On May 7th 1998, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) made a commitment to Olara Ottunu, the Secretary-Generalís Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, that they would not use children below the age of 18 years in combat, nor to recruit children below 17 years into their cadres.
A group of LTTE child soldiers who surrendered in October 1998 claimed that 75% of LTTE fighters are children. During the same period the LTTE stepped up it's recruitment drive of children and at least 150-200 children were added to the ranks.
In october 1999, Mr. Ottunu reminded the LTTE of it's commitment to end the use of child combatants. In early 2000, the UTHR-J (University Teachers' Human Rights- Jaffna) claimed that the LTTE was increasingly turning to school children to replenish its strength.
In a press release on October 11th 2001, Amnesty International reported that in spite of assurances given by the LTTE to end the use of child combatants, it had received complaints of recruitment of children. It said that though the total number of children recruited was difficult to establish, it is estimated to be several hundred. It also mentioned that the LTTE's recruitment policy was that one person from each family has to do "military service"'.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been fighting an insurgency war in Sri Lanka for the past 20 years. Their demand, 'a separate state for the Hindu Tamil minority' in the Buddhist Sinhalese majority country.
In September 2002, the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE entered into peace talks to end the 20 year insurgency war waged by the rebel group.
The LTTE once again promised the human rights groups and the international community that it would not use or recruit children as combatants. Along the same lines, the rebel group highly publicized the release of 165 child soldiers in December last year.
On December 19th 2002, human rights monitors reported that between 18 to 60 children, some as young as 12 were forcibly recruited from various villages by the LTTE. Reports mentioned that most were taken forcibly from their homes while others went "voluntarily" to spare their parents after the LTTE repeatedly threatened them if they did not supply the movement with a child. All the children were loaded into tractor-trailers and taken away.
Between March 2002 to December 2002, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission received 600 complaints from parents about child abductions by the LTTE. The group has confirmed the recruitment of 281 children by the LTTE and is investigating another 400 cases. "These numbers are only the tip of the iceberg" said the group's spokesman, Teitur Torkelsson.
The government's chief negotiator G.L. Peiris when questioned about the government's stance on the use of child combatants by the LTTE said, that it was being referred to "among other matters".
As the Sri Lankan government negotiates a deal with the LTTE in far-away lands, the reality of the LTTE breaking its promises time and again and the government's low priority on discussing the use of child combatants by the LTTE hits hard.
Though the efforts by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe are especially significant to end the 20 year insurgency war, the government's retribution to nearly 4,000 children who are have died or are still with the LTTE is not satisfying. This is a violation of children's rights that certainly deserves more attention than being discussed "among other matters". We appeal to you to urge Sri Lanka's Prime Minister to do justice to all those families who have lost their children and are even now losing their children to the LTTE.
APPEAL LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER RANIL WICKREMESINGHE
Dear Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe,
Subject: Prioritizing Child Combatants in Peace Talks
I am writing to you to express my deep concern over the continuing reports of recruitment of children as combatants by the LTTE. In spite of assurances and commitments given since 1998 to the United Nations and other international human rights organizations, the LTTE has consistently recruited children and thereby gone back on all it's promises.
Considering this reality, it becomes a necessary that your government place a greater priority on the use of child soldiers by the LTTE, during the current peace talks, in order to end this form of exploitation of children in Sri Lanka.
I urge you to make this a priority issue during the peace talks and hold the LTTE responsible for the commitments that it has made to the United Nations and international community. As a signatory of the ILO Convention 182 on Elimination on worst forms of child labour and the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child, it becomes binding on you to end the use of children as combatants within your country and compel the LTTE to stop this inhuman treatment of children.
Posted on 2003-01-15