UNICEF underage list under review - LTTE

[TamilNet, Saturday, 24 January 2004, 20:12 GMT]
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), responding to a report released by UNICEF which expressed concern in the use of "children as soldiers," said that only about 10% of the individuals listed by the UNICEF as below 18 years have birth certificates and that a 3-person committee is reviewing UNICEF's list, taking steps to ascertain the ages of the rest of the individuals.

Talking to TamilNet clarifying different numbers quoted by the UNICEF and the LTTE Peace Secretariat website, Daya Master, LTTE's media co-ordinator said, UNICEF gave an official list to the LTTE on 2 December 2003, containing 1187 names, out of which only 134 had birth certificates attesting to their age. He added 384 of the individuals named in the list have already been determined to be over 18 years of age.

Following the meeting between UNICEF representative to Sri Lanka, Mr.Ted Chaiban, and the leader of the LTTE’s political wing, Mr. S.P. Thamilchelvan on the weekend of 17 January 2004, Thamilchelvan directed the 3-person committee to expedite the review of the UNICEF list and to immediately release those under 18 years of age to UNICEF-TRO transit centers, or to their parents, Daya Master told TamilNet.

He added that UNICEF's decision to release the report, before LTTE completed its review of UNICEF's list to identify underage children, is unfortunate as the report is likely to be misinterpreted by individuals and agencies involved in child rights advocacy.

Daya Master also said that there is no truth in BBC's story on the 22nd of January which alleged that a ten year old child was recruited by the LTTE. He said that this information was not mentioned in the UNICEF's report and that the UNICEF's office has denied giving this information to BBC's reporter in Colombo.

He further said that currently there are eleven children in the Transit center in Kilinochchi, and BBC has again erred in saying that the Transit Center was nearly empty.

External Links:
BBC: 22nd January 2004 report on child troops
LTTE: Response to BBC report
UNICEF: Press release on Sri Lanka


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