Karuna Group child recruits, government links worry HRW

[TamilNet, Friday, 25 August 2006, 08:41 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s government was colluding in the recruitment of children by anti-Tamil Tiger paramilitary groups, Human Rights Watch said Thursday. Warning that the links between the Karuna Group and the government “seem to be very clear,” HRW senior legal adviser James Ross said a new worry for HRW was the abduction of children by the Karuna Group. Ross also condemned the LTTE for recruiting fighters under the age of 18 – a practice the LTTE says has ceased.

"The linkages between the Karuna group and the government... seem to be very clear," Ross told Reuters on a visit to Sri Lanka.

"In order for the Karuna group and others to abduct children in government areas they would have to go through government checkpoints."

Only a handful of states are accused of using children to fight, and Ross said it was not a list the Sri Lankan government would want to be on.

"I think the Sri Lankan government would be very unhappy to be compared to the Burmese government, one of the most abusive governments in the world," he said. "Any involvement of the military in child abduction is something they should take very seriously."

Hundreds of teenage boys have been abducted by Army-backed paramilitaries in the eastern province this year amid an escalating cycle of violence.

Escapees and deserting paramilitary cadres say youngsters are being forcibly recruited into the Army-backed shadow war against the LTTE.

Most recently complaints were made to Eravur Police that at least 20 Tamil youngsters playing with their friends near Vishnu Temple surroundings were abducted by unidentified persons in a white van on August 15.

About fifteen unidentified armed men in a van took the boys away at gunpoint. The area is controlled by the Sri Lanka Army.


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