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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 110

Tamil Tiger and Karuna groups ignore UN call to end recruitment of child soldiers

Colombo, 15 July, (Asiantribune.com): The UN Security Council’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict has put the LTTE on notice if it does not put an end to recruitment of child soldiers.

“Strongly condemning the continuous recruitment and use of child soldiers and all other violations and abuses committed against children by LTTE” the UN Security Council has warned that “further steps may be taken” if the LTTE “does not respond positively to the (UN) message in the coming months.

Referring to the fact that the Security Council has received a report of the Secretary General, dated 20 December 2006, on children and armed conflict in Sri Lanka (S/2006/1006), which records “a continuous, ongoing and even increasing pattern of abduction, recruitment and use of children by LTTE, despite previous commitments made under the action plan for children affected by war in March 2003” the UN has urged the LTTE leadership “to immediately end the practice of abduction, recruitment and use of children under the age of 18 and to separate them from its ranks, in conformity with its obligations under the action plan.”

The UN has also urged the Karuna Group led by V. Muralitharan, alias Karuna, to stop recruiting children. But neither party has implemented the promises given to UN representatives or has shown a willingness to aide by international law. JoAnna Van Gerpen, head of UNICEF's Sri Lanka mission, told the Asian Tribune, that the Karuna group has outpaced the recruitment of child soldiers by the Tamil Tigers.

“They continue to actively recruit. At this point the pace of recruitment by the Karuna faction is actually higher than the pace of recruitment by the LTTE. In the month of June, while 03 abductions were reported by the LTTE, but Karuna group has outpaced it by 20 cases of known recruitment,” said JoAnna Van Gerpen.

A Reuters report too confirmed this. It said: “The Karuna faction, which broke away from the mainstream Tigers in 2004 and whose armed fighters aid groups say operate freely in government-held territory in the restive eastern district of Batticaloa, is now outpacing its former comrades.”

It is alleged that the Karuna operates from the East in the Government controlled areas and he is discrediting the Sri Lanka Government by continuously engaged in the forceful recruitment of children to fight his battles against his opponents.

It is reliably learnt that V.Muralitharan, the leader of the Karuna Group, has given tacit approval to Jeeventhiran, Thileepan and Inniyabarathi, three of his commanders to recruit underage children and train them.

According to UNICEF record, there were 226 unaccounted recruited underage children with Karuna Group at the end of June and 1567 with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

JoAnna Van Gerpen told the Asian Tribune that UNICEF is continuing its dialogue with the LTTE on a regular basis. But she said that the Karuna group has not fulfilled the commitments they made to stop child recruitment. She further said that they’ve also obstructed UNICEF access to camps to monitor the situation.
“So at this point we do not feel they are operating in good faith,” she said.

According to a Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission report quoted by Reuter 34 abductions took place in the east between 11-17 June, 2007.

Rights groups and earlier a UN envoy have accused elements of the military of helping to abduct children as soldiers for Karuna -- a claim the government has dismissed and said it is probing.

In the meantime, the UN Security Council’s working group on Children and Armed Conflict, According to document S/AC.51/2007/9 of 13 June 2007 which states "The Working Group has agreed to recommend that the President of the Security Council address a letter to the Secretary-General, requesting that the Secretary-general report to the Council on children and armed conflict in Sri Lanka by 31 October 2007, paying particular attention to the follow-up by the parties to the messages addressed to them by the Chairman of the Working Group".

Here are the public statements by the Chairman on Behalf of the Working G group.

The working Group agreed to address messages to parties to the conflict through public statements by its Chairman on behalf of the Working Group:

To the leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

(a) Calling the attention of the leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to the fact that the Security Council has received a report of the Secretary General, dated 20 December 2006, on children and armed conflict in Sri Lanka (S/2006/1006), in which he described, inter alia, a continuous, ongoing and even increasing pattern of abduction, recruitment and use of children by LTTE, despite previous commitments made under the action plan for children affected by war in March 2003;

(b) Strongly Condemning the continuous recruitment and use of child soldiers and all other violations and abuses committed against children by LTTE;

(c) Urging theadership of LTTE:

(i) To immediately end the practice of abduction, recruitment and use of children under the age of 18 and to separate them from its ranks, in conformity with its obligations under the action plan;

(ii) To immediately engage in transparent procedures with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) for the release and verification of the demobilization of all children;

(iii) To immediately cease the transfer of demobilized children to the Educational Skills Development Centre and instead release them directly to their families, as stipulated in the action plan;

(iv) To cooperate with UNICEF by sharing information and providing UNICEF representatives with unimpeded access to LTTE military camps with a view to putting an end to violations and abuses perpetrated against children;

(v) To recognize and commit to maintain the neutrality and security of schools, hospitals and religious institutions as safe zones in conflict-affected areas;

(vi) To immediately provide humanitarian actors with unimpeded and safe access to all areas under its control;

(d) Emphasizing that:

(i) If in the coming months reporting by the Secretary-General on the follow-up by LTTE to the message indicates significant progress, the Working Group will look for continued progress in the framework of the next regular report on children and armed conflict in Sri Lanka;

(ii) If, however, LTTE does not respond positively to the message in the coming months or does not carry out its commitments or abide by its obligations in accordance with applicable international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolution 1612 (2005), further steps may be taken;

To the leadership of the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal and its military wing, the Karuna faction

(e) Strongly condemning the recent recruitment and use of child soldiers and all other violations and abuses committed against by the Karuna faction;

(f) Urging the Karuna faction

(i) To immediately end the practice of abduction, use and recruitment of children under the age of 18, consistent with the commitment it made to the Special Representative and her Special Adviser;

(ii) To engage with UNICEF, as a matter of priority, to release all children among its ranks, ensure a transparent verification process, including access to Karuna faction military camps, devise age-verification procedures with UNICEF and prevent further unlawful recruitment;

(iii) To recognize and commit to maintain the neutrality and security of schools, hospitals and religious institutions as safe zones in conflict-affected areas;

(iv) To immediately provide humanitarian actors with unimpeded and safe access to all areas under its control.

Recomendation to the Security Council

The Working Group agreed to recommend that the President of the Security Council address a letter to eh Secretary-General requesting that the Secretary General report to the Council on children and armed conflict in Sri Lanka by 31 October 2007, paying particular attention to the follow-up by the parties to the messages addressed to them by the Chairman of the Working Group.

Letters from the Chairman of the Working Group

The Working Group agreed to address letters from its Chairman:
To the Government of Sri Lanka

(a) Welcoming:

(i) The early decision of the Government of Sri Lanka to volunteer for the implementation of a monitoring and reporting mechanism on children and armed conflict in Sri Lanka its subsequent and ongoing cooperation with the Working Group;

(ii) The recent participation of the Government of Sri Lanka in the conference entitled "Free Children from War", held in Paris in February 2007;

(iii) The commitment of the Government of Sri Lanka to enforce a policy of zero tolerance for the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict and, in that context, its commitment to investigate the allegations made against elements of its security forces;

(b) Urging the Government of Sri Lanka

(i) To give full support to the monitoring and reporting mechanism established pursuant to resolution 1612 (2005), including by considering a favorable response to proposals by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to include its staff in monitoring and reporting task force;

(ii) To put into practice as a matter of priority its commitment to lead a thorough and impartial investigation into allegations that certain elements of the Sri Lankan security forces are involved in aiding the unlawful recruitment and abduction of children by the Karuna faction, while ensuring that during this process complaints and witnesses are protected from reprisal by any party;

(iii) To require that the police and Government security forces thoroughly investigate all complaints of child abduction with a view to putting an end to impunity;

(iv) To secure the release of all children abducted by the Karuna faction and ensure their return to their families;

(v) To recognize and commit to maintain the neutrality and security of schools, hospitals and religious institutions as safe zone in conflict-affected areas;

(vi) To immediately provide humanitarian actors with unimpeded and safe access to all areas under its control;

(vii) To ensure access, under the new legal framework it has established, to protection, rehabilitation and reintegration services for all releases children, paying particular attention to the specific needs of girls;

(viii) To consider becoming a party to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime;

To the World Bank and donors

(c) Requesting the support of the World Bank and donors for the work of UNICEF and other relevant agencies to strengthen the capacity of the monitoring and reporting mechanism, including by providing the funding necessary to increase the capacity of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and the National Child Protection Authority;

To the United Nations Children's Fund

(d) Commending the efforts of UNICEF to establish dialogue with all relevant parties and requesting that it pursue its efforts with LTTE and the Karuna faction with a view to obtaining the early implementation of action plans for the release of all children in their ranks or retain in camps or centers where they are separated from their families.

- Asian Tribune -

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