Sri Lanka s criminal law makes forcible recruitment and deployment of children in armed conflict an offence punishable by 30 years imprisonment, a Government-appointed committee has stressed following a fact finding mission to Batticaloa where there have been persistent allegations of such activities being carried out by the TMVP and the LTTE.
In a report submitted to Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasingha yesterday, the committee headed by the Justice Ministry Secretary Suhada Gamalath also stressed the need to obtain accurate statistics and credible information on alleged abductions and recruitment so that law enforcement authorities could promptly investigate and initiate prosecutions based on such allegations.
The HR Ministry said during its visit to Batticaloa the committee had advised the authorities of taking preventive measures to avoid access by armed groups to schools for the purpose of recruiting students.
The committee was informed that there had been no complaints of abductions or forced recruitment recorded by law enforcement authorities in 2008.
The report is to be submitted by the government to the Security Council Working group in New York on Thursday when the Council discusses the issue of child soldiers and human rights.
The HR Ministry said Sri Lanka -- one of the 119 member countries -- which has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child had adopted a zero-tolerance policy on the recruitment of children for use in conflict.
Following the commitment made to the UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in early 2007 and a decision taken by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Human Rights (IMCHR), Minister Samarasinghe appointed a high level Committee to Inquire into Allegations of Abductions and Recruitment of Children for Use in Armed Conflict.
The Committee is tasked to inquire into and monitoring of the investigations of allegations made in connection with the abduction and recruitment of children by the LTTE and Karuna-Pillayan groups.
It will also monitor and make recommendations to assure that released children have access to adequate facilities for rehabilitation and reintegration into society.