(Reissued as received. )
VAVUNIYA, Sri Lanka, 8 May — The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara A. Otunnu, is on an official visit to Sri Lanka to witness and assess the multiple ways in which children are affected by the protracted armed conflict in that country. Mr. Otunnu’s mandate is to promote the rights, protection and welfare of all children affected by armed conflict.
Mr. Otunnu is currently visiting the Vanni region, one of the most conflict-affected areas of Sri Lanka. Having met with the civilian and military authorities in the northern town of Vavuniya, Mr. Otunnu proceeded to areas held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) where he saw for himself the conditions of internally displaced communities and heard first-hand accounts of their plight. Mr. Otunnu also held discussions with local government authorities, the Bishop of Mannar and representatives of local and international organizations about the humanitarian situation in the region, particularly as it affects women and children.
In the context of his humanitarian mission, Mr. Otunnu met with two senior representatives appointed by the leader of LTTE, V. Prabhakaran — Mr. Thamilselvan, Head of the Political Section, and Mr. Balasingham, Political Advisor. Mr. Otunnu raised with the LTTE leadership several issues concerning the protection, rights and welfare of children affected by the ongoing conflict.
Following the discussions with Mr. Otunnu, the LTTE leadership made a number of commitments. They include the following:
— Participation and recruitment of children:The LTTE leadership, as of today, undertook not to use children below the age of 18 years in combat. They further undertook not to recruit children below the age of 17 years. The LTTE leadership accepted that a
Freedom of movement for displaced populations:the LTTE leadership made the commitment that the movement of displaced populations who want to return to areas now under Government control would not be impeded. the LTTEleadership also gave the commitment that there would be no impediment to the return to their homes of Muslim populations. the LTTE leadership accepted that a framework to monitor these processes should be put in place.
Distribution of humanitarian supplies:the LTTE leadership made a commitment not to interfere with the Distribution of humanitarian supplies destined for affected civilian populations. the LTTE leadership accepted that a framework to monitor this commitment should be put in place.
Observing the Convention on the rights of the child:Mr. Otunnu stressed the importance of all parties including non-State sectors, to observe the Convention on the rights of the Child. in particular, Mr. Otunnu urged the LTTE leadership to make a public commitment to respect the principles and provisions of the Convention. in this connection, the LTTE leadership indicated its readiness to have its cadres receive information and instruction on the provisions of this Convention.
Targeting civilians:Mr. Otunnu expressed the gravest concern about the continuing Targeting of civilian populations and sites throughout the country. the LTTE leadership acknowledged this to be An important and legitimate concern and undertook to Review its strategies and tactics in this regard.
Mr. Otunnu urges the LTTE to take immediate measures to transform these commitments into action. These would represent significant steps in the efforts to promote the protection, rights and welfare of children affected by the armed conflict in Sri Lanka.