Photographs have emerged which raise fresh questions about the conduct of Sri Lanka's armed forces during the final stages of the operation against Tamil rebels and have led to claims the 12-year-old son of the militants' leader may have been executed.
A series of photographs taken a few hours apart and on the same camera show Balachandran Prabhakaran, son of Villupillai Prabhakaran, head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. One shows the boy sitting in a bunker, alive and unharmed, apparently in the custody of Sri Lankan troops. Another, a few hours later, shows the boy's body lying on the ground, his chest pierced by bullets.
The images were taken in May 2009 at the end of the Sri Lankan Government's operation to crush the LTTE, which had fought a decades-long insurgency against the state that led to the deaths of perhaps 70,000 people.
The authorities said Prabhakaran's son was killed in crossfire, as troops moved in to take the LTTE's last stronghold near Mullaitivu in the northeast.
But the images, contained in a new documentary, No Fire Zone, which will be screened at the Geneva Human Rights Film Festival during the UN Human Rights Council meeting in March, suggest the boy was captured alive and killed later.
A forensic pathologist who examined the images for the film-makers said the boy was shot five times in the chest and burns around the wound suggest he was shot at close range.
"The new photographs are enormously important evidentially because they appear to rule out any suggestion that Balachandran was killed in crossfire or during a battle. They show he was held, and even given a snack, before being taken and executed in cold blood," claimed the film's director, Callum Macrae.
"It is difficult to imagine the psychology of an army in which the calculated execution of a child can be allowed with apparent impunity."
The 12-year-old's father, Prabhakaran, was killed along with most of the senior leadership of the LTTE as Sri Lanka's army advanced on the rebels' position. There were reports that several LTTE officials were killed as they tried to surrender. The authorities have always denied shooting anyone who was trying to surrender.
A team appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon found up to 40,000 civilians may have been killed. The team said there were credible allegations both sides committed war crimes.Independent