An army spokesman said that 26 year-old V. Yogarasa had managed to escape from the LTTE camp on Monday, and reached the Army detachment at Santhively with crutches seeking protection from the Security Forces. In his statement to the security forces he had alleged that he ran away from LTTE custody on May 14 but was reluctant to lodge a formal complaint for fear of LTTE reprisals.
According to the escapee, he had been abducted by the LTTE cadres on February 25 and was detained in an LTTE camp in Periyavadduvan where he was brutally assaulted harassed and starved.
The escapee had also claimed that at one time, LTTE men tied his hands with chains and kept him forcibly in a totally dark LTTE bunker in their camp. The victim was directed to Eravur Police station which also conducted further investigations and handed him over to the family.
Meanwhile, in another incident two civilians allgedly abducted by the LTTE cadres had managed to escape and arrived at the Army detachment in Vavunathivu, in Batticaloa on Monday in search of protection.
They had stated that they were abducted by LTTE cadres on May 15 but managed to run away from the LTTE camp in Kokkadicholai on May 19. The army spokesman said that it had taken almost a day for them to find their way to the Army detachment. These civilians identified as K.Chodanagam and P. Sirikuma had refused to pay a ransom of Rs. 300,000 to the LTTE.
One of these victims had also been forced to marry an LTTE female cadre, one
of the escapees had alleged. Both incidents were reported to the Sri Lanka Monitoring
Mission office (SLMM) in Batticaloa, the spokesman added.
Roy Mendis in Colombo, 7.31 PM SLT Wednesday May 22,2002. Stepped up
recruitment of young boys and girls by the LTTE throughout the North East is
causing disenchantment and restiveness among the Tamils of the area,reports
reaching here say.
The problem is particularly acute in Batticaloa district where two top leaders of the LTTE, regional satrap Karikalan, and the central Intelligence Chief Pottu Amman, are engaged in getting recruits by by hook or crook.
According to the human rights group, University Teachers for Human Rights Jaffna, while Karikalan had called upon every Tamil family to give one son or daughter to the combat units of the LTTE, Pottu Amman has told his operatives that peace would be short lived and that they should get as many fresh recruits for the fighting units as possible.
This has resulted in intelligence operatives fanning out into the countryside in both cleared and uncleared areas and lecturing to groups of villagers about the need to offer sacrifices for the cause of making Velupillai Prabhakaran the ruler of the North East in the mould of an imperial Chola.
On May 11, LTTE's recruiters descended on the villages of Kitul,Marapalam and Urugamam.One Reginald,a LTTE military intelligence man, exhorted parents to give a child that very day.On May 18, LTTE leader Senadhi is reported to have threatened death to parents who did not part with their childen.Frightened parents took twelve children,eight boys and four girls,around 15 years of age, to Karadiyanaru and handed them over to the local LTTE recuriter,going by the name Roshan or Rukshan.In Vanadaramoolai,12 parents were asked to hand over their kids to one Yogan of the political wing.
The LTTE's official line is that it needs young recruits to do political work and youngsters are told that they would be given jobs when an Interim Administration run by the LTTE is established in the North Eastern province.But this is only a smoke screen for recruitment to the military wing.Pottu Amman had reportedly advised the recruiters to use the LTTE's Development Societies as a cover.
Parents both in the North and East are now wondering what to do.In Jaffna,concerned mothers are thinking of forming a Mothers' Front against forcible recruitment."My son is sitting for the O levels this December.I have to be vigilant," said one mother.She is toying with the idea of packing him off to a Colombo.The 25% tax on goods entering Jaffna peninsula and the 8% tax on government servants are being deeply resented."We did not support the movement for being squeezed like this," said an exasperated government servant in Batticaloa.
COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels came under renewed
pressure over the use of child soldiers on Saturday with human rights groups
and aid workers saying conscription had not stopped despite a truce with the
The rebels have repeatedly denied forcing children to join their campaign for a separate minority Tamil state, but the issue remains one of the most prickly in a Norwegian-brokered bid to end one of Asia's longest running conflicts.
"Reports of a high incidence of child conscription....continued into the month of May 2002," said a report by University Teachers for Human Rights, an independent Tamil watchdog.
The report quoted an escaped conscript as saying there were at least 75 children under the age of 15 being trained at one rebel camp in the east.
"Above a dozen (of them) were about 10 years old," the report said.
The report gave vivid accounts of kidnappings by the rebels, distraught parents committing suicide, brutal assaults and even deaths inside training camps set up deep inside the jungles to deter escape.
"Punishment for those caught is severe," it said.
The report was backed up by some international aid workers in the northeastern war zone.
"We have seen these things happening even in the last few days," one senior aid official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
President Chandrika Kumaratunga also accused the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam of recruiting children in a speech last week to the United Nations.
There was no immediate rebel response to the latest allegations which come just weeks ahead of their first peace talks with the government in seven years.
The two sides signed a Norwegian-brokered truce in February and are expected to begin talks in Thailand next month to end a 19-year conflict which has killed more than 64,000 people.
Roy Mendis in Colombo, Lanka acedemic: The University Teachers for Human
Rights (Jaffna) has made a strong plea for the involvement of UN agencies and
other well established international human rights watchdogs in monitoring the
peace process in Sri Lanka from the point of the maintenance of democracy and
human rights in the conflict areas of the island.
In its latest report, the UTHR (J) says that given the disconcerting proportion taken by the problem of children being recruited by the LTTE for its combat units, the UN Special Representative for Children should get "directly" involved in the monitoring process.The UN Repesentative, Olara Ottunu, was familiar with the problem and had held discussions with the LTTE on it in 1998.
The UTHR(J) detailed the main human rights violations by the LTTE since the signing of the MOU and said that both the government and civil rights groups had been turning a blind eye to them for the sake of the peace process.
The ICRC and several international agencies were already functioning in Sri Lanka and it was now time that ways to enlarge their mandates to monitor the abuse of the peace process were found.The expertise of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International should be harnessed,the UTHR(J) suggested.
Colombo, May 10 (IANS) A human rights group in Sri Lanka has urged the U.N.
to curb the forcible conscription of children by Tamil Tiger guerrillas which
it said was continuing amid a truce brokered by Norway.
The independent University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR) called for the inclusion of the U.N. special representative for children on the international team monitoring a ceasefire between the government and the Tamil Tigers.
It said the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was continuing to abduct and forcibly recruit pre-teen and teenage Tamil boys and girls all over the island's north and east.
"It is now more than high time for the U.N. special representative of the secretary general for children to become directly involved in the monitoring process in Sri Lanka," it said, detailing cases of kidnapping and intimidation by the guerrillas. A special report by the UTHR was released here Friday.
Last month, LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran denied at a rare media briefing that his group had a "baby brigade", an allegation made by many including the London-based Amnesty International.
But the 45-page document catalogued harrowing stories of young Tamils, as young as 10, who have been snatched from schools, homes or on their way home to join the LTTE army. It gave instances of distraught parents committing suicide.
The LTTE is demanding one child from each Tamil family, particularly those in the eastern province of Batticaloa, to beef up its military might, the UTHR said. "The typical scene in the rural villages was LTTE recruiters arriving in tractors and departing with a trailer load of children, leaving behind the village in anguished mourning," said the report.
The February 23 ceasefire between the government and the LTTE has brought respite from years of warring for people in the north and east, which the rebels want to carve into a separate state.
The truce has opened the door to direct peace talks for the first time in seven years between the LTTE and the government. The talks will be held in Thailand in June.
But the rights group said: "Continuing child conscription is a painful reminder that optimism is ill-founded. Abductions and extortion have in fact increased."
It slammed the Norway-arranged truce deal for failing to protect Tamil children from the LTTE, which has taken to staging rallies to recruit youngsters.
"Our main criticism of Norway's role is that it has sidelined the larger interests of justice and human rights against the narrow one of getting the main protagonists to hold their fire and make a deal," the group complained.
Both the government and Norway were trying "to suppress, or minimise, mounting, substantiated reports of grave violations by the LTTE, especially regarding the conscription of children."
It complained that the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, composed of Scandinavians, was passing the buck by acting only on complaints made directly to them and dismissing child conscription complaints as matters for the police.
"What we have now is a very misleading MoU (memorandum of understanding) widely observed in the breach, delivering far less than it pretends to, while the government and the Norwegians give a glowing picture of the peace process," the group said.
Among the dozens of children named in the report, several managed to escape the LTTE's clutches, some dying in the process.
"While the agony of missing their home must be greater for children in their early or pre-teens, they would be deterred by the severe hazards involved. The training camps are in wild interior areas and hazards (ranging) from elephants and crocodiles to marshes have been encountered," the group said.
In 1998, the LTTE assured Olara Otunnu, the U.N.'s special representative for children and armed conflict, that they would not recruit children below 17 years.
The LTTE's decades-long war for a separate homeland has killed around 60,000 people and left thousands in the island homeless.
COLOMBO, Friday (AFP) - Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels came under attack
today by a local human rights group for allegedly recruiting child soldiers
and harassing civilians in violation of a Norwegian-brokered truce.
University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR) urged the United Nations to force the rebels to keep to their 1998 promise not to enlist child soldiers and called for the UN special representative for children to be included on the international team monitoring the ceasefire.
The report comes after allegations by London-based rights watchdog Amnesty International that the Tigers were keeping up abductions and extortion.
In the 45-page report, the UTHR catalogued accounts of children from the minority Tamil community, some as young as 10 years, who had been abducted either from schools or homes.
It said some distraught parents have committed suicide when they were unable to locate their children taken away by the Tigers.
At a rare news conference last month, Velupillai Prabhakaran, the supremo of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), denied his group had a "baby brigade" and that there were no conscripts among his combatants. There was no immediate Tiger reaction to the UTHR charges.
The rights group said the LTTE was demanding one child from each family, particularly in the eastern Batticaloa region, to join its decades-old struggle.
"The typical scene in the rural villages was LTTE recruiters arriving in tractors and departing with a trailer load of children, leaving behind the village in anguished mourning," said the report. While an indefinite ceasefire between the government and the LTTE launched February 23 has brought an end to daily death tolls, conditions for Tamil civilians have worsened, the UTHR said.
"Continuing child conscription is a painful reminder that optimism is ill founded. Abductions and extortion have in fact increased."
"Our main criticism of Norway's role is that it has sidelined the larger interests of justice and human rights against the narrow one of getting the main protagonists to hold their fire and make a deal." The LTTE has continued intimidation, abduction, extortion and harassment despite being forbidden to do so in the agreement, the rights panel said.
But both the Colombo government and Norway were trying "to suppress, or minimise, mounting, substantiated reports of grave violations by the LTTE, especially regarding the conscription of children," the report said.
It complained that the Scandinavian truce monitors were "passing the buck" by acting only on complaints made directly to them and dismissing child conscription complaints as matters for the police.
In 1998, the LTTE assured Olara Otunnu, the UN's special representative for children and armed conflict, that they will not recruit children under 17 years.
But the UTHR charged the rebels stepped up recruitment soon after.
Among the dozens of children whose names and ages have been given in the report, several had managed to escape, some even dying in the attempt.
"While the agony of missing their home must be greater for children in their early or pre-teens, they would be deterred by the severe hazards involved."
"The training camps are in wild interior areas and hazards from elephants and crocodiles to marshes have been encountered," the UTHR said.
May 12, Colombo: Despite the wishes of those who want the peace process to
proceed without any hiccups, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) has warned
the LTTE against harassing civilians in Batticaloa.
This comes close on the heels of the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR) report which documents in detail certain human rights violations by the LTTE in both the North and the East. This report is very self-explanatory. In fact, it is titled "A totalitarian peace."
In the light of these developments, naturally there will be more skepticism now about the peace process. Certainly, those in the Sri Lankan government who are committed to it and others who are supportive of the peace process will say that all these violations, or even the SLMM warning, do not mean that the peace process is irredeemably flawed.
But that is not quite the point. In the face of these criticisms - and the fact that the LTTE is itself saying that the MoU is not being properly implemented - the entire situation arising from the MoU needs to be re-assessed.
There are no punitive sanctions that the Norwegians are entitled to impose on the LTTE for violations - or for harassment of civilians. The Norwegians have said, "We are not a police force - we are only a monitoring mission."
But the Norwegians are mediators. One cannot mediate in a vacuum. One cannot separate reality from the hope and aspiration for peace.
So, if the Norwegians are not entitled to punish or impose sanctions on the LTTE, the Norwegians need to at least be more stringent about their warnings.
The Norwegians could for instance say that the peace process is severely under strain due to the LTTE's continued harassment of civilians. This will at least show that the Norwegians are not working in the abstract. Else, this peace process will begin to look increasingly like a charade.
Eventually, however, there is no going behind the fact that the ultimate responsibility is with the actors in this peace initiative - the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government. The Sri Lankans can hardly complain if the Sri Lankan government is not willing to register its own severe protest about human rights violations documented by both the UTHR and the SLMM. Sometimes the Sri Lankan government seems to defend LTTE lapses more than the LTTE itself. [Top]
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