The photograph shows a boy sitting shirtless by a row of sandbags as he glumly eats a snack. The next photo shows him lying face up in the dirt, a series of bullet holes in his chest.
The makers of a documentary on Sri Lanka say the boy was the 12-year-old son of Sri Lankan insurgent leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and that the photos prove he was captured and then executed by the Sri Lankan military. Sri Lanka denies the charge.
The accusation comes as Sri Lanka struggles to fend off a surge of criticism about its conduct in the final days of the war in 2009 and its treatment of government critics and the Tamil minority since then.
A week ago, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay accused the country of failing to investigate reports of atrocities and said government opponents were being killed and abducted. The US has said it will introduce a new resolution on Sri Lanka urging a full account of the end of the war when the UN Human Rights Council meets this week.
The documentary, titled No Fire Zone, is backed by Britain’s Channel 4, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among others, and is to be shown in Geneva, Switzerland, during the sitting of the Human Rights Council. It includes testimony from a UN worker trapped in territory controlled by the Tamil Tiger rebels, who says he narrowly escaped being killed by shelling from government lines, according to excerpts of the film shown on Friday in New Delhi.
The film also showed footage of a Tamil Tiger commander apparently in government custody and then a series of photos that purport to show him dead of an apparent bullet wound to the face, and his body being dragged to a funeral pyre and incinerated. It also accuses Sri Lanka of killing 12-year-old Balachandran Prabhakaran.
Sri Lanka has denied the allegations and says the pictures were fabricated as part of a plot against the government.
“Why did they wait for four years and why did they wait for a Human Rights Council [meeting]?” government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella asked. “There is a target — the agenda is to tarnish the image of the government. We completely reject the claims.”
The director of the film, Callum Macrae, said the timing of the documentary was intended to help inform the debate of the council.
The ethnic Tamil rebels and their leader, Prabhakaran, fought for more than a quarter of a century for an independent state in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. A UN report says that tens of thousands of civilians were killed in the final five months of fighting.
Prabhakaran pioneered the use of suicide bombings, enlisted child soldiers and was feared by the nation’s ethnic Sinhalese majority. He was killed at the end of the war in May 2009 along with his eldest son, Charles Anthony.
The documentary shows a series of photographs it says depict his youngest son, Balachandran. In the first two, he is sitting by the sandbags, in the third he is apparently dead. Metadata on the photos showed the last one was taken with the same camera, two hours after the first two, the filmmakers said.
Sri Lankan military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasuriya said the military did not know the fate of Prabhakaran’s wife, daughter and youngest son, and questioned the identity of the boy pictured.
“How do you know this is Balachandran? Has anyone seen him? Has Mr Callum Macrae seen him?” he asked.
Macrae said the photos were authenticated by experts and the film showed another shot of the boy with Prabhakaran and his wife.