Queen's lunch hit by Sri Lanka torture protest


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The Independent Online

Further evidence has emerged of the brutal treatment of Tamils by Sri Lankan soldiers during the closing stages of the country's civil war. Video footage obtained by i shows soldiers gloating over a pile of more than 100 Tamil corpses, including dozens of women who have been deliberately stripped of their clothes.

The latest footage – smuggled out of Sri Lanka, by a man who used to work at an internet café frequented by soldiers, and passed to i – emerged as thousands of angry Tamil demonstrators protested outside the Commonwealth's headquarters in London yesterday at a lunch hosted by the Queen and attended by Sri Lanka's President, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Angry chants could be heard as the Queen entered Marlborough House off Pall Mall and organisers cancelled a speech by Mr Rajapaksa following security concerns. Tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and Tamil insurgents were killed in the final stages of Sri Lanka's 30-year civil war, which ended in 2009 with the destruction of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam separatist group.

Human rights groups and the UN have produced evidence that both sides committed war crimes. But there has been particular criticism of Mr Rajapaksa's government, which has refused to hold an independent inquiry into Sri Lankan army atrocities.

The videos obtained by i reveal how – even after death – Tamils were often treated with contempt by Sinhalese soldiers. When informed of the new videos yesterday, President Mahinda's spokesman, Bandula Jayasekara, told i: "This is a continuation of a famous fairy tale. These videos are an attempt to discredit the government of Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka's forces. These guys are masters of propaganda."

Vasuki Muruhathas, a London-based solicitor who obtained the video footage from a client, said she believed it was genuine. i has seen 32 videos and 26 photos that appear to have been taken on the same phone. Most show a pile of corpses, while seven photos show what appear to be captured Tamil Tiger fighters, some of them children, handcuffed inside a bus.