The separatist Tamil Tiger rebels and a breakaway group known as the Tamil Makkal Viduthali Pulikal (TMVP)/Karuna faction continue to abduct children to fight as soldiers in the bloody conflict in Sri Lanka, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a new report made public today.
Covering the period from 1 November 2006 to 14 September 2007, the 20-page report noted that “both parties have failed to cease the abduction, recruitment and use of children.”
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the TMVP/Karuna faction – which split from the Tamil Tigers and now supports Government troops – have also failed to “release all children associated with their forces and engage in transparent procedures for release and verification,” which includes allowing the UN Task Force on monitoring and reporting full access to military locations under their control, Mr. Ban wrote.
Between 1 November 2006 and 31 August 2007, some 262 children were recruited by the LTTE, including 32 who were re-recruited, according to reports received by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). This represents a significant decrease as compared to the previous 12-month period, when 756 children were reportedly recruited, including 97 who were re-recruited.
Despite some advances in dialogue between UNICEF and the LTTE’s so-called Child Protection Authority which deals with child recruitment issues, there have been several hurdles, such as the LTTE’s insistence that only children born after 1 January 1990 – who are 17 years old – would be released. This is in disregard of both international and national legal standards which state that 18 years is the minimum age of recruitment.
Meanwhile, the number of children recruited by the TMVP/Karuna faction rose to 207 between 1 November 2006 and 31 August 2007 from 193 in the previous-12 month period, UNICEF said.
“Despite initial engagement on an action plan, the TMVP/Karuna faction demonstrated bad faith on a number of occasions, including leading the United Nations to a falsified training camp in Batticaloa and re-recruiting children within days of releasing them in the presence of UNICEF,” the report stated.
“As of September, 2007, the TMVP/Karuna faction has not demonstrated a full commitment to stop recruiting children and has not released all children within their ranks,” it added.
Mr. Ban applauded the Sri Lankan Government’s creation in April 2007 of a special task force on children and armed conflict, and called on authorities to take measures to prevent armed groups’ abduction and recruitment of children as soldiers and to secure the release of current child soldiers.
He urged all sides to abide by the recommendations of his previous report, in which he appealed for peace and for the cessation of the recruitment of children as soldiers.
The prior report also asked all parties to “recognize and commit to maintaining the neutrality and security of schools, hospitals and religious institutions as ‘safe zones’ in conflict-affected areas.”