On Wednesday, the Saudi Arabian government beheaded Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan woman who had worked as a maid in the kingdom, holding her responsible for the death of the four-month-old baby of her employer.
Nafeek—the daughter of an impoverished wood-cutter from a village in Trincomalee, in northern Sri Lanka—was a seventeen-year-old in the second week of her job as a maid in the Saudi town of Dawadmi when the child died in her care on May 22, 2005. She said that she had been bottle-feeding him when he choked. Her employer, Naif Al-Otaibi, accused her of strangling the child after an argument with his wife and took her to a local police station, where she was arrested.
Nafeek was tried in the Dawadmi High Court without legal representation. The main evidence against Nafeek was a “confession” she had signed in the police station. On June 16, 2007, the Dawadmi High Court sentenced her to death. After the news of her conviction spread, Fernando Basil, a Sri Lankan expatriate who runs the Hong Kong-based human-rights group Asian Human Rights Commission, hired a Saudi lawyer named Kateb Al Shammari and appealed Nafeek’s conviction. More:
The short clip dates from the final hours of the bloody 26-year civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the secessionist rebels of the Tamil Tigers, the LTTE.
A 12-year-old boy lies on the ground. He is stripped to the waist and has five neat bullet holes in his chest. His name is Balachandran Prabakaran and he is the son of the LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran. He has been executed in cold blood. Beside him lie the bodies of five men, believed to be his bodyguards. There are strips of cloth on the ground indicating that they were tied and blindfolded before they were shot – further evidence suggesting that the Sri Lankan government forces had a systematic policy of executing many surrendering or captured LTTE fighters and leading figures, even if they were children.
The footage – dating from 18 May 2009 and which seems to have been shot as a grotesque “trophy video” by Sri Lankan forces – will be broadcast for the first time on Wednesday night in a Channel 4 film, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished – a sequel to the controversial investigation broadcast last year which accused both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government of war crimes and crimes against humanity. More:
As Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa toured the UK, Britain’s Channel 4 aired stomach-churning footage of men in uniform alleged to be his soldiers executing naked, unarmed, tied-up and blindfolded men and women said to be members or sympathisers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The pro-LTTE Tamilnet website identified one of the women as Shoba alias Isaippiriya, a journalist. Channel 4 said the video was shot shortly before the final triumph of the Sri Lankan army over the Tigers in May 2009, and is an extended version of another video it aired last year.
The video, apparently shot with a cellphone camera — one of the frames has a soldier holding up a cellphone — shows naked prisoners with their hands tied behind their backs being shot from behind by soldiers with assault rifles. The killings take place in a field littered with naked, bloody corpses, some with their heads blown off. More:
The naked man, his hands bound behind his back, is pushed to the ground. Then a man in military uniform delivers a forceful kick to the back of the prisoner’s head with the heel of his boot. As the prisoner slumps forward, another soldier points his automatic weapon and fires a single shot. The man’s body jolts. “It’s like he jumped,” laughs one of the giggling soldiers.
As gunfire rattles, the camera pans left to reveal a further seven bloodstained bodies, all handcuffed and bound, and – with one exception – similarly naked, strewn on the ground. The camera then pans right again, as another naked man is forced to the ground and shot in the back of the head. This time the body falls backwards.
These scenes, captured on video, allegedly show extra-judicial killings of Tamils by Sri Lankan troops earlier this year in the bitter and bloody endgame of the country’s civil war. As government forces made a decisive thrust into the stronghold of rebel forces to end the decades-long conflict, a Sri Lankan soldier apparently took this footage, which was then smuggled out of the country by activists. It may constitute the first hard evidence for those who believe war crimes were committed in the effort to crush the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The significance of this footage – particularly shocking for the seemingly casual way in which the killings were carried out – is even greater given the way that journalists and independent observers were prevented by the government from reaching the war zone. The UN has estimated that 10,000 civilians were killed in what was, in effect, a war with no outside witnesses. More: