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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Sri Lanka Opposes UN Screening of Critical Film

 FRANK JORDANS Associated Press
Sri Lankan diplomats are working to block a British-made documentary about the Asian country’s civil war from being shown on the sidelines of a United Nations human rights meeting this week, arguing that it is part of a concerted campaign by the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels to destabilize the peace.

In a letter obtained Monday by The Associated Press the island nation’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva said the film contained a narrative that was “discredited, uncorroborated and unsubstantiated.”

The letter sent Sunday by Sri Lankan ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha to the head of the U.N. Human Rights Council, warns that the global body could be violating its own rules if the film is screened March 1 in Geneva at a meeting hosted by rights groups.

The 90-minute documentary, titled “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka,” alleges government troops and Tamil Tiber rebels engaged in war crimes during the final stages of the conflict in 2009.

The film shows interviews with eyewitnesses and original footage of alleged atrocities against civilians including summary execution, sexual violence and torture. Its backers include the non-profit Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and Britain’s Channel 4 television, which aired two previous documentaries on the Sri Lanka’s civil war.

“The timing and the venue of this screening clearly demonstrates that it is aimed at influencing the debate in the council on Sri Lanka,” Aryasinha said in the letter, citing the two previous films that were also shown during meetings of the Geneva-based rights body.

He said the film contained “morphed and diabolical” material aimed at undermining the process of reconciliation between Tamils and the nation’s ethnic Sinhalese majority.

The film’s director Callum Macrae acknowledged that the documentary’s release had been timed to coincide with one of the council’s three regular annual meetings, but denied that it distorted the facts.

“We believe that our film contains very important evidence about the terrible events in the last few months of this war and we believe we have a duty to make that evidence available to the diplomats and country missions at the U.N. Human Rights Council who must make important decisions about how to ensure accountability and justice in Sri Lanka,” Macrae said.

Earlier this month the U.N.’s top human rights official faulted Sri Lanka for failing to properly investigate reports of atrocities during the war and said government opponents continue to be killed and abducted.

The United States has said it will introduce a resolution at the meeting urging a full accounting of what happened at the end of the war. A U.N. report says tens of thousands of civilians were killed in the final five months of the fighting


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