and the University Teachers for Human Rights
had reported that the LTTE had done so? Did Channel 4 not consider the possibility
that the LTTE might be shelling its own civilians and hospitals in order to provoke

189

corrupted journalism

an international intervention or a forced ceasefire, something as cynical an observer as


The Economist had considered to be plausible? Given the LTTEs fascistic intolerance
of any form of dissent did Channel 4 not consider as Weiss and the UN clearly
did that the Tamil doctors may have been put under LTTE pressure to make false
statements? Why did Channel 4 not check Vany Kumars background, especially
as she had already appeared on Channel 4 News under a different name? Why did
Channel 4 have doubts about Kumars credibility in 2009 and not in 2011? Why
did Channel 4 persist in its claims that the mobile telephone footage it showed was
of government soldiers killing LTTE prisoners when the UN-commissioned experts
said there is no way to confirm from this recording who was shooting who?
A simple, and perhaps cynical, answer might be that Channel 4 may have decided
not to let facts get in the way of their unique story.
Does Channel 4 really believe that a statutory requirement for balance in a
programme dealing with human rights abuse is achieved by the cursory inclusion
of 120 seconds out of 120 minutes dealing with LTTE human rights abuse, when
UTHR reports that the LTTE may have deliberately killed one quarter of those said
to have died in the Vanni simply for trying to escape from its illegal detention? This
does not address how many more may have been killed by the LTTEs deliberate
shelling of civilians and hospitals? Why did Channel 4 not once mention that the
LTTE was listed throughout the world as a terrorist organisation, or even once refer
to it as such? Why were there no interviews with anyone with a contrary, questioning
or even a neutral viewpoint security analysts, or political or legal commentators?
Is it not obvious that all these omissions, errors and factual inaccuracies constitute
systematic breaches of the Broadcasting Code?
Events in Sri Lanka in 2009, and the unprofessional and disjointed way in which
western media sought to cover them two and three years after they happened, pose
questions that transcend the Sri Lankan issue. The ability of a first-world broadcaster
to negatively impact the reputation of a third-world developing country at will with
deeply questionable and unprofessional television programmes is deeply disturbing.
There is no recourse open to such a country, let alone individuals within an emergent
country, to seek suitable or adequate redress.
What right does an essentially white, middle-class, self-validating western media
lite have to distort western perceptions of events within the emergent world? What
right does the West have to presume to write the history of countries such as Sri
Lanka, especially when their narrative has been as clumsy and self-serving as that
of Channel 4. This is an even more pressing question given that Channel 4 seems
oblivious to the fact that their dubious allegations about the conflict in Sri Lanka
are artificially sustaining what remains of the LTTE, one of the worlds most ruthless
terrorist organisations, and elements of the Tamil diaspora that continue to support

190

a failure in media regulation

it, in pursuing unrealistic expectations. Channel 4 has served to widen the catchment
of Rudyard Kiplings definition of power without responsibility the prerogative
of the harlot throughout the ages.
In the supposedly non- and even anti-racist, ostensibly politically correct and
supposedly culturally-diverse corridors of western media companies such as Channel
4, a self-selecting, western lite have nonetheless become the new white missionaries
intervening within and ministering to the developing world. They bring with them
the autism common to all zealots. In their claims about Sri Lanka, however, their
text is an apocryphal one of dubious authenticity.
The remedies open to those who have been misrepresented are inadequate. The
media regulatory framework within the United Kingdom is weak where not simply
non-responsive. The very existence of the Leveson Inquiry is itself testimony to this
shortcoming. While tasked with examining the questionable, unprofessional and
possibly illegal activities of the British press, it is clear that insufficient attention,
certainly at a regulatory level, is being paid to the questionable and unprofessional
activities of British media outlets such as Channel 4 which have shown the same
levels of arrogance, unprofessionalism and intransigence.
It sometimes appears that much of the emergent and developing world has
become a free-fire zone for powerful western media outlets. The reality is that they
are able to make all sorts of unprofessional and questionable allegations about alleged
events and situations in the developing world, well-produced and packaged as they
may be, conscious that their victims have very little recourse to address the claims.
Channel 4 rightly hounded Tony Blair and his government over their dodgy
dossier, and its manifest failings, regarding Iraq. Channel 4 has managed to produce
its own dodgy documentaries, in this case relating to Sri Lanka. Far from being a once
in a lifetime journalistic achievement, Sri Lankas Killing Fields should rightly be
highlighted as a case study in journalistic prejudice, ineptitude and unprofessionalism.

Notes
625

Susan Moeller, Compassion Fatigue: How the Media Sell, Disease, Famine, War and
Death, Routledge, New York and London, 1999, pp. 106-7.

191

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Ruthless. LTTEs Final Crimes against Humanity, Ministry of Defence and
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Australian National University, The Fight for Sri Lanka Gordon Weiss at ANU,
8 April 2011.

192

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A ppendix 1 2011 A ffidavit of D r


V eerakathipillai S hanmugarajah

202

1
a failure A
inppendix
media regulation

203

corrupted journalism

A ppendix 2 2012 A ffidavit of D r


V eerakathipillai S hanmugarajah

204

2
a failure A
inppendix
media regulation

205

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206

Appendix 2
a failure in media regulation

207

corrupted journalism

208

Appendix
2
a failure in
media regulation

209

corrupted journalism

210

a failure in media regulation


Appendix 2

211

corrupted journalism

212

2
a failure A
inppendix
media regulation

213

corrupted journalism

214

index

Index
23mm AA-T 2 H anti-aircraft gun, 98
23mm AA-ZU 23 anti-aircraft gun, 98
55 Division, 31
58 Division, 31, 100
60mm mortar, 84, 98, 99, 100
81/82mm mortar, 98, 100
90mm Model C-90 shoulder fired rocket
launcher, 98
107mm Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher, 98
107mm recoilless rifle, 41, 101
120mm mortar, 84, 95, 98, 99, 100
122mm artillery guns, 82, 84, 98, 100, 122
130mm Pasilan mortar, 98
130mm Type 59-1 cannon, 82, 84, 98, 99,
100
140mm mortar, 98
152mm Type 66 gun-howitzers, 81, 84,
98, 100,

Amnesty International, 18, 28 note 90, 52,


87, 114, 116, 121, 138, 177 note 590,
189
Amnesty International Canada, 17, 18,
Anbarasi (LTTE anti-aircraft weapons and
artillery), 98
Anderson, Benedict, 15, 27 note 68
Anuradhapura, 160
Anuradhapura Jaya Sri Maha Bohdi
massacre, 160
Appalling Journalism: Jon Snow and Channel
4 on Sri Lanka, 184, 187 note 619
Armed Forces, 121
Assad, Bashir, 33
Associated Press, 1, 51, 55-58, 61, 64, 122,
123
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 4146, 49 note 159, 144 note 471, 186

A
A35 road, 71, 76, 78
AAAS, see also American Association for
the Advancement of Science, 44
ABC Editorial Policies Guidance Note:
Accuracy In News, 45
Afghanistan, 56, 64, 163, 164, 168 note
585, 174
Agence France-Presse, 139
Akashi, Yasushi, 97
Akkarayankulam, 137
al-Qaeda, 10, 64
Alston, Philip, 156, 157, 165 note 558
American Association for the Advancement
of Science, 44, 49 note 156, 138, 139
Amman, Pottu, 38

B
Bali, 12
Balkan Odyssey, 96
Beslan, 12
Bishop of Jaffna, see Rt Rev Dr Thomas
Savundaranayagam, 73, 80
Blair, Tony, 191
Bogollagama, Rohitha, 165
Bosnia, 94, 96
Bosnian Presidency, 94
Bougainville Campaign, 175
British army, 12
British Foreign Office, 20
British Medical Journal, 142, 147 note 530
Broadcasting Code, 129, 154
Byrs, Elizabeth, 134

215

corrupted journalism

C
Cambodia, 3, 6 note 12
Canada, 12, 15, 18, 37, 46, 48 note 152,
63, 177
Canadian Tamil Congress, 18
CGES, see also Commissioner-General of
Essential Services, 149
Chandraprema, C. A., 21, 22, 101
Chavakachcheri, 63
Cheddikulam internment camp, 161
Christopher, Warren, 95
Chundikulam, 99
Civilian Safe zone, see also No Fire Zone,
44
Clinton, US President Bill, 95
CNN, 93, 95, 123
CNN Effect, 93
Code of Practice, 42, 45, 49 note 159
Colvin, Marie, 163
Colombo, 2, 9, 11, 19, 22, 40, 54, 56, 57,
63, 75, 148, 164
Commentary on the First Geneva
Convention, 88
Commissioner-General of Essential
Services, 149
Commonwealth Heads of Government
Meeting (2011), 42
Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies,
115
Constitution of Sri Lanka, 19
Convoy 11, 72, 74, 75, 77, 102 note 258
Coupland, Robin M., 142
Coupland-Meddings model, 147 note
530
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, 169
CSZ, see also Civilian Safety Zone, 44
Cyanide pill, 25 note 44, 162, 172, 176
D
Darusman report, 43, 49 note 154, 72,
75, 79, 102 note 258, 134
Davies, Nick, 58, 69 note 214, 181

Dayakaran, Irasurathnam, also known as


Kuveran, 42
de Maio, Jacques, 85
de Silva, Major General Prasanna, 31
Devananda, Douglas, 164
Dhanu, 164
Ditch-cum-bund fortifications, 137
Divjak, General, 96
Dodgy dossier, 191
DPA news agency, 97
Dr Tamilvani, see also Vany Kumar, 36
Durga, 38
Dvora-class fast patrol boat, 43
du Toit, Chris, 74, 75
Duraiappah, Alfred, 7
E
Eastern Naval Command, 153
Eelam War I (1983-87), 8
Eelam War II (1990-94), 8
Eelam War III (1995-2002), 8
Eelam War IV (2006-09), 8
Eelanadhi, 43
Elilan, 141
Engage Sri Lanka, 183, 184, 187 note 619
European Union, 12, 96
Eye Channel, 128
F
Factoid, 130
FBI, see also Federal Bureau of
Investigation, 11, 37, 164,
Federal Bureau of Investigation, 11
Fighting for Peace, 96
Flat Earth News: An Award-winning
Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion
and Propaganda in the Global Media, 58,
69 note 214, 181
Fonseka, Lieutenant-General Sarath, 9
Foreign Terrorist Organization, see also
LTTE, 11
Frederick, Grant, 159

216

index

G
Gaddafi, Colonel Moamar, 33
Gananakumar, Damilvany, see also Vany
Kumar, 36
Gandhi, Rajiv, 8, 11, 18, 19, 164
Gellner, David, 15
Geneva, 9, 55, 63, 112
Geneva peace talks, 9
Ghali, Boutros, 97
Gill, A. A., 180, 181
Gliwice, 160
Gnanakumar, Damilvany, see also Vany
Kumar, 36
Goebbels, Dr Joseph, 177
Government Agent in Mullaitivu, 148
Government Agent in Vavuniya, 149
Government of Canada, 12, 16, 18
Government of France, 114
Government of India, 18, 19, 22
Government of Sri Lanka, 7, 9, 10, 18,
19, 21
Government of the United Kingdom, 114
Government of the United States
Government, 11, 79, 84, 89, 90, 182
GPS, 32
Groundviews, 173, 174, 178 note 594
Guantnamo Bay, 64
Gunaratna, Professor Rohan, 16
H
Halliday, Professor Fred, 14, 27 note 67
Hamas, 10
Harrison, Frances, 33, 34, 94
Heyman, Charles, 121
Heyns, Christof, 157
Hewawitharana, Siri, 158, 159, 166 note
563
Hitchens, Christopher, 8
Hoffman, Bruce, 16, 176
Hollington, Kris, 176
Holmes, Sir John, 71, 81, 132, 133,
134

Hoole, Rajan, 4, 14, 51, 55, 78, 79, 83,


87, 92, 119, 123, 143
Hoole, Professor S. Ratnajeevan H., 86,
105 note 312
Human Rights Watch, 8, 9. 52, 74, 76, 77,
79, 80, 86, 113, 114, 115, 121, 128,
129, 130, 136, 138, 164, 169, 171,
189
Humanitarian assistance to the Vanni, 112,
148-155
Humanitarian Operation Factual Analysis,
23 note 21, 97
I
ICG, see also International Crisis Group,
74, 152, 154
ICRC, see also International Committee
of the Red Cross, 9, 32, 55, 58, 60, 72,
85, 88, 141, 142, 143, 149-153, 162
IDP, see also Internally displaced person,
83, 86, 91, 92, 116, 118, 119, 120,
130, 142
IHL, see also International Humanitarian
Law, 73
Indian Peace Keeping Force, 8, 19
Ilamparithy, 141
Ilancheliyan, Dr Kathiravelu, 50, 53
Impartiality (TV News Content) Final
Report, 45
Inter-Action Humanitarian Award, 63
International Crisis Group, 10, 74, 152,
154
International Committee of the Red Cross,
32, 71, 72, 118, 153
International Labour Organisation, 162
Internally displaced person, 57, 59, 116
International Humanitarian Law, 73, 87,
88, 112
IPKF, see also Indian Peace Keeping Force,
19
Iraq, 163, 164, 174, 191
Iruddumadu, 118, 119

217

corrupted journalism

Issipriya, see also Shoba, 161, 162, 167


note 572
Izetbegovic, President Alija, 96
J
Jaffna, 7, 17, 114, 149, 153, 161
Jaffna Teaching Hospital, 40, 92
Jaffna University, 40
Jayewardene, J. R., first President of Sri
Lanka, 18
Jeganathan, Dr, 60
Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 172
K
Kadirgamar, Lakshman, 9
Kangaroo court, 30, 32, 170
Kaplan, Robert D., 10
Karaiyamullivaikal, 87
Karuna, Colonel, also known as
Vinayagamoorthy Muralidharan, 10
Katyusha, see also 107mm Multi-Barrel
Rocket Launchers, 98
Kebithigollewa, 11
Khan, Colonel Harun, 77, 89, 173, 174
Khmer Rouge, 3, 6 note 12
Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General Ban, 134
Kilinochchi, 10, 32, 33, 59, 113, 137
Kilinochchi Barbers Association, 34
Kilinochchi District General Hospital, 63
Kilinochchi Laundrymen Association, 34
Kohona, Dr Palitha, 42, 95
Kipling, Rudyard, 191
Kittu (LTTE artillery units), 98
Korea war, 174
Kouchner, Bernard, 20
KP, see alo Pathmanathan, Selvarasa, 16,
21, 175
Krishnamurthy, Meena, also known as
Eelanadhi, 37, 42-46, 48 note 152,
49 note 158
Kulathunge, Major-General Parami, 9
Kumar, Damilvany, see Vany Kumar, 36

Kumar, Vany, also known as Dr Tamilvani,


Damilvany Kumar, Damilvany
Gnanakumar and Damilvany
Gananakumar, 32, 36, 37, 38, 40, 41,
43, 46, 53, 55, 65, 143, 161, 188, 190
Kumaratunga, Chandrika, fifth President of
Sri Lanka, 8
Kutti (LTTE mortar units), 98
L
Lambert, Goldan, 38
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, 174
Laqueur, Walter, 8
Lessons Learned and Reconciliation
Commission, 12, 124 note 401, 162
Leveson Inquiry, 191
Lewy, Professor Guenter, 142, 147 note 531
Libya, 33
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, see also
LTTE, 1, 38, 94
Lies Agreed Upon, 48 note 148
London, 14, 31, 36, 38
LTTE, see also Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam, 1, 3, 4, 7-19, 21, 22, 23, 31-34,
36-43, 45, 46, 48 note 152, 50-59,
61-64, 71-86, 95, 97-101, 111-123,
128-142, 148, 149, 150, 152, 154,
156, 159-165, 169-177, 182, 183, 184,
188, 189, 190, 192
LTTE Malathi Regiment, 43
LTTE Soydyia Regiment, 38
M
Mackenzie Institute for the Study of
Terrorism, Revolution and Propaganda,
177
Macrae, Callum, 160
Mailer, Norman, 130
Malaimakal, 141
Maniam, 90
Manjal Palam (Yellow Bridge), 71
Maoist Insurgency Since Vietnam, 128

218

index

Markale market, 95, 97


Marks, Thomas A., 128
Mavil Oya reservoir, 9
Meddings, David R., 142
Mdecins Sans Frontires, 9
Miliband, David, 20, 21, 29 note 99, 36
Missionary International Service News
Agency, 85, 149, 150
Mitterrand, President Franois, 97
Moeller, Professor Susan, 188
MV Green Ocean, 53
MV Thirupathi, 149
Mullaitivu, 10, 57, 59, 60, 71, 72, 87-100,
111, 122, 133, 143, 148, 149, 150
Mullaitivu General Hospital, 40
Mullivaikkal, 86, 149
Mullivaikkal East hospital, 32
Mullivaikkal West hospital, 32, 150
Multi-barrelled rocket launcher, 84, 98, 99,
100
N
Nachchikuda, 137
Nanayakkara, Brigadier Udaya, 140
Nanthikadal Lagoon, 72, 91, 132, 135
National Framework for the Reintegration
and Rehabilitation of Ex-Combatants,
162
Neistat, Dr Anna, 136
Nessman, Ravi, 1, 51, 55, 56, 57, 60-63
Netherlands police, 38
New Zealand, 121
News of the World, 121
NFZ, see also No-Fire Zone, 71-76, 79,
83, 84, 86, 91, 92, 100, 135, 136, 138,
141, 149, 175
Nitharsanam Unit, 13
No-Fire Zone, also known as the civilian
safe zone, 1, 3, 4, 10, 31, 44, 46, 53,
55, 71-110, 112-116, 117, 118, 119,
121, 123, 131, 138, 152, 171, 174,
177, 183, 184, 189

Nokia model 6600 series mobile telephone,


158
Non-governmental organisation, 83, 85,
149, 151
North Korea, 3, 97
Northern Provincial Council, 150
Norway, 19, 20, 22
Norwegian Press Complaints Commission,
186
NRK, 186
O
Oberst, Professor Robert, 7, 18, 23 note 19
Oerlikon 20mm gun, 43, 44
Ofcom, 180-187
Office of Communication, see also Ofcom,
181
Operation Konserve, 160
Oslo peace talks, 9
Our Lady of Roses Roman Catholic
Church, 140
Owen, Lord, 96, 107 note 360
P
Pacchaipulmoodai, 90
Padaviya hospital, 143, 153
Pakistan, 64
Paris, 14
Pathinathar, Father James, 140, 141
Pathmanathan, Selvarasa, also known as
KP, 16, 75
Perth, 42
Pettah, 11
Pillay, Navanethem, 133
Pol Pot, 3
Poland, 160
Ponnambalam Memorial Hospital, 55
Pounder, Professor Derrick, 172-176, 177
note 590
Prabakharan, Balachandran, 174, 176
Prabakharan, Velupillai, 3, 7, 11, 15, 16,
93, 174, 175, 177

219

corrupted journalism

Pratap, Anita, 52, 176


Premadasa, Ranasinghe, third President of
Sri Lanka, 8
Premkumar P., 76
Pressens Faglige Utvalg, 186
Prevention of Terrorism Act, 64, 162
PTK, see also Puthukudiyirippu, 74, 88,
122
Pulmudai Indian field hospital, 153
Pulidevan, Seevaratnam, 94
Puthukudiyirippu, 72
Puthukudiyirippu hospital, 88, 92, 93
Putumattalan, 149
Putumattalan Hospital, 53, 89, 90, 132

Rocket-propelled grenade, 95, 175


Rose, General Sir Michael Rose, 96
Royal Society of Medicine, 172
RPG, see Rocket-propelled grenade, 84,
98, 99, 100
Rumsfeld, Donald, 130
S

R
Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 38
Rajapaksa, Gotabaya, Permanent Secretary
of the Ministry of Defence, 2, 9, 31,
36, 122, 143
Rajapaksa, Mahinda, sixth President of Sri
Lanka, 2, 7, 9, 20, 31, 42, 73
Rajaratnam, Thenmuli, also known as
Dhanu, 164
Rajasingam, Nirmala, 21
Raman, R., 86, 87
RDHS, see also Regional Director of
Health Services, 58, 59, 60
Re-Organization of Foreign Branches of the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, 38
Readers Guide to Fascism, 8
Regional Director of Health Services, 58,
59, 60, 150
Regional Director of Health Services for
Omanthai, 150
Report of the Secretary-Generals Panel of
Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka,
43, 72, 80
Report to Congress on Incidents During the
Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka, 89, 90
Reuters, 2, 58, 79, 86, 133, 143
Revathy, 87

Samarasinghe, Admiral Thisara, 42


Samarasinghe, Mahinda, 51, 112
Sampanthan, R., 133
Sathyamoorthy, Dr Thangamurthy, 50, 51,
56, 59, 63, 64
Sarajevo, 95, 96, 97
Savundaranayagam, Rt Rev Dr Thomas, 73
Schabas, Professor William, 171, 172
Shanmugarajah, Dr Veerakathipillai, 32,
38, 40, 41, 50, 51, 53-56, 63, 65, 88,
89, 92, 93, 123, 138, 140, 148-153
Shoba, also known as Issipriya, 161
Silva, Major General Shavendra, 31
Sinnathurai, 34
Sivapalan, Dr Sinnathurai, 50, 55, 63, 64,
88
Sivaparan, Perinpanayagam, also known as
Nediyavan, 16
SLA, see also Sri Lankan Army, 71, 74, 77,
86, 87, 91, 93, 95, 111, 113, 116, 117,
119, 122, 136, 140
SLMM, see also Sri Lanka Monitoring
Mission, 8, 9, 24 note 31
Snow, Jon, 30, 32, 36, 37, 80, 81, 83, 113,
115, 156, 162, 180, 184, 188, 189
Somasundaram, Professor Daya, 52, 67
note 177, 176
South Asia Terrorism Portal, 133
Specially Designated Global Terrorist
movement, see also LTTE, 11
Spivack, Jeff, 157, 158, 165 note 556
Sri Lankan Air Force, 71, 99, 122
Sri Lankan Army, 1, 3, 9, 18, 31, 45, 74,
75, 78, 81, 85, 91, 92, 94, 98, 99, 111-

220

index

127, 129, 156, 160, 161, 163, 164,


165, 169, 171, 172, 184, 189
Sri Lankan Navy, 43, 118, 153
Sri Lankan police Criminal Investigation
Department, 54
Sri Lanka Democracy Forum, 21
Sri Lanka Media Watch, 185
Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, 8, 24 note 31
Sri Lankas Killing Fields, 1, 2, 4, 32, 37,
161, 188, 191
Sri Lankas Killing Fields: War Crimes
Unpunished, 1, 30, 32, 72, 123, 185
Sri Lankan Minister of Defence, see also
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, 2, 31
Sri Lankan Catholic Bishops Conference,
111, 121
Sritharan, Kopalasingham, 4, 78, 79, 87,
119, 123
Stedman, S. J., 7
Still Counting the Dead: Survivors of Sri
Lankas Hidden War, 33
Suresh S., 77
Suthanthirapuram Udaiyaarkaddu, 57
Swamy, M. R. Narayan, 15, 22, 93
Switzerland, 14, 37, 63
Syria, 33
T
T-55 Main Battle Tank, 98, 99, 100
Taliban, 10, 56
Tamil Diaspora, 13-16, 20-23, 26 note 63,
38, 78, 95, 190
Tamil Eelam, 7, 16
Tamil National Alliance, 10, 133
Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, 16
Tamil Tigers, see also Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam and LTTE, 1, 4, 5, 11,
38, 39, 51, 52, 71, 73, 77, 78, 83, 85,
89, 90, 113, 114, 115, 140
TamilNet, 17, 51, 58-62, 64, 92, 95, 98,
122, 136, 139, 140, 142, 152, 161, 175
Terrorism Act (2000), 12, 38

Thambithurai, Prapaharan, 18
Thangarasa, 34
The Cage: The Fight for Sri Lanka and the
Last Days of the Tamil Tigers, 4, 78, 130,
173, 183, 189
The Daily Mail, 122
The Economist, 7, 9, 11, 13, 19, 54, 79, 92,
114, 116, 190
The Financial Times, 2
The Independent, 32, 62
The Killing Fields, 3
The National Post, 38
The New York Times, 3, 77, 79, 134, 164,
169
The Observer, 162
The Ottawa Citizen, 12
The Sri Lanka Guardian, 59, 60
The Washington Post, 163, 164
Thearaavilon, 99
Thevipuram, 119
Thevipuram makeshift hospital, 150
Thompson, John, 177
Tirman, John, 142, 147 note 531
Toronto, 14
Trincomallee, 62, 143, 153
TRO, see also Tamil Rehabilitation
Organization, 16
Tsunami, 150
Twitter, 80, 83
U
UAV, see also Unmanned Aerial Vehicle,
88, 100
Udayarkattu, 72-84, 89, 139, 169, 170, 173
Udayarkattu hospital, 64
Udayarkattu junction, 71
UN, see also United Nations, 2, 4, 31, 58,
72, 74, 75, 77, 79, 91, 94, 121, 129,
132, 139, 143, 151, 156-159, 169,
182, 183
UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights, 133

221

corrupted journalism

UN Panel of Experts on Accountability


in Sri Lanka, see also Report of the
Secretary-Generals Panel of Experts on
Accountability in Sri Lanka, 51
UN Resident Representative, 75
UN Special Envoy for Bosnia, 97
UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial,
summary or arbitrary executions, 156,
157, 159, 160, 165, 171
UNHRC, see also United Nations Human
Rights Council, 55
UNICEF, 137
UNICEF Family Tracing and Reunification
project, 137
United Nations, 2, 31, 58, 72, 74, 75, 77,
79, 91, 94, 121, 132, 139, 143, 151,
156-159, 169, 171, 182, 183
United Nations Country Team in Sri
Lanka, 133, 134, 135, 137
United Nations Development Programme,
162
United Nations Human Rights Council,
55, 112
United Nations Protection Force, 96
United States Congress, 83, 86, 89, 90, 91,
95, 119, 135
University of Dundee, 172
University Teachers for Human Rights, 4,
5, 11, 14, 15, 19, 45, 50, 52, 53, 79,
85, 86, 88, 90, 92, 93, 94, 111, 118,
120, 121, 130, 131, 132, 135, 140,
160, 171, 182, 183, 184, 189
UNPROFOR, see also United Nation
Protection Force, 96
US Army, 164, 174
US State Department, 165
UTHR, see University Teachers for Human
Rights, 17, 51-54, 78, 85, 86, 87, 93,
119, 123, 136, 137, 141, 143, 190

Vallipuram, 57, 150


Vallipuram hospital, 32, 92
Vanni, 1, 5 note 1, 10, 17, 21, 32, 36, 37,
38, 40, 41, 46, 50-155, 164, 177, 189,
190
Vartharaja, Dr Thurairajah, 50, 51, 59, 60,
63
Vasanthaseelan, Father, 141
Vavuniya, 120, 122, 143, 149, 153
Velayutham, Ariyakutti, 86
Vellamullivaikal, 87, 100
Vellamullivaikal makeshift hospital, 32, 92,
140, 150
Verveer, Melanne, 165
Vietnam war, 142, 174,
Vishuamadu, 99
Voice of Tigers, 54, 74, 133, 161
Volker, Bernard, 97

V
Valaignarmadam, 140

Zero Civilian Casualty policy, 112

W
Waite, Tim, 20
Weiss, Gordon, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 14, 15,
17, 21, 34, 39, 45, 51, 53, 61, 62, 71,
77, 78, 79, 81, 85, 88, 90, 93, 94, 111,
114, 116, 117, 119-123, 128-134, 139,
140, 142, 148, 160, 169, 171-175,
182, 183, 184, 190
WFP, see also World Food Programme,
149, 152
What happened in the Vanni? An Experience
from the Battleground, 132
Wijesinha, Professor Rajiva, 75
Wikipedia, 2, 34 note 113
World Food Programme, 115, 149
World Tamil Movement, 18
World War II, 174
Wounded to killed ratio, 142
YouTube, 84, 99, 100

222

index

223

corrupted journalism

224

index

225

corrupted journalism

226

index

227

corrupted journalism

228

index

229

corrupted journalism

230

LTTE 122mm artillery battery in the Vanni.

LTTE 130mm heavy artillery piece in the Vanni.

3 LTTE 152mm artillery piece in the Vanni.

4 LTTE 130mm artillery piece captured in the Vanni.

5 LTTE Heavy mortar team in the Vanni.

LTTE mobile heavy mortar teams.

7 LTTE Bra bomber exploding her device

8 The LTTE TV presenter Issipriya in and out of uniform.


9 Channel 4s Witness Vani Kumar.