SRI LANKA: Children Must Be Protected In The Sri Lankan Conflict

New York, 21 January 2008 – Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, expressed her concern for the fate of children in the on-going conflict in Sri Lanka. Thousands of children are caught in the confrontation between Sri Lankan Government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Ms. Coomaraswamy stated that she is worried about the children who are internally displaced (IDP) as well as for the child combatants used by the LTTE.

The Special Representative urges the LTTE to allow all children and their families to move to safe areas away from the fighting. She calls upon the Government to welcome these families and to create conditions that respect their fundamental rights and which offer a viable alternative to life in a war zone. “Any camp set up for IDPs has to meet international standards. The Government of Sri Lanka should work with international and local humanitarian actors to ensure their safety and security,” said Ms. Coomaraswamy

A significant number of LTTE fighters are children. The Special Representative urges the LTTE to immediately release these children and she hopes that the Government of Sri Lanka would engage in discussions on ways and means of sparing their lives. Ms. Coomaraswamy further stressed the fact that the Government of Sri Lanka and international humanitarian actors should make the necessary preparations for separating these children and for reintegrating them back into their families.

“We must not forget the children. They are the next generation and they must be protected as much as possible” concluded Ms. Coomaraswamy.

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