People in the northern Sri Lankan city of Kilinochchi say the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers, insurgents are forcing families to turn over at least one family member to serve as combatants. Among those forcibly recruited are children.
In testimony before the European Parliament, Charu Hogg, representing Human Rights Watch, an independent human rights monitor, says the Tamil Tigers have “forcibly recruited for combat boys, girls, men and women.” The insurgent group, said Ms. Hogg, “continues to murder its political opponents, largely in the Tamil community, and runs a near totalitarian state in the areas of the country’s north and east under its control.”
Since the insurgency in Sri Lanka began in 1983, more than sixty thousand people have died and about one-million others have been displaced. Sri Lankan children have suffered death, wounds, hunger, disease, and the trauma of being forced to take part in combat.
More than four-hundred fifty children were reportedly forced to join the Tamil Tigers during 2006, bringing the total number of child soldiers in their ranks to more than one-thousand. During the same period, a breakaway faction of the Tamil Tigers lead by Karuna Amman is believed to have forcibly recruited more than two-hundred children.
U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Steven Mann said “the deterioration of human rights conditions” in Sri Lanka is a “key U.S. policy concern.” Mr. Mann said “human rights conditions are worst in [Tamil] Tiger-controlled areas, where there is no rule of law to protect Sri Lankans’ civil liberties.” He called Tamil Tiger recruitment of child soldiers “singularly deplorable.” Mr. Mann also expressed concern over “continuing reports of disappearances, abductions, torture, and the rise of extrajudicial killings” across Sri Lanka.
“Our top policy priorities for Sri Lanka,” said U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Steven Mann, “remain restoration of good governance and respect for human rights leading to an eventual negotiated settlement” of the Sri Lankan conflict. The U.S., he said, believes “that finalizing a credible devolution of power proposal, together with ending human rights violations, and improving government accountability, are essential steps towards a lasting peace.”