06/29/2007versione stampabileprintinvia paginasend

In Sri Lanka the Tamil Tigers announce the release of 135 child soldiers and promise not to kidnap more children
There are still around 2,000 child soldiers who fight with the separatist Tamil Tigers group in northern Sri Lanka. Last week the independent Tamil Tiger fighters let it be known that they had released 135 underage enlisted soldiers from the front lines in the last six months. According to the UN Security Council and UNICEF there are still 1,591 children placed with the Tigers and a further 198 with the dissident group 'Karuna'.

Campo addestramento TamilThe UN speaks up. "The latest report from the UN Secretary General for Sri Lanka last December referred to the continuous increase in kidnappings and forced enrolment by the Liberation Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE), despite previous promises”, claimed J. M. de la Sabliére, head of a group analysing child soldiers at the Security Council, which in May denounced the attitude of the separatist group, in conflict with the Colombo government for 30 years, to the AP agency. On 10th May (the first date of the recent releases), a UNICEF report counted another 1634 minors conscripted by force to the Tigers, and a further 198 enforced by the dissident group ‘Karuna’, founded from a division of the early group in 2004. This stood up until the announcement of the latest releases, followed by the promise to lay down the weapons of every minor by the end of 2007.

Defining a ‘minor’. A ‘child’ soldier still needs to be defined, given that 17 years old is the youngest age of enrolment in the Tigers. Yet with the latest releases they have also sent home children aged between 17 and 18, in theory accepting 18 as the minimum age limit for an adult. “We are welcoming huge progress carried out in discussions with LTTE”, said Gordon Weiss, UNICEF spokesperson. “For example, when they accept international standards for the minimum age. Work still needs to be done, up until the last enlisted child soldier. It’s very important that the Tigers are finally admitting to having child soldiers, and that they have taken on the task of letting them go. Yet until the last underage fighter returns home, we cannot say that the Tigers are accepting international conventions”.

Giovani Tigri TamilSomeone is turning a blind eye. The strongest disagreement however, lies in the significance of child soldiers. What has been registered first of all is Karuna’s total lack of response to accept UN controls for correct combatants and soldiers, for ‘Security reasons and the safety of UN officials’, confirms spokesman Azad Mulina.
Meanwhile the Tigers have provided completely different figures from those supplied by the UN: “We have only received 20 protests on behalf of parents who want their children back, and we are trying to understand where this discrepancy has come from”. The declaration came from military spokesman Tigri Rasiah Illanthariyan, which according to the UN calculation does not include soldiers who are not fighting on the front line, and certainly not those kidnapped as minors who remain in the military. According to the UN there are 1085 young Tigers enlisted by force and there are still many in uniform once they reach adulthood. And they should all be released. According to UNICEF, the numbers of those released will never be attainable. “At times we run a control on the names taken by rebels and it works out that weeks later the Tigers return to recapture children sent home”, comments Weiss bitterly.
Gian Luca Ursini
Keywords: lanka, tamil, tigers, children, ltte
Topic: Children, War
Area: Sri Lanka