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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Children and Armed Conflict in Sri Lanka:
Politics, Human Rights & the Law

Foreword by tamilnation.org:

"Having in 2002 adopted a double standard in the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child for the age of recruitment by States and Armed Groups,  States have then been concerned to secure the implementation of the double standard.  The UN Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005) and the establishment of the  "Council Working Group" served as mechanisms to advance the political agenda of states concerned to prevent armed resistance movements from recruiting 16 year olds whilst States themselves continue to recruit 16 year olds to their armed forces. States would like to offer 16 year olds in their own schools ‘ a career’ in the armed forces, produce video games  (given free to 16 year olds and freely seen by 12 year olds)  and in this way encourage the child recruitment process and at the same time shout ‘child soldiers’ and 'war crime' where under 18 children, without schools to attend, and in many cases without families to look after them, join a movement resisting oppression and alien rule of their homeland.

Having said that, the  United Nations S/2006/1006 Report on children and armed conflict in Sri Lanka, has signally failed to address the question whether the LTTE is an 'armed group' within the meaning of that expression in the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child 2002 

The political and juridical reality is that the LTTE is not an 'armed group' but a politico military entity enjoying a monopoly of legitimate coercive power within lines of control recognised by a Ceasefire Agreement – which Agreement itself has received international recognition and acceptance. This is a characteristic which the LTTE shares with states. A state enjoys a monopoly of coercive power within its territorial boundaries - and, indeed, that is the defining characteristic of a state. The LTTE administers a defacto state within internationally recognised lines of control. The state is de facto because it has not been recognized by other states but the lines of control are de jure because they have been set out in an internationally recognized ceasefire agreement. Reason suggests that  the LTTE is not an 'armed group' within the meaning of that expression in the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child 2002. Article 4 of the Optional Protocol does not apply to a state but applies only to an 'armed group'. It has no applicability to a defacto state with dejure lines of control. Just as much as Sri Lanka is not an 'armed group', the LTTE too is not an 'armed group' - though each do have armed forces."

15 August 2007 International Educational Development to the Security Council’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict
11 May 2007 Statement by the Chairman of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict on the LTTE
11 May 2007 Statement by the Chairman of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict on the 'Karuna'Group
14 February 2007 LTTE responds to UN report on Children and Armed Conflict

"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."

8 February 2007 Report by Allan Rock Special Adviser to the Special Representative  of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict,
5 February 2007 Statement by UN Special Representative for children and armed conflict
24 January 2007 Human Rights Watch Report  “Complicit in Crime: State Collusion in Abductions and Child Recruitment by the Karuna Group,” [also see http://hrw.org/reports/2007/srilanka0107/ ]
6 February 2007 International Federation of Tamils - Observations on the Report of Under  Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict in Sri Lanka”

“Child recruitment by the LTTE is an issue that has been extensively politicized in Sri Lankan and international debates concerning the consequences of the civil war in Sri Lanka. This process of politicization began after 1996 when the government of Sri Lanka, headed by President Chandrika Kumaratunga, launched an international campaign to ban the LTTE. The Foreign Ministry that spearheaded this international campaign was also the main state agency to carry out the international campaign against the LTTE on the theme of child recruitment.”

20 Dec 2006 Report of  UN Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Sri Lanka S/2006/1006, together with comments by tamilnation.org
12 December 06 LTTE attack on school is a grave violation of rights of children
7 December 06 Karuna commits to work with the UN to prevent recruitment and use of children
13 November 06 Statement by Allan Rock, Special Advisor to the United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict on Sri Lanka,
9 November 06 UN Condemns indiscriminate use of force
1 December 2006 Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union  on the situation of children affected by armed conflict in Sri Lanka
25 October 2006  Tamil Eelam  Child Protection Act
10 August 2006 Children and armed conflict in the Northeast of Sri Lanka - Report by the Child Protection Authority, LTTE Peace Secretariat - Executive Summary - Press Release
29 July 2006

Child Soldiers - Discussion in Tamil National Forum re IFT letter to UNICEF

18 July 2006 Kasturi Ranga Iyengar Family owned Owned Frontline on LTTE vs UNICEF

Comment by tamilnation.org "Many years ago, Karen Parker, an illustrious US attorney remarked at a Conference in Canberra, Australia -

"One of the first lessons we learn at Law School is the following: If you have the law on your side, argue the law; if you have the facts on your side, argue the facts; if you have neither the law nor the facts on your side, pound the table."

With  neither the facts nor the law on its side, the Kasturi Ranga Iyengar family owned  Frontline has taken to pounding the table. Words such as 'legalese' and 'hair splitting' befuddle and do not illuminate. "

17 July 2006 Secretary General, International Federation of Tamils writes Ms. Ann M. Veneman,  Executive Director, UNICEF

"...The political reality is that the LTTE administers a de facto state within the lines of control recognised by the Ceasefire Agreement – which Agreement itself has received international recognition and acceptance. Some persons recruited by the LTTE serve in the administrative services of this de facto state – and these include the judiciary and court, school of law, police stations, police academy, medical and technical colleges, small industries, a community bank and children's homes. It appears to us that such participation is lawful – and given the conditions prevailing in these areas both humane and warranted... The LTTE is not simply an armed group but it also administers a de facto state. We trust that you will agree that recruitment by the LTTE does not necessarily mean recruitment as a ‘child soldier’. Again you may be persuaded that it is important to consider whether the recruits had any family to care for them and what steps that may have been taken in the context of the ground reality – and also whether, in any case, such recruits have been actually involved in the sporadic military operations that have taken place. .. In our view, the issue of so-called child soldiers in the LTTE ranks is being used by many not out of genuine concern for Tamil youth but for political purposes -- especially to support the government of Sri Lanka’s unrelenting anti-Tamil campaigning both at home and around the world. "

19 July 2006 Child Soldiers - Discussion in Tamil National Forum

"On the question of child soldiers, the matter that may have to be considered is whether the law itself has changed on the matter. The Optional Protocol which banned armed groups (but not States) from recruiting those under 18 came into force on 12 February 2002. The Ceasefire Agreement between the LTTE and Sri Lanka, with internationally recognised demarcated lines of control, was signed 10 days later on 22 February 2002. "

3 July 2006 Child Rights Convention, Optional Protocol, Child Soldiers and the LTTE - LTTE Peace Secretariat
"Understanding and applying the Child Rights standards in the Northeast under the LTTE de-facto government has become a confused affair due to several inherent contradictions surrounding the issue. Three major contradictions surrounding the issue are explained below. The following two important facts about the United Nations child rights instruments are unknown to many people energetically working on the issue of child solders.

1. The United Nations Convention of Rights of Child (CRC) was adopted in 1989. In Article 38, it specifies 15 as the minimum age for recruitment into a State’s armed forces and calls on the States to, “take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities”.

2. The Optional Protocol to CRC about Children in Armed Conflict was declared in 2001. It did not compulsorily raise this age of 15 as the minimum recruitment age for a State’s armed forces. It, however, did declare the minimum age of recruitment into “armed groups” as 18.

Unfortunately, the entire discourse on child soldiers is based on these inconsistent Articles in the CRC and its Optional Protocol. When these are applied to the youths between the ages of 15-18 who join the LTTE, the contradictions multiply further..."

28 June 2006 Grow Up, UNICEF: Playing political football with child soldiers -  J.T. Janani, Tamil Guardian

 "The ‘Convention on the Rights of the Child’ is not a universal standard that is to be extended to the Tamils; it is merely a stick to beat them with when convenient... Amid reports that Tamil children in Sri Lanka Army-controlled areas were being abducted or openly being seized by unidentified gunmen, the Liberation Tigers were repeatedly blamed. Not once did UNICEF acknowledge that anti-LTTE paramilitary groups operating in government controlled areas were responsible.

One would not normally expect a United Nations agency tasked with the protection of the interests of children to willingly turn a blind eye to the issue of child soldiers, particularly where the armed forces of a member government are allegedly involved.

But UNICEF said absolutely nothing on the subject of the Karuna Group’s use of child soliders until June 2006, over one year later. In the intervening period, as it had done in the past, the agency continued to issue press releases blaming the LTTE, refusing to acknowledge the movement’s efforts to investigate and address complaints against it. "

1 July 2006 UNICEF and child soldiers: List of Errors  - LTTE Peace Secretariat

"Children affected by war in the Northeast cry out for help by joining the LTTE. By crying for help, these children are forcing us to deal with their situation. UNICEF has been operating in the Northeast for several decades, and their presence here and their work are well known to the local population. Therefore, one must reflect on the reasons why these children are not going to UNICEF for help and turn instead to the LTTE for refuge. This in spite of the fact that UNICEF has the largest child protection team operating in this island compared to their missions elsewhere in the world. One obvious explanation is that UNICEF does not take on resource intensive responsibilities like that of caring for children at risk. LTTE on the other hand has extensive child welfare programs in the Northeast excelling any available in the rest of the island..."

28 June 2006 UNICEF meets LTTE Child Protection Authority
27 June 2006 UN Special Representative for Children Affected by Armed Conflict announces a high level visit to Sri Lanka
26 June 2006 46 under-age youth released by LTTE
22 June 2006 UNICEF condemns abduction and recruitment of Sri Lankan children by the Karuna group
12 March 2006

UNICEF and Underage Recruitment, Jayantha Gnanakone

"I am aware the US government targets children at 14 and 15 into paramilitary services to join the marines and other armed services units, known as the ROTC, with summer training of 4-8 weeks at Camp Pendleton. CA. There the kids receive different kinds of basic military training and, above all, receive thousands of dollars in cash for coming for training. They are constantly brainwashed about the benefits of joining the armed forces on a permanent basis and also promised tens of thousands of dollars in benefits for their college education, etc... To have two separate sets of rules, one for states which practice state terrorism, where they can recruit at 15 and above, and another for liberation organizations fighting a civil war for 3 decades against the government of GoSL and India with their meager resources and private funding, is nothing but an act of Hypocrisy, Chicanery and Dishonesty. "

29 May 2005 UNICEF says underage recruitment "very low"

Saying UNICEF had seen a "very low level" of underage recruitment by the Liberation Tigers in recent months, the organisation’s outgoing top official in Sri Lanka, Ted Chaiban, Sunday welcomed the development and urged the continuation of "this positive trend." Mr. Chaiban met Sunday LTTE's Head of Political Division, Mr. S. P. Thamilchelvan, his deputy, Mr. S. Thangan and the Director General of the Peace Secretariat, Mr. S. Pulidevan at LTTE's Peace Secretariat in Kilinochchi and discussed the improvement of the lives of people, particularly children, in Sri Lanka's former warzones. "In the last two months it has been the lowest level of recruitment since we started tracking the figures in 2002... and there must be a continuation of that trend," said Mr. Chaiban, whose term of service in Sri Lanka is concluding shortly, said.

1 April 2005 Tamil children orphaned by Sri Lanka’s war and tsunami - and maligned by UNICEF! - Editorial, Oru Paper

"When do we see soldiers in action? During war of course. Even a child knows that. But in Sri Lanka there are grown-up people seeing child soldiers everywhere although there has been no war for more than three years. Is it an optical illusion or some kind of mental disorder? How does one differentiate a child from a child soldier ? How does one differentiate a child from an adult? It all depends either on the fair-mindedness or the inbuilt prejudices of the onlooker. UNICEF, an organisation that has been long playing anti-LTTE politics in Sri Lanka had according to a report counted 3516 cases of child soldiers since the war stopped in February 2002. One does not know how they did the counting. Obviously by using a telescope and a calculator. A drunken man soaked in liquor can sometimes see a pink elephant. But other mortals, however hard they try can never see a pink elephant. To the UNICEF man in Colombo, to Kadirgamar, to the columnists of the Island newspaper, neither of whom had ever set eyes on the suffering orphan Tamil children in the Vanni taken care by the LTTE and TRO, every child there must look like a child soldier. Have they ever shown one ounce of concern for the little children who lost their father or their mother or lost both by indiscriminate bombing from the air or shelling from land?.. Denials and explanations are not going to change the mind-set of these detractors. The only way to shut them up is to get about five hundred children of the ages of three and four, dress them up in the uniforms of Tamil Tigers, and parade them in web sites and newspapers with the bold caption – LTTE’s child soldiers. Send copies of those photographs to the UNICEF office in Colombo and to the Island newspaper requesting publication"

5 March 2005 UNICEF has Erred - S.P. Thamilchelvan, Political Wing, LTTE
"The question of child soldiers continues to vex strained relations between the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers. That the matter has been raised against the Tigers by the UN and other rights organizations is considered by Colombo as a feather in its foreign policy cap.

"The Government of Sri Lanka is more interested in cynically exploiting the child soldiers issue for its black propaganda war against us than in finding a political solution to the conflict", said Mr. S. P . Thamilchelvan in an interview with the TamilNet this week. He said there were serious errors in the UNICEF report on child recruitment by the LTTE. "

14 January 2005 LTTE denies UNICEF ‘child recruitment’ charge

"The grandmother of two children alleged by UNICEF to have been recruited and released by the Liberation Tigers rejected the accusation Friday, saying the youngsters were about to be taken into care by a orphanage as their mother was abroad and their father had abandoned the family and she (grandmother) was unable to look after them after being displaced by the Asian tsunami."

1 November  2004 Human Rights Watch: Sri Lanka Living in Fear- Child Soldiers and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka
21 April 2004 LTTE criticizes UNICEF over recent statements

"Mr. S.P. Thamilchelvan, the political head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, has expressed disappointment with the UNICEF in a letter on Monday to the resident representative of the organization in Sri Lanka, Mr. Ted Chaiban, over the UNICEF's ‘vocal’ criticism of the LTTE on the issue of child soldiers, arguing that the UNICEF, while being vocal on the issue, has failed in its obligations under an Action Plan agreed upon by both parties in addressing the community needs and to support the released underaged cadres.

“The basis on which the LTTE signed the agreement with UNICEF was the recognition that the problem of underage children was linked to wider social issues including the devastation of social fabric and displacement resulting in the destruction of family units. Children of the North-East have endured experiences due to war ranging from seeing death, disappearance and injury of family members,” Mr. Thamilchelvan said in his letter to Mr. Chaiban.

The LTTE political head told Mr. Chaiban that his organization’s commitment not to engage anyone under the age of 18 in matters military remained unchanged, and that the LTTE is seriously engaged in the process of initiating work programs for the welfare of children.

As per the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the UNICEF and LTTE, there are ten sub-projects under the Children Affected by War (CAW) project. The LTTE said that the majority of these sub-projects have not been implemented by the UNICEF to an acceptable level to address existing community needs or even to support the released children.

The LTTE trusted that UNICEF would address the greater problems affecting the children of the North-East and the under aged children who have been released from LTTE in an effective and vigorous manner according to the Action Plan, said Mr. Thamilchelvan. “ Unfortunately, what has resulted in the last six months has been a disproportionate emphasis on the release of the children from LTTE, at the expense of follow-up and attention to issues supporting their reintegration into the community.”

16 April 2004 UNICEF confirms death of two child soldiers in LTTE fighting
16 April 2004 'Don't re-recruit released underage LTTE cadres' -UNICEF
13 April 2004 Close to 150 child soldiers released by the LTTE
13 April 2004 LTTE hands over 269 cadres to their parents in Batticaloa
21 March 2004 LTTE hands over underage youths to UNICEF
12 February 2004 Tigers hand over underage members to UNICEF
31 January 2004 Ten youths from UNICEF list sent to Kilinochchi Transit Centre
24 January 2004 UNICEF underage list under review - LTTE
17 October 2003 Thirteen children released by LTTE in Batticaloa
3 October 2003 UNICEF opens transit centre for child soldiers freed by LTTE,
2 October 2003 Killinochchi children transit center opens
13 September 2003 LTTE hands over underage youths to parents in Akkaraipattu
28 June 2003 LTTE hands over seven underage youths to their parents
11 April 2003 Sri Lanka and LTTE agree on action plan for children
31 March 2003 UNICEF-LTTE agree to work to uplift war affected children
27 January 2003 LTTE hands over underage youths to parents through UNICEF
31 January 2003 Analysis: Sri Lanka's child soldiers - BBC
11 September 2002 85 child recruits released to their families by the Liberation Tigers
24 June 2002 LTTE adopts UN policy on recruitment

"The Liberation Tigers have set the minimum age for recruitment to their organisation at 18, the head of the movement's political section, Mr.S.P.Thamilchelvan, said last week. The LTTE made the policy decision following the adoption by the United Nations of a treaty on recruitment earlier this year, LTTE sources told TamilNet Sunday. Mr. Thamilchelvan gave an assurance that the LTTE only recruits youth aged 18 or above to a delegation from Amnesty International which he met in Vanni on June 19, the sources said."

12 June 2002 UNICEF officials negotiate with Sri Lankan rebels to release recruits
September 2000 Unicef Sri Lanka Donor Update
1998 Children's Rights - Sri Lanka Case Study, Susan A Wolfson


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