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Free Sri Lanka child soldiers: UN envoy

[TamilNet, Friday, 11 December 2009 18:05 No Comment]

A top United Nations envoy asked Sri Lanka on Friday to release detained Tamil Tiger child soldiers and urged the authorities to re-unite them with their families.

Retired Major General Patrick Cammaert, the UN special envoy on children and armed conflict, said children who had been conscripted by the Tiger rebels should be allowed to return to their families.

"Hundreds of children are still missing or separated from their parents. They must be reunited as soon as possible," the Dutch UN official told reporters.

Cammaert met nearly 300 children who were forcibly recruited by the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels during his visit, UN spokesman Gordon Weiss said.

"The best practice in other parts of the world show that children recover better from traumatic experiences when living with their loved ones," Cammaert said at the end of a five-day visit to the island.

Government forces crushed the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May and detained thousands, including child soldiers, who are still held in camps which are off limits for international aid agencies.

He said children in camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) were also at risk.

The government allowed tens of thousands of civilians held in the IDP camps to go in and out freely from December 1, but aid agencies and reporters are still barred from entering them and speaking with inmates.

"The aftermath of the conflict makes children extremely vulnerable," he said. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable and preventive measures have to be taken to protect them from any form of abuse such as sexual violence."

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