Govt. asked to probe involvement of forces
UN Special Representative Allan Rock has called for targeted sanctions against the LTTE and the Karuna faction and requested the government to hold an impartial inquiry into allegations of government troop complicity in underage recruitment.
He made these observations in a report submitted to the UN Security Council Working Committee on Children in Armed Conflict in New York on February 9. The thrust of the Rock speech dealt with continuous child-recruitment charges against the Tigers and the Karuna group. Rock repeated allegations of government troop complicity with the latter, but did not furnish any named witnesses.
Rock said that if the Tigers and the Karuna group failed to stop recruitment, sanctions like travel bans, asset freezes and arms embargo’s should be considered. He requested the government to “immediately commence a thorough and impartial investigation into allegations of complicity by Government security forces in the abduction of children by the Karuna faction”.
“Since 2001 up to January 31, 2007, a total of 6,006 children have been registered on UNICEF’s underage recruitment database , as having been recruited by LTTE. Of that total, UNICEF’s database shows that 1,710 remain in LTTE custody, of whom 707 are still below the age of 18. UNICEF believes that its figures reflect approximately one-third of total cases of LTTE recruitment,” Rock said.
He added that 93 children had been recruited by the Tigers since his visit in November 06. “It is therefore clear that despite its commitments to release all children within its ranks and to stop the recruitment of all children below 18 years; the LTTE continues to recruit children, including through abduction.”
Rock report said that between October 05 and November 06, the Karuna group had abducted 164 children and 142 still remained with the group. “Since May 2006, the number of abductions has increased sharply. In the space of one week in mid-June 2006 alone, UNICEF received 30 reports alleging that children had been abducted by the Karuna faction,” he said.
Rock assessed that the operational areas of the Karuna group and its activities were evidence that it could not function without the knowledge, if not support of government troops.
“The fact that the Karuna faction has abducted so many children in Government-controlled areas in the eastern districts of Sri Lanka raises the question why the Government has not more effectively protected those children, investigated the complaints made by the children’s families, and secured the release and return of the children from the Karuna faction camps that are located in areas under Government control.
” Based on the facts and circumstances set out in this report, I have concluded that certain elements of the Sri Lankan security forces are complicit in the abduction of children by the Karuna faction, and that at least some elements of the security forces have facilitated and sometimes participated in those abductions,” he said.
The report listed several instances and circumstances that Rock said he relied on to reach his assumption of complicity. However, he did not give any names or concrete incidents with times and locations.
Since Rock went public with allegations of government troop complicity on November 13, the government has tried to debunk the claims arguing that the UN representative had not furnished concrete evidence. It had also criticized methods used by Rock to arrive at his drastic conclusion. Rock said that even President Mahinda Rajapakse had expressed his surprise when informed of his findings but had promised an impartial inquiry upon receipt of evidence from Rock.
Rock visited the country for 10 days as a special advisor to UN Secretary General’s Special Rapporteur for children in armed conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy. The Working Committee does not have any powers to impose sanctions, but can recommend action to the Security Council.
Sri Lanka is likely to figure prominently in next month’s sessions of the UN Human Rights Council where calls for the setting up of an international human rights monitoring mission are likely to be renewed. [theSundayleader.lk]