Jun 12, Colombo: Sri Lanka is no longer in the United Nations Secretary-General's 'List of Shame' that lists countries where children are involved in armed conflict.
The Secretary-General has issued his annual report on children and armed conflict to the Security Council which gives an overview of the situation of children in conflict zones and measures taken for their protection.
Three years after the end of the three-decade long war during which the Tamil Tiger terrorists recruited thousands of children to fight the government forces, the country has been delisted from the Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.
"Encouraging is the delisting of parties to conflict in Nepal and Sri Lanka after their successful completion of Security Council-mandated action plans to end the recruitment and use of children," the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy said.
The present report covering the period from January to December 2011 says that "the security situation in the country stabilized, gradually moving towards an early recovery," and the island nation "successfully completed Security Council-mandated programs to end the recruitment and use of children."
The section on Sri Lanka as follows:
During the reporting period, the security situation in the country stabilized, gradually moving towards an early recovery. However, assistance for the most vulnerable families in the north remained a challenge. There continued to be a heavy military presence, and the civil administration is in need of further strengthening. The Government stated that this would be a priority. The implementation of these commitments as well as the recommendations of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission, including on children, will positively contribute towards post-conflict efforts.
No new cases of recruitment of children by armed groups have been reported since October 2009. However, the whereabouts of 1,373 children of a total of 6,905 who had been recruited by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) remains unknown, and the location of five boys previously recruited by the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), three of which have been traced to the forces of Inya Bharathi, is also unknown. The Government of Sri Lanka has been actively following up on these allegations. The National Child Protection Authority has undertaken an independent investigation and made recommendations to the Government of Sri Lanka which are being pursued by the Criminal Investigation Division of the police. To date, no prosecution has been initiated.
Since 2008, three rehabilitation centres have been in operation, providing education, care, psychosocial support and reunification assistance to children associated with LTTE, TMVP and Inya Bharathi. To date, 594 children aged between 12 and 18 years, including 364 boys and 230 girls, have completed the rehabilitation programme and have been reunited with their families. However, recent community awareness programmes have revealed that a number of children formerly associated with armed groups have not accessed reintegration programmes, including a trend of underreporting of girls. The country task forces on monitoring and reporting is engaging with the Government on the need to identify the possible reintegration needs of these individuals.
In December of 2009, the Vavuniya Government Agent and the Probation and Child Care Commissioner (Northern Province) jointly established the Family Tracing and Reunification Unit for unaccompanied and separated children, with UNICEF support. At the time of writing, 736 tracing applications had been registered concerning children, the majority of whom were recruited by LTTE. To date, 139 children have been matched and referred to the Unit for tracing and verification, of which 42 have been reunited with their family members.
The Government of Sri Lanka has made headway in the evacuation of school premises in the reporting period, vacating four out of five schools recorded in my previous report. However, one school in Poonahri, Kilinochchi District, remains in use by the Sri Lankan Army. The Government has indicated that the school will be vacated by May 2012. I remain concerned that 14 additional schools in Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and Jaffna districts continue to be used by Sri Lankan security forces, although these areas are not opened for civilian return.