Child Soldiers of LTTE Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka

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It is immoral that LTTE Tamil Tiger Terrorists want innocent Tamil children to fight the war for them. There is simply no excuse, no acceptable argument for arming innocent Tamil children

Tamil Children killed by Prabhakaran with the help of funds from expatriate Tamils

Cadres loyal to Prabhakaran look on as the mother of a child captured by them weeps near the Kadiraveli Vidyalaya. (pic. by Sriyantha Walpola) (Details in Sunday Island).

UNICEF calls for Sri Lanka’s rebels to end recruitment of child soldiers - Confirming the deaths of two child soldiers last week during fighting between two factions of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called on the rebel group to free its remaining child soldiers and not to re-recruit those it has already released.  In a statement released Friday, UNICEF said the victims, both girls, were aged 17 and 18. They were killed during fighting in Sri Lanka’s east between the LTTE and a breakaway group. UNICEF’s Representative in Sri Lanka, Ted Chaiban, said the recruitment and use of child soldiers cannot be tolerated. “Children should never be recruited or accepted voluntarily into military organizations. Even now in a time of relative peace in Sri Lanka, children have been sent to the front lines and died there,” he said. UNICEF has been working to facilitate the release of hundreds of child soldiers from the ranks of the LTTE. Last Tuesday the LTTE formally released 209 children, who were assisted in returning to their families by UNICEF. Another 50 returned of their own accord (Full report in UN News Centre)

UNICEF Action Plan for child soldiers - The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) with several other Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have worked out welfare programs for LTTE child soldiers who have returned home in the East.  Hundreds of child soldiers, were released by the Eastern region LTTE command on the Sinhala and Tamil New Year Day, April 13, in Vakarai and the UNICEF is now in the process of compiling data.  Geoff Keele, UNICEF Communication Officer told the 'Sunday Observer' that the 'Catch-up Education' program, a mobile health clinic, a counselling program and vocational training programs are on to reintegrate these children to the society. "The education of some child soldiers have been completely disrupted and for years they grew up in an environment, where their rights to live as children were denied", he said (Full report in Sunday Observer).

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers free another 40 child soldiers - Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger guerrillas freed another 40 child soldiers on Saturday, a day after the United Nations agency for children said two underage combatants died in rebel factional fighting.  Thirty-one girls and nine boys -- all aged between 12 and 17 -- were demobilised by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the northeastern district of Trincomalee and handed to UNICEF, the agency said.  "We are just taking custody of the children, interviewing them to assess their needs," UNICEF spokesman Geoffrey Keele said. UNICEF said on Friday at least two child soldiers were killed in Tamil Tiger factional fighting and demanded an immediate release of all under-age combatants in Sri Lanka.  The LTTE freed over 250 child soldiers under the control of a renegade leader in the island's east who went underground on Monday.  The defeated renegade, V Muralitharan, better known as Karuna, demobilised the 5,000 to 6,000 fighters under him when he was crushed by the LTTE's northern-based leadership.  Hospital sources had said at least seven child soldiers were wounded in the factional fighting and that young boys and girls were also among the dead (Full report in Hindustan Times).

Forty more child soldiers handed over to parents - The LTTE released 40 child soldiers in its custody to the UNICEF at Sampur on Saturday.  Trincomalee district political leader of the LTTE S.Tilak handed over the child soldiers aged between 12 and 17 to the Trincomalee district head of the UNICEF Gabriella Elroy.  There were 31 female and nine male child soldiers. Elroy said UNICEF has taken upon itself the responsibility of looking after the interests of the released child soldiers. While thanking the LTTE for the gesture, she called upon the organisation to release any remaining child soldiers from its custody. Tilak said a majority of the children joined the LTTE mainly due to poverty. A few enlisted after having runaway from homes following quarrels with parents. He said the UNICEF had not taken steps to rehabilitate the child soldiers of the last batch and there is a possibility that they may come back and join the LTTE (full report in Daily News).

NCPA calls for non-involvement of children in N-E conflict - The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) calls for non-involvement of children in the conflict in the North East. Children and youth have faced the brunt of the trauma in this long-standing war. It is time that the public, irrespective of communal groups calls to an end these gross violations of human/child rights, an NCPA spokesman said.  He said that the Convention on the Rights of the Children (CRC) and the ILO Convention 182 condemn the deploying of child soldiers. The CRC had mentioned the prevention of children from being conscripted in 1989.  The exploitation of child labour is yet another form of abuse, and was very recently introduced as one of the worst forms of child labour under ILO Convention 182.  Disallowing access to neutral information and dialogue with the outside world is itself a fundamental violation of the rights of the child (Article 17 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child-CRC). (Full report in Daily News).

LTTE child soldiers - 14-year-old Sumithra and 15-year-old Thangeshwari - walk along a road at Kathirawel after being released by a rival LTTE faction. Rebels this week released more than 100 child soldiers in their biggest single release of underage combatants, according to the UNICEF. AFP (Full report in Daily Mirror)

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers free another 40 child soldiers - Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger guerrillas freed another 40 child soldiers on Saturday, a day after the United Nations agency for children said two underage combatants died in rebel factional fighting. Thirty-one girls and nine boys -- all aged between 12 and 17 -- were demobilised by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the northeastern district of Trincomalee and handed to UNICEF, the agency said. "We are just taking custody of the children, interviewing them to assess their needs," UNICEF spokesman Geoffrey Keele said. UNICEF said on Friday at least two child soldiers were killed in Tamil Tiger factional fighting and demanded an immediate release of all under-age combatants in Sri Lanka. The LTTE freed over 250 child soldiers under the control of a renegade leader in the island's east who went underground on Monday. The defeated renegade, V Muralitharan, better known as Karuna, demobilised the 5,000 to 6,000 fighters under him when he was crushed by the LTTE's northern-based leadership. Hospital sources had said at least seven child soldiers were wounded in the factional fighting and that young boys and girls were also among the dead (Full report in Hindustan Times).

Will they release the Northern children too? - The political division of the LTTE in the East released hundreds of children to the UNICEF and their parents on the 13th of April 2004. Many were surprised at this move as the LTTE has been repeatedly saying that there were no child soldiers in their movement. Observers say this explains the connection between the public statements issued by the LTTE and the actual situation.  Many wonder if the children with the LTTE in the North will be lucky enough to be released too? (full report in EPDP).

LTTE says no more under-18 cadres in Batti-Ampara - The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam said on Wednesday that they have released all under-18 cadres in the Batticaloa-Amparai districts to their parents. This includes all those the UNICEF had reported in its list as under-aged recruits.  Under a previous agreement between the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) and the UNICEF, titled “Addressing needs of children affected by war,” each child would receive follow-up visits by social workers to ensure that their immediate needs were addressed within their home communities.  This was designed to prevent the children from wanting to rejoin the LTTE and bring normalcy to their lives.  The LTTE has said that if in the future any underaged recruits were found among its cadres, they would be handed over to their parents via the UNICEF with the assistance of the TRO (Full report in Daily Mirror).

More Than 1000 Child Soldiers in LTTE Ranks- UNICEF United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) says that it is possible that more than 1000 child soldiers are still in the ranks of the LTTE and the Agency is trying to get a pledge from the LTTE not to recruit child soldiers in the future. UNICEF spokesman Geoffrey Keele said the final count down of child soldiers, which UNICEF facilitated the release in the east, could go up to 183. Keele said he was awaiting confirmation from UNICEFs Batticaloa office for further information.  UNICEF said that all the children released yesterday were from the eastern region and the agency has called on the LTTE to begin a process of releasing equal numbers of underage recruits from the northern cadres as well. When questioned if UNICEF could ensure that the children released will not be recruited again by the LTTE, Keele said "Our social workers are working closely with the families to ensure they were leading normal lives. We follow up with them on a regular basis." (Full report in Lanka Academics).

Free child soldiers, demands UN - At least two child soldiers were killed in Tamil Tiger factional fighting, the UN agency for children said yesterday, demanding an immediate release of all under-age combatants in Sri Lanka.  Unicef said an 18-year-old who was recruited when she was 16 and a 17-year-old died in the offensive the rebels launched last week to flush out a breakaway leader.  “Children should never be recruited or accepted voluntarily into military organisations,” Unicef’s Sri Lanka chief Ted Chaiban said.  “Even in a time of relative peace, children have been sent to the frontlines and have died there.” “This cannot be tolerated. All people must take a stand on this issue and protect children from this type of terrible tragedy.”  He said the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) this week freed over 250 child soldiers who had been under the renegade commander’s control in the island’s east, but said the LTTE must free all under-age combatants.  “Unicef calls on the LTTE to free the remaining child soldiers in the organisation, including those in the north, and to make a commitment to not re-recruit any of the children released in the past week,” Chaiban said.  n A political party representing Tamil Tiger rebels slammed President Chandrika Kumaratunga yesterday for not taking steps to restart peace talks after her alliance won parliamentary elections earlier this month.  “The president has failed to take any meaningful step to resume peace talks, although the Tamil people have given a clear mandate,” the Tamil National Alliance said in a statement. Kumaratunga’s political alliance emerged as the biggest winner in the April 2 polls, defeating former premier Ranil Wickremesinghe (Full report in Bahrain Tribune).

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger Rebels Free 220 Child Soldiers in East - Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam freed about 220 child soldiers belonging to a splinter group as it stamped out resistance from the breakaway faction in the east of the country. The under-age soldiers belonging to the breakaway group, as young as 10 years and with an average age of 15, have returned to their families, Geoff Keele of the United Nations Children's Fund, or Unicef, said in a phone interview in Colombo, the South Asian island-nation's capital.  ``A large number of former child soldiers are going back to their families and it will take us weeks to work out how many,'' Keele said. They were told to go home ``soon after the factional fighting started.''  The children had been under the command of Colonel Karuna, 37, the leader of the faction that broke away last month from the main grouping led by Velupillai Prabhakaran, 49. More child fighters are expected to return home with Karuna, whose real name is Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan, having fled his eastern stronghold (Full report in Bloomberg).

Hundreds of child soldiers returning home - UNICEF facilitated the release of nearly 150 former child soldiers by the LTTE on April 13 in Vakkarai in Sri Lanka's eastern region. While UNICEF is still working to confirm the total number of children being released, so far the agency has met and registered over 100 children. "UNICEF welcomes the release of these children and will provide support to them and their families to make reintegrating back into their communities as smooth as possible", said Mr. Ted Chaiban, UNICEF's Representative in Sri Lanka. "For too long these children have had to live as soldiers and have been denied the rights of other children to learn, play and live in the security of a family environment," he added. UNICEF says that potentially hundreds of other child soldiers from the eastern region have also given up arms and are returning home of their own accord. UNICEF asks that all parents who have children return directly to them contact UNICEF so that the agency can assess the condition of the children and provide follow up assistance with their reintegration (Full report in Daily News).

Press Release by UNICEF - UNICEF confirms death of two child soldiers in LTTE fighting -  UNICEF calls on the LTTE to ensure released child soldiers are not re-recruited - COLOMBO, 16 April 2004 – UNICEF has confirmed the tragic deaths of two child soldiers in the LTTE fighting that took place in Sri Lanka’s east last week. The children were 17 and 18 year old girls. The 18 year old had been in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) since August 2001 when she was just 16. Both girls were in Kanuna’s cadre at the time of their death, but while any child soldiers remain in the LTTE they are also at risk. The families of the two girls are grieving the senseless loss of their young daughters. In the wake of this tragedy, UNICEF calls on the LTTE to free the remaining child soldiers in the organization, including those in the north, and to make a commitment to not re-recruit any of the children released in the past week. “I would like to send our condolences to the families of the children killed in the recent fighting,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF’s Representative in Sri Lanka. “Children should never be recruited or accepted voluntarily into military organizations. Even now in a time of relative peace in Sri Lanka, children have been sent to the front lines and have died there.”  (Full Press Release in UNICEF).

Call to increased action for Sri Lanka's war affected children - A call for more commitment to make lasting improvements in the lives of Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable children has been made in a report that details progress by partners to the Action Plan for Children Affected by War. The report was compiled by UNICEF.  It gives an overview on the situation of children affected by war, and details what was done in 2003 to help address urgent needs. The report follows the Oslo, Berlin and Hakone peace talks where the parties asked UNICEF to develop an Action Plan for Children Affected by War to monitor, report on and address child rights violations in the North East. Partners implementing the Action Plan include the Ministry of Social Welfare, Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), ILO, Save the Children in Sri Lanka, UNDP, UNHCR, and UNICEF. Despite the two year old ceasefire there are still many children suffering the effects of twenty years of conflict. The Action Plan is a combined agency effort that links Government, LTTE, donors, Non Governmental Organisations and UN agencies in a united approach to address the health, education, and protection needs of children affected by war. It is estimated that 50,000 children in the affected region are out of school, around 140,000 have been displaced from their homes while landmines have killed 20 and maimed 17 children in 2003 alone. In the North East there is a serious deficit of education and health staff. More than 5,800 additional Tamil medium and 200 Sinhala medium teachers are needed (Full report in UNICEF).

UNICEF slams Tigers over continuing child recruitment - The UNICEF yesterday said that the LTTE still had 1,300 children in its ranks. In a progress report on a $ 14 million Action Plan drawn up last year by the government and the LTTE to assist the war affected children, the UN agency said they were particularly concerned about the use of children as soldiers. Partners implementing the Action Plan include the Ministry of Social Welfare, Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), ILO, Save the Children in Sri Lanka. UNDP, UNHCR, and UNICEF. New UNICEF figures in the report state that during 2003, 709 children were recruited by the LTTE. In the same period, a total of 202 children were released, either to the recently established transit centre at Kilinochchi or directly back to their families. >From reports submitted by families, UNICEF knows of at least 1,301 children are still in the LTTE. In a three month period during August, September and October, recruitment increased with reports of 304 children taken into the LTTE. In the last two months of the year, reported recruitment fell with 17 reported cases in November and 14 in December (Full report in Island).

LTTE recruited 709 children in 2003 - UNICEF - The latest UNICEF report on children affected by war in Sri Lanka states that 709 children have been recruited by the LTTE during 2003 alone adding that they had information that at least 1,301 children were still in the LTTE. The UNICEF has compiled this report on the progress by the Partners to the Action Plan for Children affected by War, a press release issued by the UNICEF stated. Following the Oslo, Berlin and Hakone peace talks the UNICEF as asked to develop an Action Plan for Children Affected by War to monitor, report on and address child rights violations in the North East. The UNICEF stresses that if the Action Plan was to be a success and to address the rights of children affected by war the LTTE must cease all recruitment of children and also release all child soldiers. The UNICEF in its latest report states that during 2003 a total of 202 children were released either to the recently established transit centre at Kilinochchi or directly back to their families by the LTTE. During August, September and October recruitment of children to the LTTE increased with reports of 304 instances of child recruitment within this three months. "In the last two months of the year, reported recruitment fell with 17 reported cases in November and 14 in December," the release added (full report in Daily News).

UNICEF seeks commitment from LTTE on child soldiers - The UNICEF will try to ensure that the LTTE commits its pledge to avoid child recruitment, regardless of the progress of the peace process and release all child soldiers, its local mission chief Ted Chaiban said yesterday. He was speaking at the releasing of their annual report at the UNICEF office in Colombo. The UNICEF Action Plan, aims at addressing the needs of 50,000 children affected by war in the North and East. It is undertaken in a bid "to create good living conditions for war-affected children in the North and East of Sri Lanka." Mr. Chaiban said progress in peace talks would result in a better human and child rights situation. Commenting on pinning the LTTE to its commitment to end child recruitment, the UNICEF head of mission said, "For the first time there is a mechanism which the Tigers had signed and to which they could be made to commit. Specific commitment by the LTTE is required and cessation of recruitment needs to take place this year." (Full report in Daily Mirror).

UNICEF slams Tigers on child soldiers

The United Nations Children's Fund, (UNICEF), today (13 July 2000) accused the LTTE of breaking a commitment not to recruit children for combat in its war against the Sri Lankan state.

The UNICEF representative in Sri Lanka, Mr. Colin Glennie, told journalists that the situation for children in areas held by the LTTE had worsened since the promise given by the group's representatives in 1998 to the visiting U.N. special envoy on children and armed conflict, Mr. Olara Otunnu.

The LTTE's political representative, Mr. Tamil Chelvam, had told Mr. Otunnu then that the group would not recruit those below 17 and would desist from using those below 18 for armed combat.

Mr. Glennie said UNICEF was aware the LTTE had not kept its word. ``Some parents have reported to us that their children have been recruited,'' he said. 

Despite the separatist group's denials, UNICEF raised the issue whenever it met LTTE representatives. ``We don't have numbers, but we know it is a serious problem,'' Mr. Glennie said at a press conference to launch the annual UNICEF publication Progress of Nations.

Earlier this week, a Tamil rights group, the University Teachers' For Human Rights of Jaffna(UTHR), said the LTTE had stepped up its campaign to draw in children to swell its numbers after its recent victory at Elephant Pass. 

The report said that the LTTE was recruiting children as young as 10 years and that age was no consideration as long as the child was able to carry a gun.

Mr. Glennie said despite the promise to the U.N., the LTTE had not yet made the same commitment to the people living in areas controlled by it. ``Until they announce to their own people that they have measures to prevent children below 17 years being recruited, we cannot take their promises seriously.''

The UTHR report said helpless parents no more protested when their children were taken away because of the terror tactics and intimidation employed by the LTTE.

It said children were at high risk in combat due to the increased use of artillery and mortars. After the battle for Elephant Pass, the bodies of several children were sent home in sealed coffins as they were badly mangled. More than 100 child soldiers were
seriously wounded in that battle, it said.

The University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) (UTHR) says..........

The University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) (UTHR) said in a report today that the forcible recruitment had increased since the rebels launched an offensive to re-capture the northern Jaffna peninsula in April 2000. The LTTE is forcing children to join their ranks to fight Government troops and many of the youngsters are being
killed in action, a Human Rights Group said.

The Rights Group, made up mostly of Tamils who used to teach at Jaffna University, said a fresh child-recruitment drive began on May 5, soon after the rebels captured the key `Elephant Pass' military base on an isthmus connecting Jaffna with the rest of the country.

The Rights Group, considered treacherous and unpatriotic by the LTTE, said many of the young soldiers being drafted into rebel ranks were girls, some as young as 13-years-old.

The UTHR in an 18-page report said nine out of 15 children who were recruited from a school in the rebel-held town of Mallavi had died, underscoring the high mortality rate among child warriors.

"Unlike in the earlier phases of fighting where small arms played a dominant role, most of the young being killed on the LTTE side are now brought home in sealed coffins as they had been mangled by shelling," the UTHR said.

It said more than 1,000 rebel fighters were hospitalised with serious injuries following the LTTE's bitter offensive that eventually saw the fall of the military's main garrison of Elephant pass on April 22, 2000.

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Australian Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers

The Australian Coalition was formed in December 1998 as a national partner to the International Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. As of July 1999 the Australian Coalition partners are; Amnesty International, Defence for Children International Australia, Medical Association for the Prevention of War, Mercy Refugee Services, PLAN International, Quaker Service Australia, Save the Children Fund Australia, UNICEF Australia, United Nations Youth Association Australia, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and World Vision Australia. Red Cross Australia has observer status with the Coalition.

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