|Agenda Item "Children And Armed Conflict " at the UN Security Council Open Debate|
|Wednesday, 23 February 2005 00:00|
Statement by Ambassador Bernard A. B. Goonetilleke, Acting Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, on Agenda Item "Children And Armed Conflict " at the UN Security Council Open Debate
Sri Lanka commends the Secretary-General for his report on "Children and Armed Conflict" submitted in terms of Security Council Resolution 1539 (2004), which provides information for the period 10 November 2003 through December 2004.
Since the Graca Machel report of 1996, the attention of the international community has been increasingly focussed on the promotion and protection of the rights of children affected by armed conflict. Following the appointment of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, the plight of children affected by armed conflict received high priority of the United Nations. The continuation of violations of the rights of concerned children, despite the concerted efforts of the international community, has necessitated the Security Council to take a special interest in the matter, as reflected in resolutions 1379 (2001), 1460 (2003) and 1539 (2004).
The report focuses its attention on two groups of countries and entities, viz., in situations on the agenda of the Security Council and in situations not on the agenda of the Security Council or in other situations of concern, as reflected in Annexes I and II. Going through the report, it is clear that the progress during the reporting period has been minimal and atrocities against children have continued relentlessly, with the perpetrators appearing to have nothing but scorn for the efforts of the international community and the United Nations.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has been listed in Annex II of the report due to the fact that the LTTE has for many years been engaged in recruiting children for armed combat. The report before this Council also states that the L.T.T.E. has also been responsible for the abduction of children during the reporting period, a fact that has been corroborated by UNICEF, Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), and the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), a NGO based in Sri Lanka. Such reports are being denied by the LTTE. This practice has to be viewed against the undertaking given by that entity to Mr. Olara Otunnu in 1998 and the signing of an Action Plan for Children Affected by War in July 2003, by the LTTE under the aegis of UNICEF.
In that Action Plan, the LTTE agreed to halt recruitment of children and release all children within its ranks. Despite these solemn undertakings, the group has continued the practice of recruiting thousands of children, in most cases by force - some of them as young as 11 years old. Moreover, the LTTE has engaged in re-recruiting those who had been released and even those who had escaped from training camps, through threats, intimidation, and physical attacks on the children as well as their family members.
According to UNICEF, between December 26, 2004 and February 14, 2005, 60 children either orphaned or affected by the recent Tsunami had been recruited from transit camps to be used as combatants. As of 31st January 2005, the total number of cases of under-age recruitment by the LTTE stood at 4811 with 1452 outstanding cases. These figures maintained by the UNICEF testify to the widespread nature of child recruitment by that organisation in utter disregard to the human rights of the victims as well as the resolutions of the General Assembly and this Council.
We are aware that there has been increased global awareness on this phenomenon, particularly since 1996. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, with woefully inadequate resources, has done a commendable job in giving increased visibility and exposure to the issue with the assistance of UNICEF, other UN agencies, national Governments, regional organizations, NGO's etc. Despite this high visibility and increased awareness, regrettably there has been no commensurate improvement in the ground situation. The plight of the affected children continues to remain serious. The solemn undertakings given by the parties concerned by and large have remained unfulfilled and the practice of naming and shaming offenders does not seem to have yielded the desired results.
Sri Lanka expected that there would be a significant change on the ground with the Security Council focussing its attention on the issue. However, despite the passage of several years since the adoption of resolution 1379 (2001), there seems to be little progress for the better. This situation cannot be allowed to continue. It has to be arrested and reversed with all the political will we can muster. Surely, the authority of the Security Council cannot be allowed to be undermined in this manner.
Against this background, Sri Lanka is in agreement with the recommendations of the report that the Security Council should take measures against those who fail to cease the practice of recruiting child combatants. Paragraph 77 of the report speaks of levers of influence such as international accountability as enforced by the International Criminal Court and ad hoc tribunals to bring to justice perpetrators of crimes against vulnerable children. Sri Lanka is of the view that enforcement of these measures on a gradual scale will have a persuasive impact on all those who are willingly and deliberately violating the rights of children, affected by armed conflict.
Sri Lanka is supportive of the establishment of a monitoring, reporting and compliance mechanism to support the era of application, focussing on six broad areas of grave violations, including killing, recruiting and abduction of children. Sri Lanka is also supportive of the view that whenever possible, the Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting should draw from the child protective networks on the ground and where possible cooperation of the relevant Government institutions should be harnessed for optimum results. In this context, we are pleased to note that the report has recognized the central role of national governments, and that the United Nations entities and international NGOs at the country level, should always support and complement the protection and rehabilitation roles of national authorities.