Sri Lanka

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (A/66/782-S/2012/261) issued on 26 April 2012.

During the reporting period, the security situation in the country stabilized, gradually moving towards an early recovery. However, assistance for the most vulnerable families in the north remained a challenge. There continued to be a heavy military presence, and the civil administration is in need of further strengthening. The Government stated that this would be a priority. The implementation of these commitments as well as the recommendations of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission, including on children, will positively contribute towards post-conflict efforts.

No new cases of recruitment of children by armed groups have been reported since October 2009. However, the whereabouts of 1,373 children of a total of 6,905 who had been recruited by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) remains unknown, and the location of five boys previously recruited by the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), three of which have been traced to the forces of Inya Bharathi, is also unknown. The Government of Sri Lanka has been actively following up on these allegations. The National Child Protection Authority has undertaken an independent investigation and made recommendations to the Government of Sri Lanka which are being pursued by the Criminal Investigation Division of the police. To date, no prosecution has been initiated.

Since 2008, three rehabilitation centres have been in operation, providing education, care, psychosocial support and reunification assistance to children associated with LTTE, TMVP and Inya Bharathi. To date, 594 children aged between 12 and 18 years, including 364 boys and 230 girls, have completed the rehabilitation programme and have been reunited with their families. However, recent community awareness programmes have revealed that a number of children formerly associated with armed groups have not accessed reintegration programmes, including a trend of underreporting of girls. The country task forces on monitoring and reporting is engaging with the Government on the need to identify the possible reintegration needs of these individuals.

In December of 2009, the Vavuniya Government Agent and the Probation and Child Care Commissioner (Northern Province) jointly established the Family Tracing and Reunification Unit for unaccompanied and separated children, with UNICEF support. At the time of writing, 736 tracing applications had been registered concerning children, the majority of whom were recruited by LTTE. To date, 139 children have been matched and referred to the Unit for tracing and verification, of which 42 have been reunited with their family members.

The Government of Sri Lanka has made headway in the evacuation of school premises in the reporting period, vacating four out of five schools recorded in my previous report. However, one school in Poonahri, Kilinochchi District, remains in use by the Sri Lankan Army. The Government has indicated that the school will be vacated by May 2012. I remain concerned that 14 additional schools in Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and Jaffna districts continue to be used by Sri Lankan security forces, although these areas are not opened for civilian return.

Information on progress made by parties to conflict on dialogue, action plans and the release of children

In relation to the continued listing of the Inya Bharathi faction and in response to efforts by the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of the Working Group of the Security Council on children and armed conflict, a United Nations Headquarters compliance mission visited Sri Lanka in January 2012. The mission found that the Government had undertaken serious efforts to locate the five children allegedly still associated with the Inya Bharathi faction. Upon the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Nation Child Protection Authority undertook initial investigations, which were subsequently handed over to the Criminal Investigation Division of the Police for further investigation. In addition, on 7 January 2012, additional enquiries were undertaken by the Secretary of Justice in the presence of the Director General for the United Nations of the Ministry of External Affairs and local authorities directly with Inya Bharathi. Mr. Bharathi denied the charges. The mission was able to verify that the police had approached the families and witnesses in the cases and those investigations continue. There has been no obtained evidence suggesting that Mr. Bharathi possesses a chain of command over the aforementioned cases. The United Nations in Sri Lanka will continue to monitor and report on the case.

In view of the efforts of the Government to investigate the whereabouts of the remaining children allegedly still associated with the Inya Bharathi faction, and their compliance with previous action plan commitments and the recommendations of the Working Group on children and armed conflict and the special envoys of my Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict in Sri Lanka, I have delisted the Inya Bharathi faction from the annexes.