LTTE responds to UN report on Children and Armed Conflict

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 14 February 2007, 11:34 GMT]
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), in a report issued by the Peace Secretariat in Kilinochchi, Wednesday stated that the LTTE which runs a civil administration with "extensive civil services," in which it's members take part, was entitled as a "functioning defacto-state" to recruit those above the age of 17. The Tigers were prepared to observe the minimum age of 18 when this practice has been accepted as an international standard by all the states, the LTTE statement said. The statement is the LTTE's response to the report made following the mission of Allan Rock, Special Adviser to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict on Sri Lanka.

Extracts from the statement follows:

"The key commitments made by LTTE to Allan Rock are, to release all underage youths within the LTTE ranks and to stop recruiting underage youths. Although Ambassador Rock urged the LTTE to set the minimum age at 18, LTTE’s commitment was to observe the minimum age of 17.

"LTTE has assured the CPA that it stands by this commitment and the release program will continue with the aim of completing the process as soon as possible.

"As noted in the Rock report, LTTE takes the position that it is not covered by Article 4 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Child on “Children Affected by Armed Conflict”, which states, “Armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of a State should not, under any circumstances, recruit or use in hostilities persons under the age of 18 years.” On the other hand, Convention on the Rights of Child permits the armed forces of the State to recruit those over the age of 15.

"LTTE provides extensive civil services in many areas of civilian life such as, health, education, child care, law-and-order, and environmental protection in which LTTE members take part. That only in LTTE areas in this island there are no children or women begging in the street attest to the extensive social welfare services provided by the LTTE. Many young persons entering the LTTE ranks are also trained as doctors, engineers, and in many other professions. LTTE is therefore no longer an “armed group” but is indeed a defacto-state. A functioning defacto-state like the LTTE is entitled to recruit those above the age of 17 but not send them to the battle front.

"Representatives of the UN have argued that LTTE must adhere to the minimum age of 18 as it has agreed in previous agreements made to UN bodies. The most cited agreement where the minimum age of 18 was agreed to by the LTTE was the Action Plan of 2003.

"Action Plan was one of many agreements reached during the early ceasefire period as part of the peace process. Other notable agreements were, a Secretariat for Immediate Humanitarian Rehabilitation in North East (SIHRNE), Subcommittee on De-escalation and Normalization (SDN), and Post Tsunami Operation Management Structure (PTOMS). All of these agreements, including the Action Plan, have become defunct.

"It is, therefore, not right to hold LTTE to a clause in one agreement when the other parties conveniently abrogated their obligations under it and under all other agreements reached at the same time as part of the peace process.

"LTTE, however, is ready to observe the minimum age of 18 when this has been accepted as an international standard by all the states."

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