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Forensic video experts confirm authenticity of Channel 4 Video

 11 June 2011,/ By Janith Aranze
Since the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) viewed Channel 4’s startling documentary Killing Fields, depicting Tamil prisoners being summarily executed by Sri Lankan soldiers, the government refuses to acknowledge the documentary as a credible source.

Jon Snow will present “Killing Fields” on June 14 – pic: Guardian.co.uk

However, an extensive review of the footage carried out by the United Nations (UN) concludes that the video depicts crimes of the highest order.

On November 30, 2010, UK television station, Channel 4, gave the United Nations Special Rapporteur (UNSR), Christof Heyns, video footage which allegedly depicted Sri Lankan soldiers executing Tamil prisoners during the bloody civil war in Sri Lanka. Heyns appointed four independent experts in the field of video pathology and forensics to examine the footage.

What the experts conclude unveil a fascinating picture, which contradicts all government claims of the footage being false. Forensic Pathologist, Daniel Spitz found that footage shown in the video does appear to be authentic. Spitz said, “The footage shown in this video appears authentic, especially with respect to the individuals who are shown being shot in the head and other areas of the body at close range by assailants using high powered assault rifles.”

He went on to explain that body movements, blood evidence and the nature of the wounds shown in the video are a result of gunshot wounds. “The visible wounds, blood evidence and body movements are entirely consistent with what would be expected with gunshot wounds from assault rifles,” he stated. Spitz goes on to say the footage clearly shows the bodies of deceased victims as well as prisoners being tied and blindfolded.

“Several times during the video, the camera pans to the left and back to the right to show many apparently deceased victims, most of whom have blood evidence around their bodies. The other apparent victims are mostly naked, blindfolded and have their hands bound,” Spitz said.

Jeff Spivack, a forensic video analyst, was also asked by Heyns to carry out analysis of the video/audio recordings purportedly depicting executions of Tamils by Sri Lankan armed forces personnel. He found that upon his analysis, there was no evidence of image manipulation.

“Content analysis revealed that there are five different segments within the footage. Within each of these segments, there were no breaks in continuity (particularly during weapon discharge events), no additional video layers, and no evidence of image manipulation,” Spivack explains.

The UNSR invited a special firearms expert to view the footage, in order to clarify if the gunshots seen and heard in the video are truly from a real life firearm. Peter Diaczuk who compiled the report said that he believed the gunshots depicted in the footage do indeed come from a Kalashnikov class rifle. “From personal experience and the videos that I took of an AK-47 class rifle being fired from both hip and shoulder, I am convinced that the minimal recoil seen in the video submitted to me was accurate for an adult male holding and firing a Kalashnikov class firearm,” Diaczuk states in his report.

The final report to be submitted was from forensic video expert, Grant Fredericks. Upon studying the images in segments, he explains that they appear to be unedited. “Each segment is intact and no editing is present between the beginning and end of each individual segment. The images within each segment are contiguous and unedited,” he says.

Fredericks goes onto say that through his analysis, he believes the mobile device used to record the images came from a Nokia cell phone, which at the time was the cheapest smart phone available in Sri Lanka.

“My research shows that a branch of Philips (an Indian software developer) produced a device that empowered a Nokia cell phone to produce extended video clips with exactly the format, codec, pixel dimension, and audio stream that is present in the questioned recording,” Fredericks explains.

The government response to the findings was to cite ‘blurred and illegible images’ as reasons why they could not accept the report. The government also took umbrage with the fact that Heyns used the same experts who viewed the 2009 film to view the latest footage. “Sri Lanka also notes that the self-same experts are relied upon by Mr. Heyns including Mr. Fredericks, in evaluating the extended video (2010).

This hardly amounts to an independent evaluation of the extended video but appears to be a general reaffirmation of the conclusions of 2009,” the government statement reads.

However, when Heyns sent his first correspondence to the government, detailing how he intends to conduct his investigations and the experts he will be using, the Sri Lankan government did not voice any objections.

This week The Sunday Leader managed to obtain excerpts from the controversial Channel 4 documentary. Narrated by renowned journalist Jon Snow, it shows images of Sri Lankan army personnel holding guns to the heads of Tamil prisoners, women and children in distress, as well as the dead bodies of victims. In the recording we viewed, Jon Snow describes the footage as ‘some of the most disturbing this network have ever shown.’

Dr. Chatura De Silva, Senior Lecturer of Department of Computer Science and Engineering of University of Moratuwa, was appointed by the government to analyse the new footage Channel 4 has put forward.

When The Sunday Leader contacted De Silva, he told us that we needed permission from his Vice Chancellor, Prof. Malik Ranasinghe before he could talk to us. “As I have been appointed by the government and the issue is a delicate subject, I need permission from the Vice-Chancellor. You will have to produce a written request to the Vice-Chancellor, stating the subject matter you wish to discuss. Once I get permission then I am free to talk to you at anytime,” De Silva told The Sunday Leader.

Upon producing a written request to the Vice-Chancellor, we were told that we would not be able to speak to De Silva and it is best that we wait for a press conference on the matter, which will be held in the near future. “We are holding a press conference sometime next week, it is best if you attend that. I cannot allow you to speak to Dr. De Silva, as it is a delicate issue and I do not want him to be misquoted,” Prof. Ranasinghe explained.

Military spokesman, General Madawala, also did not wish to meet us to discuss the video footage shown in Geneva. “There is no need for us to meet, this is a video that has been shown and our representatives in Geneva have already given our response to the material. There is a procedure, when the session ends in Geneva, then we will be able to give a detailed response,” Madawala said.

Within the UN report compiled by Heyns, previously unseen images are given, depicting bodies lying in various positions on the ground, including one individual whose skull appears to have a large defect, whilst another picture shows deceased bodies scattered along the floor whilst a soldier records from his phone.

More disturbing images are shown of a partially naked woman. The woman’s hands are behind her back and her underwear is pulled down to her right thigh. It is these new images along with the video footage which the forensic experts working for the UN have scrutinised at length.This Tuesday, June 14, Channel 4 will air the documentary in full. Regardless of UN reports or government experts, the world will be able to form their own opinion of the footage which has caused so much controversy.
courtesy: Sunday Leader


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