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UK urges Sri Lanka war crimes probe

Britain has renewed its calls for Sri Lanka to carry out an investigation into allegations of war crimes, following the broadcast on UK television of video footage apparently showing the summary execution of naked and bound prisoners.

The film, shown on Channel 4, reportedly shows "trophy videos" taken on mobile phones by Sri Lankan soldiers taking part in the military operation in 2009 to crush the Tamil Tiger insurgency and end a 25-year civil war.

The broadcast came as the Home Office prepared to deport some 40 Tamils to the south Asian island state, including five who claim that their safety has been put in danger after UK officials passed papers in their case to the authorities in Colombo.

Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said he was "shocked by the horrific scenes" in the Channel 4 film Sri Lanka's Killing Fields, which he said contained "convincing evidence of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law".

Mr Burt said the UK was ready to join the rest of the international community in pursuing "all options available" to put pressure on the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to take action.

The Channel 4 film was shown to the United Nations Human Rights Council in May. Presenter Jon Snow said it was "one of the most shocking films" the channel has ever produced.

Sri Lanka's civil war ended in 2009, as the Colombo government claimed victory over Tamil Tiger insurgents after a bloody military operation which killed thousands of people and displaced many more. A panel of experts convened by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reported earlier this year that it had found "credible allegations" of war crimes on both sides and said that a civilian death toll of 40,000 or more could not be ruled out.

In a statement, Sri Lanka's High Commission in London said: "The government of Sri Lanka categorically denies the allegations that it has deliberately targeted its own civilians."

The High Commission went on: "The government of Sri Lanka is concerned about the distress the images in the Channel 4 film aired without any guarantee of their authenticity might have caused to the viewers, particularly to those belonging to different communities in Sri Lanka.

"The Channel 4 film has the potential to incite hatred amongst different communities in Sri Lanka, including future generations, and thereby adversely affect the ongoing national reconciliation process. The malicious allegations in the film regarding the conduct of the Sri Lankan army are in striking contrast to the standards maintained by the Sri Lankan army."

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