Child soldiers recruited by the LTTE

The Report seems to have a strong political angle, and even blames the UN in Colombo for in effect not providing material that would have led to a resolution against Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

If they really wanted to be critical of the UN, they should have dealt with the principal problem which is failure to deal firmly with three areas in which the LTTE got away with criminality

First, the failure to stop child recruitment.  As has been made clear, the then  UNICEF representative in Sri Lanka Joanna van Gerpenin connived at LTTE’s refusal to stop this. She told me in 2007 that the LTTE had finally agreed to release people under 17. When I said that they had promised this five years previously, she said they had had some difficulties, but would not really do it.

Worse, when I pointed out that 17 was too low, she claimed that the LTTE had explained to her that they had provision for this, and that to raise the limit would need a change in their legislation. It is outrageous that UNICEF should have thus connived with criminality. Neil Buhne, the new UN Resident Coordinator, to whom I complained did not take disciplinary action, but instead allowed her to write an apologetic letter.

 

Second, connivance in continuing recruitment. When I upbraided Neil about the stunning silence of the UN on this matter, he said that they had raised it. I challenged him to show me an instance, and he came back to say it had only been in internal documents. It was appalling that no effort was made to stop this brutal practice – though it should be noted that this silence was paralleled by that of NGOs woking in the area. It was only the Norwegian Ambassador, Mr Brattskar, who informed us of the reality after his last visit to Kilinochchi.

I should note that he may have been responsible for the LTTE refusing to participate in talks with the government, because he had insisted against their objections that the question of child soldiers could form part of the agenda. Sadly, before the government of President Rajapaksa took office, it seemed this had been swept under the carpet.

Finally, the UN and the so-called international community kept quiet about the relentless effort of the LTTE to coerce civilians into retreating with it, so that they could use them as human shields. We made several requests, from which I will cite here a letter to the Head of OCHA Zola Dowell on May 5th 2009 –

‘there is no reference (in OCHA documentation) to the root cause of the problems we face, the sudden influxes, the threats to civilians still in the safe zone, the health hazards – namely the refusal of the LTTE to let these people go.

 

I have pointed out repeatedly the failure of the UN to have addressed this problem initially, when it was obvious – even without us pointing it out – that the LTTE was holding on to civilians for precisely this eventuality. It is shocking that even now the UN seems to ignore this in documents such as this, and does not categorically demand that these civilians be released.’

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