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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 82

UN and LTTE Child Soldiers

Dr.P.A.Samaraweera - Australia

The UN in a statement this week has asked the government to ensure that children released by armed groups have access to care, protection and re-integration programmes. It had also stressed that the government should, "... ensure the identification, release and rehabilitation.... in accordance with international standards...'

In fact, these child combatants were never released by armed groups (LTTE). They were rescued by the government and the armed forces from the clutches of the LTTE. Some ran away from the LTTE and surrendered to the government forces while others got killed by the LTTE in the process.

They had been forcibly recruited by the LTTE for military activities against the armed forces. A news item on 8th July in an English daily reported that the President, in an interview with N. Ram Editor of The Hindu, had told, that the Police found a 19 year old had borne 7 children to escape conscription by the LTTE! This shows how far the innocent young had gone to avoid brutal conscription by the LTTE.

Recruitment of child soldiers by the LTTE commenced in the 1980's. Subsequently, when the LTTE confronted the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) and when their cadres were rapidly diminishing, recruitment of young boys and girls as combatants increased in leaps and bounds.

In the Eelam War IV which concluded, it had been reported that about 22,000 tiger cadres had died, most of whom were child soldiers. After the war, during an interview with the army personnel, the valiant soldiers commented that, "...As they confronted the LTTE combatants and saw that most of them were young boys and girls around 12 and 13, their heart sank when it came to firing as some had children and others had brothers and sisters of that age. But it was a case of life and death as even a child could be dangerous with a loaded gun..."

The Geneva convention of 1949 states that conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into the armed forces or groups or use them to participate actively in hostilities is a war crime.

With regard to the use of children as combatants by the LTTE the Sri Lankan government had from the inception complained to the UN about this illegal conscription. International Organisations, UNICEF, Human Rights Council etc., were aware that the LTTE was forcibly conscripting young children and had written Reports warning the LTTE about their underground activity. But the LTTE continued to field child soldiers and did everything to cover up the existence of their shameful "Baby Brigade".

Recruitment of child combatants had now become common among terrorists and armed groups in countries like Thailand, Phillippines, Afghanistan and also in African countries like Sudan, Sierra Leone, Chad etc. Therefore, as a deterrent to the conscription of child soldiers, the UN and its allied Agencies should pursue and charge the remaining LTTE leaders for conscripting children as combatants, in the same way the Allied Forces initiated war crimes at Nuremberg Trials in 1945-46.

It is nothing but right to bring to justice those who conscripted the 'Baby Brigade' and who have now taken refuge in some countries and leading a life of luxury with LTTE funds.

- Asian Tribune -

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