LTTE News Anchor Captured Alive and Executed: UN Investigation
The visuals of twenty-seven-year-old Isaipriya, sitting half-naked in a swamp in northern Sri Lanka, after having surrendered before four Sinhalese soldiers had shocked the world. A former television presenter with separatist rebel organisation, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) news station, photographs obtained and released by Britain’s Channel 4 show, had shown the 27-year-old LTTE member wrapped in a white sheet, lying in a ditch with her arms tied behind her. In another video, she was seen dead, the channel had said that she had been sexually assaulted.
Five years after journalist and documentary film maker Callum Macrae first brought out these images, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s report on human rights violations and war crimes during the 2009 Sri Lankan civil war has concluded that Isaipriya was caught alive and then killed her with gunshots to the head execution-style. The report says that Sri Lankan forces had initially mistaken her for being the daughter of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE’s head.
The report says:
Shobana Dharmaraja alias Isaipriya
The well-known LTTE news presenter, Isaipriya, appears in several photographic and video images that suggests she was taken into custody and killed by the Sri Lankan security forces. Witnesses saw her on several occasions during the week before 18 May, and last saw her alive late morning on 18 May, when SLA soldiers pulled her out of the lagoon alone and unarmed and took her into custody in a muddy area of the Nandi Kadal Lagoon shore north of Vadduvakal bridge.
OISL has viewed photos and video footage consistent with witness accounts showing Isaipriya pulled out of the Nandi Kadal lagoon alive but mistaken by the security forces for being the daughter of Prabhakaran. In the video sequence Isaipriya is wearing khaki /green trousers and a flesh coloured bra. The soldiers in this footage are handing her a white cloth to cover her upper body and generally behave in a respectful manner. In other photographic images, Isaipriya is seen with the white cloth wrapped around her sitting or lying next to another young woman. In stark contrast to these images, another video as well as a number of photographs show Isaipriya’s dead body among a group of male bodies, many naked, blindfolded with hands tied behind their backs.
In this video, Isaipriya is half-naked with her trousers pulled down exposing her upper thighs, genital area and lower abdomen. Her midriff is covered with the now bloodied white cloth and her bra appears to have been deliberately moved to expose her breasts. Her hands appear to be tied behind her back. A cloth similar to the blindfold worn by other victims appears to have been pulled away exposing her entire face.
Independent forensic examination of the photographs and video footage indicate that Isaipriya was shot in the head. In the images her body is positioned such that only the exit wound on the left side of her in temporal area is visible. Skull pieces and protruding brain are visible. Based on the video footage and photographs along with witness testimonies, OISL has reasonable grounds to believe that security forces captured Isaipriya alive and then killed her with gunshots to the head execution-style. Further, based on the images of Isaipriya’s dead body and those of many other women, OISL believes that Isaipriya’s dead body was desecrated.