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  Amnesty International yesterday issued the following urgent action appeal on Sri Lanka. For more information on Amnesty's concerns in Sri Lanka, please visit . .

30 March 2001

UA 79/01 Fear for safety / Child soldiers SRI LANKA Chandrasekaran Udayakumar (male), aged 8 Ravichandran Prathishan (male), aged 12 One unknown child (male)

Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of three boys, eight-year-old Chandrasekaran Udayakumar, 12-year-old Ravichandran Prathishan and an unidentified friend, who are thought to have been recruited as combatants by the armed opposition group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Chandrasekaran Udayakumar left his home in the village of Ganeshapuram, Vavuniya district on 15 March. He told his parents that he was going to play with friends. He did not return home and has not been seen since. As of 29 March, there has been no news about him.

Ravichandran Prathishan left his home in the village of Anapankulam, Vavuniya district around 9am on 20 March. He said he was going to a shop near the bus stop. He was seen getting on a bus together with an unidentified friend of his age. They reportedly took their identity documents with them. Some parents in the area, believing that Ravichandran Prathishan and his friend were going to join the LTTE, reportedly prevented their children from joining.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Amnesty International has been concerned about the recruitment of children as combatants in Sri Lanka for many years, and has been campaigning for the practice to be eradicated.

In May 1998, the leadership of the LTTE told the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict that it would not use children under the age of 18 in combat, and would not recruit anyone under the age of 17. However, since then, Amnesty International has continued to receive reports that children as young as 12 years of age are being recruited as combatants. The recruitment of children as young as eight years of age is reminiscent of the early 1990s, when both the LTTE and armed Tamil groups opposing the LTTE were recruiting very young children on a large scale.

LTTE representatives have admitted that some of their members are very young, but argue that they have not been forced to join. They have also promised to investigate any complaints regarding the recruitment of children under the age of 17, and that if such children are found to have been recruited, they will be released.

Amnesty International opposes the use of children under 18 as soldiers by government and armed opposition groups, whether they have been conscripted or joined on a voluntary basis. It also opposes any form of recruitment, training or deployment of children under the age of 18, including for support roles such as messengers or porters. The organization aims to promote the adoption and adherence to national, regional and international legal standards (including the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child), which prohibit the military recruitment and deployment in hostilities of any person younger than eighteen years of age. It also aims to promote the recognition and enforcement of this standard by all armed forces and groups, both governmental and non-governmental.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail letters: - expressing concern for the safety of Chandrasekaran Udayakumar and Ravichandran Prathishan, who are thought to have been recruited by the LTTE, acknowledging that it has not been confirmed whether they will be trained or deployed as combatants;
- urging that they be immediately returned to their families and communities;
- urging that the leadership of the LTTE reaffirm their commitment to not recruit children under the age of 18, and allow independent monitors to verify this.

APPEALS TO: Anton Balasingham
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam International House
Eelam House 202 Long Lane London SE1 4QB, United Kingdom
Telegrams: LTTE, 202 Long Lane, London, SE1 Faxes: 011 44 20 7403 1653
Salutation: Mr A. Balasingham


COPIES TO: World Tamil Movement
64, Eaton Avenue Toronto,
Ontario M4J 2Z5, Canada

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