LTTE refutes "child soldiers" accusations

[TamilNet, Monday, 02 April 2001, 20:03 GMT]
The Liberation Tigers Monday refuted allegations by Amnesty International that they had recruited young children as combatants, describing the accusations as "malicious". The LTTE does not recruit combatants under the age of seventeen, sources close to the Tigers quoting senior LTTE officials as saying Monday.

"The accusations by Amnesty International are malicious and "calculated to discredit the image of our liberation movement," the sources quoted senior LTTE officials as saying.

"It is not the policy of the LTTE to recruit below the age of seventeen," the LTTE officials said.

"We stand by our commitment given to [UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict] Olaru Ottonu," they also said. Mr.Ottonu visited the Vanni in 1999 and in discussions the LTTE said it would not recruit combatants under the age of seventeen.

"We have no knowledge of the events leading to the disappearances of the children described by Amnesty International," the LTTE officials said further.

The sources told TamilNet that the movement would issue a statement from its headquarters in the Vanni shortly.

Amnesty International said Friday it was concerned for the safety of three missing Tamil boys, "who are thought to have been recruited as combatants" by the LTTE. Amnesty did not provide any evidence to support its allegation against the Tigers.

Amnesty said Chandrasekaran Udayakumar left his home in the village of Ganeshapuram, Vavuniya district on 15 March. "He told his parents that he was going to play with friends. He did not return home and has not been seen since. As of 29 March, there has been no news about him," Amnesty said.

"Ravichandran Prathishan left his home in the village of Anapankulam, Vavuniya district around 9am on 20 March. He said he was going to a shop near the bus stop. He was seen getting on a bus together with an unidentified friend of his age," Amnesty said.

Amnesty urged its members to write to the LTTE expressing concern for the three boys who, according to Amnesty, "are thought" to have been recruited by the LTTE.

Members were told to "acknowledge that it has not been confirmed whether they will be trained or deployed as combatants," in their letters.

 

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