Home International Sri Lanka denies visas to Al-Jazeera over war crimes footage

Sri Lanka denies visas to Al-Jazeera over war crimes footage


Colombo: Sri Lanka has denied visas to at least three staffers of Al-Jazeera television, after the station broadcast images of bodies and execution-style killings, said to have occurred during the final weeks of the civil war against Tamil rebels last year.

An external affairs ministry spokesman said Friday that a decision was taken not to issue the visas for the crew who wanted to cover the swearing-in of President Mahinda Rajapaksa for a second term Nov 19 and also visit the Tamil region in the north, where the fighting took place.

The disturbing photos telecast by the Qatar-based TV station Thursday show bodies piled up in the rear of a tractor and blindfolded bodies with their hands tied behind their backs.

The spokesman denied the military was responsible for the killings, claiming that it appeared to be a collection of pictures which had been already dismissed as a fabrication.

“The government on previous occasions has denied these pictures. It is improper to suggest that the military was involved in these killings,” he said.

Al-Jazeera said it was unable to verify the authenticity of the pictures and also that it was unknown if the bodies had been collected after a clean-up or were the result of a massacre.

Similar footage has emerged in the past and at least in one case, the UN human rights envoy concluded it was authentic.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon set up a panel to advise him on the accountability of the Sri Lankan government in the final stages of the fight against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The UN estimated that as many as 6,500 civilians were killed in the last months of the conflict, a figure denied by the Sri Lankan government.