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Amnesty International concerned about forced LTTE child soldiers

The human rights watchdog Amnesty International has accused the LTTE of forced recruitment of children as combatants. They have named 13 such children who have been forced to join the LTTE during the last few months.

They are:

Duncy Mary (f), aged 15

Sudharshini Tharmalingam (f), aged 12

Gunasekaram Kananayagam (m), aged 16

Kathiresan Ruban (m), aged 16

Ravindran Sanjiv (m), aged 13

Anantharasa Gunaseelan (m), aged 14

Baba Thambirasa (m), aged 12

Mahendran Kapilan (m), aged 16

Mathuraiveeran Selvarasa (m), aged 15

Thiyagarajah Suthaharan (m), aged 12

Selvaraji Suthahar (m), aged 13

Vellaisamy John (m), aged 13

Selvarasa Vishaharan (m), aged 15

Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of the children named above, who are thought to have been recruited as combatants by the armed political group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Duncy Mary was last seen as she returned from a tuition class near a bus stand in Tannamunai, north of Batticaloa town, eastern Sri Lanka on 11 February. She is a Grade 9 student at St. Joseph's school in Tannamunai, where she has reportedly excelled in sports. She is originally from Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka, but together with her family was displaced from there in 1995.

Kathiresan Ruban, Ravindran Sanjiv and Anantharasa Gunaseelan were reportedly among a group of seven boys who were recruited by the LTTE on 2 January at Chettikulam, Vavuniya district.

Thiyagarajah Suthaharan, Selvaraji Suthahar and Vellaisamy John told their parents on 10 December 2001 that they were going to play at the playground in Sivapuram, Vavuniya district, but they did not return home afterwards.

Amnesty International’s concern about the recruitment of the all the children named above, (apart from Duncy Mary who was recruited very recently) was conveyed in a communication to the LTTE leadership on 7 February. In its communication, Amnesty International gave details, including the date of birth, address and date of alleged recruitment of each of the children. It also expressed concern at reports of the continuing recruitment of children over the last few months, since the declaration of unilateral ceasefire by both the LTTE and the government on 24 December 2001. Both the LTTE and the government are currently negotiating the terms of a permanent cease-fire agreement and preparing for negotiations on a political settlement to the long-standing armed conflict, with the assistance of the government of Norway.

The LTTE’s political adviser and chief negotiator on 6 February, was quoted on the Tamilnet website as stating that the LTTE is recruiting young men and women above seventeen years of age, "to expand the movement’s political and administrative wings" as part of preparations for the political and administrative demands that will arise as the peace progress progresses. He also reportedly stated that the LTTE’s military section was also recruiting volunteers "to ensure the prevailing balance of forces is not altered disadvantageously."

In another statement on 3 February, in response to reports of recruitment of children by the LTTE, Karikalan, the deputy leader of the political section of the LTTE was reported on Tamilnet as stating that "Although no one has complained recently to the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] or Sri Lanka’s human rights commission, that we have forcefully conscripted anybody, it is still our wish to see that we are not maligned further by reports and rumours that our organisation is forcing youth to join".

Amnesty International takes no position on the recruitment of adults into the armed forces of governments or armed political groups. It does however, oppose the recruitment of children as combatants by governments and armed opposition groups alike, regardless of whether they have been conscripted by force or joined on a voluntary basis. It also opposes any form of recruitment, training or deployment of children under the age of 18, including for support roles such as messengers or porters.

The LTTE itself in May 1998 at the time of the visit to Sri Lanka of Olara Otunnu, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Children in Armed Conflict, had made a commitment not to recruit children under 17 years of age and not to deploy them in combat under 18 years.

Further names of some householders are: Kovinthan. Manoharan, Kanthasamy, Perinpam, Subramaniam, Jeevarathinam and Sinnathurai.

The following persons were forcibly removed from their homes in Kiran East, their ages are given in brackets:

1. Miss. Thevaranjini Selvarajah (28)

2. Miss. Kala Kanthasamy (14)

3. Miss. Dharshini Sundaram (12)

4. Miss. Sutha Kanagaratnam (13)

5. Mas. Kanthan Sinnavan (13)

6. Mas. Kanthasamy Suthaharan (14)

7. Mas. Kanthasamy Kanapathipillai (15) of Kinnaiady

A particular reason for the LTTE to be angry with E. Kiran is that it is the home of its senior commander, Karuna. They are annoyed that the people of the village have not set an example by showing eagerness in giving their children to the LTTE.

Priyadharshini from Vellavelly was a pupil schooling in Batticaloa Town. Her family had a tragic history, which had prevented her from visiting her village in the LTTE-controlled area for many years. Her elder brother Pararasan had been a member of the TELO when the LTTE launched a murderous attack on it in 1986. Pararasan escaped owing to the clandestine exertions of another sister. Upon finding this out, the LTTE stabbed her to death. Following the much acclaimed recent cease-fire, Priyadharshini made a journey to Vellavelly, on 19th January 2002, she was abducted by the LTTE for service in the machine her family dreaded.

Another matter of deep concern is just beginning to be talked about. A large number of the LTTE’s child deserters are in hiding, some of whom have made it to the mainland. The others are in the wild close to the villages, with their kith and kin secretly taking food to the innocent fugitives in their own land.

Sources in the village of Pandariaveli spoke of about 16 deserters in the area. The following were abducted by the LTTE for military service from Munaikkadu, but succeeded in escaping:

Mas. Pakiarajah Mithileswaran(16),

Mas. Subramanian (16) and

Mr.Kanagasabai Raguvaran (18).

The LTTE detained their parents as hostages and released them some days later in late January, apparently after recovering their children on 23rd January, about 40 children in uniform were brought to Kokkadichcholai by the LTTE. The parents were allowed to talk to them and give them sweetmeats bought from the local shop.

Child abduction in the environs of Mutur

A similar pattern of child conscription has been in evidence around Mutur in the Trincomalee District. Both in Batticaloa and Trincomalee Districts the LTTE has been putting up its own checkpoints close to those of the security forces. Those going into LTTE controlled villages around Mutur are now required to surrender their identity card to the LTTE, bringing about a high level of surveillance that sits ill with high expectations of peace. The stark reality is of a draconian, militarised regime.

Here too the last few months have seen a high level of child conscription, but more by waylaying them on the streets. The control here is so strong that principals and teachers have been dragooned into giving pep talks to the children urging them to join the LTTE. The following cases, mainly from Senaiyoor and Sambur, during November and December 2001, illustrate the situation in the area. Dozens of children around 13 years old carrying guns can be readily seen in the villages.

Miss. Mythili (15), was caught by the LTTE while returning from school. Her parents who heard about it and rushed to the camp, found that her earrings and books had been taken away. They fought with the LTTE and brought her back home.

The following three were forcibly taken:

1. Mas. Ramu Mathiyan (12), mother Vellai. The father works as a mason and labourer.

2. Mas. Lohithan (11), father a farmer.

3. Mas. Sivan Thangan (16), owned a bullock cart. Was forcibly taken while returning from work in his cart.

More recently, particularly after the cease-fire, nearly everyone has been forced to undergo military training. They have been told that they should be prepared to go to war anytime that they are ordered. The strictness with which this is enforced is illustrated in the case of Ramu (19) of Sambur, who had done his Advanced Levels. He has been forced to undergo training despite having an artificial leg. None of this was however allowed to disturb the rosy prospects for peace painted in the media.

For full version see University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) Sri Lanka Information Bulletin No. 28 released 1st February 2002, available online at www.uthr.org.


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