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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2521

Bring LTTE Leaders to International Criminal Court for War Crimes against Children

Los Angeles, CA, 29 July, ( Rallying under the banner of the local expatriate activist group, ‘Sri Lankan Patriots,’ saffron-robed Buddhist monks, saree-clad women, and men carrying children’s coffins will be among the hundreds of demonstrators expected to rally on August 5, from 10 am to 12 noon outside the Federal Building, 11000 Wilshire Blvd., in Westwood, CA to demand that UNICEF take action to bring the leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face charges for war crimes against children.

The rally organizers in a press release revealed that, according to the US State Department, there is credible evidence that the LTTE is holding about 5000 children in combat camps. In 2004 alone the LTTE recruited 1000 children.

Rally organizers alleged “Children abducted from schools and homes are held in LTTE camps where they undergo training in guerilla combat and prepare for deadly missions such as suicide bombings. The escalation of tension between the LTTE and government security forces in recent months has led to an intensified drive by the Tigers to recruit children, which in turn is forcing hundreds of families to flee their homes.”

“The Sri Lankan government, under immense international pressure, signed a peace treaty in 2002 with the LTTE which severely restricts its ability to investigate criminal activities in areas deemed to be under the militants’ control. “

Rallying under the banner of the local expatriate activist group ‘Sri Lankan Patriots,’ protesters will launch a worldwide petition calling on UNICEF Director Ann M. Veneman to follow the United Nations’ own resolutions and to invoke international laws such as the Rome Statute to bring the Tiger leaders before the International Criminal Court for conscripting children as combatants. An online petition has already been launched.

Spokesperson for the group Hassina Leelarathna said that as the world’s leading children’s organization UNICEF has failed in its attempts for over a decade to stop the recruitment of children in the island’s north and east from the predominant Tamil militant group the LTTE. The UN agency is also accused of compromising the welfare of the children by cooperating with the LTTE -- a view shared by the leading rights group Human Rights Watch.

“Every year UNICEF officials make a trip to Sri Lanka and extract a promise from the rebels that they will free the children. A token few are released, only to be re-abducted. A few weeks ago, even as UNICEF was making its annual plea, the Tigers stepped up their recruitment drive, taking dozens of children away from their parents.”

Leelarathna, who is the editor of the bi-weekly newspaper ‘Sri Lanka Express’, said the arrest by the ICC in March of this year of Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo for war crimes, including the conscription and enlisting of children under 15, is a turning point. This is the first such arrest by the ICC and it opens the door for the arrest and prosecution of leaders of all militant groups who use children to fight wars.

“There is overwhelming evidence that the LTTE has conscripted children, some as young as ten, including tsunami victims and we are demanding that UNICEF take the steps needed to bring the LTTE before the International Court, so similar punitive action may be taken against this group that has openly flouted international norms for the past twenty years,” she said.

The Rome Statute, under which the ICC was established, requires that a state government or the United Nations Security Council refer the ‘situation’ to the ICC prosecutor for a criminal investigation to commence.

Buddhist monk Rev. Apareke Punyasiri of the Maithri Buddhist Meditation Center in Sun Valley, CA said the August 5 rally is being organized in the face of the LTTE’s intensified recruitment drive in recent weeks. “We cannot ignore the plight of hundreds of Sri Lankan children. It is urgent that we act now,” he said.

He said copies of the petition will also be circulated among US leaders to create awareness of the problem.

“The petition drive and protests will continue for as long as we have children being used as combatants and suicide bombers,” he added.

- Asian Tribune -

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