Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), in a report issued by the
Peace Secretariat in Kilinochchi, Wednesday stated that the LTTE
which runs a civil administration with "extensive civil services,"
in which it's members take part, was entitled as a "functioning
defacto-state" to recruit those above the age of 17. The Tigers were
prepared to observe the minimum age of 18 when this practice has
been accepted as an international standard by all the states, the
LTTE statement said. The statement is the LTTE's response to the
report made following the mission of Allan Rock, Special Adviser to
the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and
Armed Conflict on Sri Lanka.
Extracts from the statement follows:
"The key commitments made by LTTE to Allan Rock are, to release
all underage youths within the LTTE ranks and to stop recruiting
underage youths. Although Ambassador Rock urged the LTTE to set
the minimum age at 18, LTTE�s commitment was to observe the
minimum age of 17.
"LTTE has assured the CPA that it stands by this commitment and
the release program will continue with the aim of completing the
process as soon as possible.
"As noted in the Rock report, LTTE takes the position that it is
not covered by Article 4 of the Optional Protocol to the
Convention on the Rights of Child on �Children Affected by Armed
Conflict�, which states, �Armed groups that are distinct from
the armed forces of a State should not, under any circumstances,
recruit or use in hostilities persons under the age of 18
years.� On the other hand, Convention on the Rights of Child
permits the armed forces of the State to recruit those over the
age of 15.
"LTTE provides extensive civil services in many areas of
civilian life such as, health, education, child care,
law-and-order, and environmental protection in which LTTE
members take part. That only in LTTE areas in this island there
are no children or women begging in the street attest to the
extensive social welfare services provided by the LTTE. Many
young persons entering the LTTE ranks are also trained as
doctors, engineers, and in many other professions. LTTE is
therefore no longer an �armed group� but is indeed a
defacto-state. A functioning defacto-state like the LTTE is
entitled to recruit those above the age of 17 but not send them
to the battle front.
"Representatives of the UN have argued that LTTE must adhere to
the minimum age of 18 as it has agreed in previous agreements
made to UN bodies. The most cited agreement where the minimum
age of 18 was agreed to by the LTTE was the Action Plan of 2003.
"Action Plan was one of many agreements reached during the early
ceasefire period as part of the peace process. Other notable
agreements were, a Secretariat for Immediate Humanitarian
Rehabilitation in North East (SIHRNE), Subcommittee on
De-escalation and Normalization (SDN), and Post Tsunami
Operation Management Structure (PTOMS). All of these agreements,
including the Action Plan, have become defunct.
"It is, therefore, not right to hold LTTE to a clause in one
agreement when the other parties conveniently abrogated their
obligations under it and under all other agreements reached at
the same time as part of the peace process.
"LTTE, however, is ready to observe the minimum age of 18 when
this has been accepted as an international standard by all the