Photo of Dead Boy Ups Pressure on Sri Lanka Over War Crimes

by Saurabh Das, Associated Press in 'The Washington Post,' February 24, 2013

4 Years After End of Civil War, Photo of Dead Boy Ups Pressure on Sri Lanka Over War Crimes


Balachandran Prabhakaran May 2009Saurabh Das/Associated Press –

…Zoe Sale, producer of the documentary “No Fire Zone” which shows the last violent days of the Sri Lankan civil war, watches a screening of the film in New Delhi, India. The documentary, which accuses Sri Lanka of committing war crimes is part of a growing campaign of pressure on the South Asian nation over its conduct during the war.

The documentary shows a series of photos it says depict his youngest son, Balachandran. In the first two, he is sitting by the sandbags, in the third he is apparently dead. Metadata on the photos showed the last one was taken with the same camera, two hours after the first two, the filmmakers said.Macrae said the photos were authenticated by a forensic pathologist and other experts.

 Sri Lankan military spokesman Brig. Ruwan Wanigasuriya said the military was unaware of the fate of Prabhakaran’s wife, daughter and youngest son, or if they were even in the country at the end of the war. He questioned the identity of the boy in the photographs.

“How do you know this is Balachandran? Has anyone seen him? Has Mr. Callum Macrae seen him?” he asked.The film showed an earlier snapshot of the same boy with Prabhakaran and his wife, and MacCrae said his identity was confirmed by people familiar with his image.

Reports of the film’s allegations have inflamed anti-Sri Lankan sentiment in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, whose ethnic Tamils hold deep sympathy for their Sri Lankan brethren.

Chief Minister Jayaram Jayalalithaa backed out this week of hosting the Asian Athletics Championships because of Sri Lanka’s participation. “Tamils will never accept it,” she said.

A Tamil Nadu-based government coalition partner, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, called on India to support the upcoming resolution before the Human Rights Council. The government said it needs to see it first.

“As and when this resolution comes into being, we will have a look at it and take a call on it,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin.

Under pressure from the DMK, India, the country with perhaps the most influence over its south Asian neighbor, supported a resolution in the council last year that urged Sri Lanka to investigate human rights abuses and reconcile with its Tamil population.

In a report Wednesday, the International Crisis Group said the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa had failed to comply with that resolution and instead has worked to centralize power, in part, by impeaching the chief justice. It also lamented the government’s abandonment of its pledge to work toward reconciliation after the war. Earlier this month, Rajapaksa ruled out giving Tamil regions greater autonomy, apparently backing away from his repeated promise to do just that.

Christian clergy from the mainly Tamil north also called on the U.N. council to push for an international inquiry to investigate reports of war atrocities.

“We are convinced that the root cause of these problems is a lack of political will,” a letter signed by 133 Roman Catholic, Anglican and Methodist clergy members said this week. “Hence, it is our firm conviction that technical assistance from the U.N. in the form of training, advice, financial and material support will not suffice.”


Associated Press writer Krishan Francis in Colombo, Sri Lanka, contributed to this report.

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