Human Rights Watch Report on Sri Lanka Government complicity in child abductions: unfounded and baseless
There is neither complicity nor willful blindness on the part of the Sri Lankan Government towards the alleged forcible recruitment of children by the Karuna group which is a breakaway group of the LTTE. The Government of Sri Lanka is sincerely committed to achieve peace through a negotiated settlement. The Government Security forces have no manpower problems unlike the LTTE whose numbers are steadily decreasing. Therefore there is absolutely no rationale for child recruitment as a matter of Government policy.
The findings of Allan Rock relied upon heavily by Human Rights Watch are unfounded and baseless. Statements implicating either the Government or the Government Security forces in child recruitment activities remain unsubstantiated. The inquiry procedure adopted by Allan Rock falls far short of accepted norms and standards pertaining to conduct of such inquiries or investigations. There are inherent weaknesses in his analysis. Much of his allegations are based on hearsay. Witnesses remain suspect.
Allan Rock's Visit to Sri Lanka - inherent weaknesses in investigations
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary - General, in his only visit to Sri Lanka last November, 2006, spent five days of his ten day visit to Sri Lanka, in Ampara, Batticaloa, Kilinochchi and Jaffna, and during which time conclusions were drawn that cast a slur on the Government security forces, deviating from the long standing record of child recruitment by the LTTE. Not more than 25 people, some of whose families live in uncleared areas controlled by the LTTE, which operates in a culture of intimidation and violence, were interviewed.
Report overlooks LTTE violations
The Special Representative obtained a bird's eye view of the ground situation and then proceeded to write a Report that would by implication hold the Government of Sri Lanka to share the blame for alleged child recruitment along with the LTTE and Karuna faction. In extending the blame for child abduction and recruitment to two other parties i.e. the Govt. and Karuna, the Report deflects attention from the LTTE which has recruited thousands of children during the past two decades. UNICEF figures indicate that the LTTE has recruited 5956 children since 2002. They continue to do so despite assurances given to Allan Rock himself that all children will be released from their ranks.
The Report focuses on Karuna's recruitment activities which he allegedly began since 2004. The UNICEF data base indicates that 208 children have been recruited by them. Karuna before he broke away from the LTTE was the LTTE Commander in the East. The Report fails to give due emphasis to the degree of violations committed by the LTTE in recruiting children for over two decades. This failure demonstrates the Report's lack of proportion in confronting the issue of child abduction and recruitment, and displays a bias in the reporting.
No direct reference to Govt. of Sri Lanka
In the Report of Allan Rock he referred to "Certain elements of the Government Security Forces were sometimes participating in the abductions and forced recruitment of children in the eastern Batticaloa district while supporting the LTTE Karuna faction.'
There is no direct reference in the Report to the Government of Sri Lanka as engaging in child recruitment. However the Report of the Human Rights Watch calls on the Tamil Tigers, the Karuna group and the Sri Lankan Government to stop the recruitment of children. The appeal to the Government of Sri Lanka in this context is a glaring misinterpretation.
The Government has not authorized any segment of the State Security forces to be involved in child abduction and conscription. In the Eastern Province the ground terrain is such that the lines separating the LTTE terrorist outfit from the Karuna faction and Government camps, are blurred. It is also possible to err in attributing to others the crimes of the LTTE which has a notorious record on child recruitment for purpose of waging war and other acts of violence.
Sri Lanka - a party to 16 international conventions on human rights
Sri Lanka is a party to 16 international conventions on human rights. It is also a party to the Optional Protocol to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. Sri Lanka was elected as a member of the recently established Human Rights Council, which functions from Geneva. The Govt. remains solidly committed to eliminating this appalling practice.
Government's Humanitarian effort in Vakarai
The Government takes its Human Rights obligations seriously. For example, the Government has taken adequate measures incurring considerable cost and effort to ensure the availability of the essential humanitarian needs to IDPs who have fled LTTE captivity. Last week the entry of the Government security forces into Vakarai resulted in thousands of civilians fleeing into Government held welfare camps away from forced captivity of the LTTE. An estimated 34,300 civilians are now in Govt. maintained welfare camps in the Batticaloa District. They are being provided with adequate food, clothing, medicine and shelter. (Previously the number of IDPs was grossly exaggerated by INGOs.)
Government's programme for rehabilitating children who surrender
Efforts are underway to develop an appropriate institutional framework to house 'child surrendees'. The scheme for rehabilitation of such children has been gazeted by the Ministry of Justice which will draw on technical support from the relevant organisations such as the National Child Protection Authority. Family re unification is being undertaken as part of recovery and re- integration. Emphasis will also be made to provide vocational training. Alternative arrangements have to be developed for some children who do not want to return due to the risk of re recruitment and reprisal.
Probe into allegations
Notwithstanding the inherent weaknesses in the inquiry procedure and approach adopted by the Special Representative, the Government of Sri Lanka has decided to engage an independent and impartial process to investigate the allegations made. This process will be conducted to determine the facts.
Allegations related to the abduction of children by the Karuna faction in the East are being taken seriously by the Government which will make every effort to ascertain the veracity of such allegations.