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Sri Lanka: Children in the Conflict

The involvement of Sri Lankan children in the LTTE calls for immediate action towards deterring future recruitment as well as helping children already affected by warfare. Following the 2004 tsunami and the civil war, the children of Sri Lanka have become increasingly prone to participation in the military wing of the Tamil Tigers.

The tsunami resulted in the displacement of more than 550,000 persons while the nineteen year civil war in Sri Lanka resulted in the displacement of 800,000 people, one third of who were children. Orphaned children often become targets of the Tamil Tigers organization, which is located in the area where the tsunami hit the country the hardest; thus those orphaned by the tsunami are particularly at risk for abduction and recruitment by the LTTE.

In 2004, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) formulated an action plan in accordance with numerous organizations such as the Ministry of Social Welfare, Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), Save the Children in Sri Lanka, and the United Nations to address the situation and improve the lives of Sri Lankan children affected by war. This plan called for the LTTE to cease all recruitment of children and release all child soldiers. This plan instructed the Sri Lankan government to take action to rehabilitate the basic infrastructure within the country. Additionally, this plan called for the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to accelerate and improve their implementation of programs related to children affected by war and child rights in this region. of October 31, 2004, UNICEF documented 3,516 new cases of child recruitment since the cease-fire signed in February of 2002. Only 1,206 children were formally released by the Tigers, according to UNICEF. As of November 2004, UNICEF files hold documentation of 1,395 child soldiers within the Tamil Tigers. According to UNICEF these numbers most likely remain low due to the fact that: Some families may be unaware of the possibility of registering, may be afraid to do so, or may have difficulty reaching a UNICEF office…this suggests that the total number of children remaining with the LTTE may be as much as four times higher than the 1,395 figure suggests.

2 comments

  • Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights in Sri Lanka (SPUR)
    Reg No. A 003 07777 M
    PO Box 4066
    Mulgrave VIC 3170
    Australia
    Email : Public Officer : Spokesperson : Webmaster
    Ph: +61 3 9548 0276 Fax: +61 3 9548 0276

    Saturday, 07 May 2005

    Your Excellency Olara Otunu
    Under-Secretary -General
    Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict
    United Nations
    New York

    Your Excellency

    Child soldiers and the Tamil Tiger Terrorists

    We write to thank you for the follow-up action of the Security Council to adopt a new resolution to impose severe penalties on the parties recruiting child soldiers.

    As you are aware, one of the main organizations violating the rights of the children is the LTTE also known as Tamil Tiger Terrorists operating in Sri Lanka. In spite of studies completed and sanctions proposed by UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, Save the Children, Amnesty International etc., the LTTE continues to recruit children as soldiers.

    If the rights of the children are considered to be important as the UN Resolutions specify, it is absolutely necessary to have a mechanism to enforce the declared objectives of the UN. In the case of the Tamil Tigers they have a history of using child soldiers as cannon fodder in the clashes with the Sri Lankan Defence Forces. The LTTE has also gone on a recruitment drive and an abduction binge to beef up their cadres depleted by the tsunami. UNICEF has stated that more than 1600 children have been abducted or conscripted to join the LTTE from tsunami relief camps. Since signing of the Ceasefire Agreement with the Sri Lankan Government in 2002, the LTTE has recruited nearly 3,500 children according to authoritative human rights organizations. There are stories in the latest Save the Children report of molestation of both young boys and girls who are in LTTE captivity.

    Besides, Your Excellency will recall that the LTTE has openly rebuffed your genuine efforts to halt this war crime. The agreement signed between your Excellency and the LTTE is in tatters. This wilful rejection of the UN agreement by the LTTE questions thewill of the UN to implement its own agreements and commitment to protect the helpless Tamil children. The failure of the UN to pursue its declared objectives with a firm commitment to protect the child victims of the LTTE is apparent to anyone who witnesses the LTTE leadership travelling abroad with impunity and scant regard for guardians of human rights in the UN and other allied agencies.

    Your Excellency will agree that since agreements, resolutions and warnings issued by the UN have failed, the time has come for the UN to act decisively to send a clear signal to the LTTE and other predators of children. The LTTE should not be allowed to get away with war crimes. It is obvious that only the implementation of the severe penalties available to the UN can halt these crimes against children.

    One of the arguments touted to prevent implementation of firm action against the LTTE is that it will hinder the “peace process”. This is the line touted by Norway, which is seen increasingly as a partisan player trying to cover up the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the self proclaimed one-man ruler of Tamils, Prabakaran.

    It is quite apparent that giving all the concessions to the LTTE so far has not put a halt to forcible child recruitment, or made it a willing partner in the peace process. In April 2003, without reason, it walked out of the internationally guaranteed Oslo Accord and now, Anton Balasingham has openly declared that they are not bound by it.

    We believe that the LTTE can be made to observe the basic human rights only if the international community and the UN exerts maximum pressure. Since all avenues explored by the UN have failed so far we urge Your Excellency to take all required steps without any further delay to STOP RECRUITMENT OF CHILDREN AS SOLDIERS and take effective and meaningful steps to bring to book these criminals perpetrating war crimes.

    We also thank you for refusing recently to meet a LTTE delegation on this subject as their intention was purely to gain much needed publicity for their political gains.

    Yours faithfully,

    Dr D Jayasuriya
    President
    Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights in Sri Lanka (SPUR)
    Reg No. A 003 07777 M
    PO Box 4066
    Mulgrave VIC 3170
    Australia

    URL of the Media Release is http://www.spur.asn.au/SPUR_20050507_Media_Release_Olara_Ottunu.htm
    Source (s) Internet

  • Sri Lanka Children in the Conflict is by far the best post I have read in resent times. However, I still think that this author should continue to post more on this subject.

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