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Paramilitaries ‘abducting Tamil children from Sri Lanka camps’

[Times Online UK, Thursday, 21 May 2009 11:19 2 Comments]

Paramilitary groups with links to the Sri Lankan Army are abducting Tamil children as young as 12 from the state-run internment camps set up to hold 300,000 people displaced by the Government’s war with the Tamil Tigers, a campaign group claimed.

The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers (CSUCS) said that children under 18 were being snatched from the camps, which are struggling to cope with a massive exodus of civilians from the war zone.

Minors were also being taken from the town of Vavuniya in northern Sri Lanka by paramilitary groups that have the tacit support of the Government, it added.

“The coalition has received verified reports of abductions of under-18s from inside and outside internally displaced persons camps in Vavuniya, as well as recruitment and re-recruitment of children by paramilitary groups in the eastern districts of Batticaloa and Trincomalee,” a spokesman for the CSUCS said.

It suspects that anti-Tiger paramilitary groups such as the Eelam People’s Democratic Party and the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam were being allowed into the camps by the Government.

Verification of the claims is all but impossible as the Government is denying the media access to the camps.

However, fears are mounting over the fate of the refugees, after the Government refused to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations into the camps.

Accounts gathered covertly by aid workers and relayed to The Times describe severe shortages of food, water, medicine and clothing in the camps. “My children are begging me for food and water. It is killing me to see us like this,” Kothai, a woman interned in the Vavuniya region, said.

Many of the civilians are sick, malnourished and suffering from battlefield injuries after being fired on by both sides in the bloody climax of a 26-year war, witnesses say.

More than 200,000 people have walked up to 50 miles (80km) each to reach more than 40 barbed wire-fenced camps, according to the UN. An estimated 80,000 more are on their way.

Save the Children warned yesterday that at least a quarter of the pregnant and breast-feeding women detained are suffering acute malnourishment. At least a third of the children are malnourished, it added.

There have been reports of rapes of Tamil women. The UN said yesterday that it did not know how many have died in the camps.

It is also not known how many civilians were unable to leave the combat zone in the north east of the country, where the Tigers made their last stand.

The area, which appears to have been devastated, has been sealed by the Army. The Red Cross had been the only neutral organisation inside the conflict zone. It had between 20 and 25 staff there, but has not heard from them since last week.

The UN was negotiating with the Government yesterday in an effort to gain access to the area for Ban Ki-moon, its General Secretary, when he visits Sri Lanka tomorrow.

“There are dead bodies everywhere. I cannot talk about it,” said one woman who escaped from the zone last week.

Shrugging off those claims, military officials insist that only a handful of civilians caught in the fighting have required medical assistance.

The Army plans to detain those in the camps while it screens them for escaped Tiger fighters. It had suggested that would take as long as three years but an international outcry led it to promise to process 80 per cent of those held by the new year.

The UN has demanded access to oversee the screening process, but has been refused.

The Government’s denial of access comes amid allegations by Tamil groups that the sites are concentration camps. Experts say that Sri Lanka’s abysmal record on human rights is a cause for alarm.

“The concerns about the camp reflect terrible recent experiences of disappearances [of Government opponents], arbitrary detentions, the mistreatment of detainees and a lack of accountability,” Sam Zarifi, of Amnesty International, said.

If the camps were regarded as part of a conflict zone, then by blocking aid while failing to provide adequate care itself the Sri Lankan Government was contravening the Geneva Convention, Mr Zarifi added.

If the war was regarded as being over, then the Government was ignoring internationally accepted guidelines on the treatment of displaced people.

[Full Coverage]

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  • average joe said:

    why are you guys lying so much?
    please come visit sri lanka and see for yourself.

    A lot of people have died in this country, and for once we are trying to move forward together. please, just stop negative false articles and come join us in helping our people here.

    Too many foreign ngos make use aid organizations as a business and live on it. dont misunderstand, sri lankans are trying to fix themselves right now. so if you are a sri lankan who was affected by the war, wheather it was the sinhalese mobs, government, ltte or anyone else, please come back and help support the land that you were born in.


  • ramesh said:

    Why don’t the SL Gov not letting the media or UN inside the camps?
    Surely UN should monitor the refugees…not by narrow minded Army