A senior United Nations official today wrapped up a visit to Sri Lanka aimed at determining first-hand the well-being of children affected by the recent conflict between Government forces and separatist Tamil rebels in the north of the Indian Ocean nation.
The UN Special Envoy for Children and Armed Conflict Patrick Cammaert was particularly concerned about the affect of hostilities on children driven from their homes into makeshift camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) where, until recently, they had been confined for several months.
An estimated 300,000 IDPs were housed in these closed camps in May after a final push by Government forces ended the decades-long civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
In a press conference at the end of his five-day mission to the country, Mr. Cammaert welcomed the increased freedom of movement recently granted to IDPs in the camps, and commended local authorities on the ongoing child protection programmes conducted in partnership with the UN.
The Special Envoy also met with children formerly associated with armed groups and their parents in several rehabilitation centres, and called for the length of their stay in the rehabilitation programmes to be balanced with the time that they were in the ranks of the armed groups.
He said he had been reassured by Sri Lanka’s Attorney General that the children formerly associated with armed groups were considered victims and that they would not be prosecuted.
Mr. Cammaert was in the country – where he met with Government officials, representatives of civil society, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Colombo – on behalf of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy.