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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Zero tolerance and the fate of victims - Daily Mirror

Zero tolerance and the fate of victims

By Nikhil Mustafa
Much has been said recently of zero tolerance of a number key areas of concern in this country. These include on corruption, waste, extra judicial killings, abductions, child recruitment, impunity etc. Much of these are in the terrain of regaling the readers of such assertions. It though is not so funny for those who meet such excesses. Much coffee has been poured, short eats consumed, workshops organized, submissions made on these issues. However, the pesty Sunday press continues to highlight as does on some Dailies that these excesses are part and parcel of our daily diet of horrors. It has come to the point at which discerning observers believe the reports are treated with disdain and dismissed with contempt by those who are responsible. Can this though go on without some volcanic eruption surfacing? See for example rumblings by monks in Myanmar. Who would have thought it likely. The final word on which has still not been cast but predictions are we are seeing an eruption likely to lead to change of the kind Aung San Su Kyi has stood for under house arrest.

The focus today is on the debates on Child recruitment and the statement of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Dr.Radhika Coomaraswamy. “It is also important to point out the I have engaged in dialogue for the explicit purpose of child protection with all parties, both state and non-state, whose actions have a significant impact on children. However, such dialogue, particularly with non-state actors, does not imply or confer political recognition or legitimacy of such parties.

“Although a wide range of issues and themes have been covered during the course of my visits, I have made an effort to focus more concentrated attention on four primary concerns: the recruitment and use of children as soldiers; grave sexual violence against children; the safety and access of humanitarian personnel; and rehabilitation and reintegration of children.”
Sri Lanka

“The mission’s findings revealed that the LTTE has not complied with its commitments: underage recruitments continue and several hundred children as verified by UNICEF have not yet been released. It was also ascertained that the break-away Karuna faction of the LTTE abducts children in government-controlled areas of the East, with credible evidence that certain elements of the Sri Lankan army may have aided in this practice.

In addition, humanitarian workers have been killed and NGOs threatened in an increasingly militarized environment. “Following the visit by my Special Advisor to Sri Lanka, the following commitments were made: The LTTE gave assurances that they would work with UNICEF to accelerate the release from their ranks of all children under the age of 17, with the objective of completing this process by the beginning of 2007. (Unfortunately, the LTTE did not commit to the full release of children under the age of 18 years in contravention to applicable national and international law. They also committed to better training for their military commanders in relation to recruitment, and instituting a process to discipline those who do not comply; The Karuna faction undertook to publish formal policy statements forbidding under-age recruitment and to release children who may be in their ranks. The also agreed to work with UNICEF in an effort to trace the whereabouts and arrange the release of those abducted children whose families have notified UNICEF; The Government of Sri Lanka committed to undertake an independent and credible investigation into the allegations that elements of the Sri Lankan army have aided the abduction and recruitment of children by the Karuna faction and has recently announced the formation of a Committee to Inquire into Allegations of Abductions and Recruitment of Children for use in Armed Conflict.

“The Security Council Working Group on children and armed conflict has requested that a report on progress be submitted by October 2007. The continuing violence continues to exacerbate the problems of IDP children and the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

“I must also say there are some positive steps with regard to the Government. The Government has adopted and we welcome its adoption of a zero tolerance policy on child recruitment, it has also voluntarily submitted itself to the 1612 process and it has set up a Committee to investigate allegations. And there are some positive steps with regard to the LTTE as well: for the first time the numbers taken in are less than those being released but of course there are many more to be released. But the Karuna faction continues to function with impunity, much of it in the Government-controlled areas so we welcome the notion of this Committee to investigate these abductions.

There are other areas as mentioned by one of the speakers, and as you know in October this year we will be presenting a report to the Security Council Working Group, the Secretary-General will presenting the report, monitoring the six grave violations and some of those violations relate to humanitarian access and to attacks on schools and hospitals.”

The words in bold are important to the extent of the commendations, expectations and the SG’s report on ‘six grave violations’ in Sri Lanka to the WG of the Security Council.

The substance of Radhika’s comments are derived from a visit by her representative which caused quite a storm. This was before Sir John Holmes became a ‘terrorist’ and an assortment of actors found themselves being named in unflattering terms by the ‘personal’ as well the ‘official’ view points of significant personas from Sri Lanka. So what did Alan Rock her representative say when he dropped by last time around?


The LTTE must
(i) immediately stop all recruitment of children, defined as all persons below the age of 18.

(ii) fulfill its commitment to me to release all children in its ranks and work with UNICEF towards the return of those children to their families;

(iii) train and discipline its command ers so that they are well aware that the recruitment and deploy ment of children will not be toler ated; and

(iv) allow access to all LTTE camps by UNICEF and other international protection agencies to determine whether child recruits are present.

TMVP/Karuna must
(i) immediately stop all recruitment of children, defined as all persons below the age of 18;

(ii) fulfill its commitment to me to release all children in its ranks and work with UNICEF towards the return of those children to their families;

(iii) train and discipline its commanders so that they are well aware that the recruitment and deployment of children will not be tolerated; and

(iv) allow access to all Karuna camps by UNICEF and other international protection agencies to determine whether child recruits are present.

Government of Sri Lanka
I would respectfully recommend that the Government of Sri Lanka should
(i) immediately commence a thorough and impartial investigation into allegations of complicity by Government security forces in the abduction of children by the Karuna faction in such a way that

(a) complainants and witnesses will be protected from reprisal by any party;

(b) the results of the investigation will be made public; and

(c) the population of Sri Lanka and the international community will have confidence in the fairness and integrity of the investigation;

(ii) hold accountable any and all persons that might be found to have been complicit in such abductions;

(iii) secure the release and return to their families of all children abducted by the Karuna faction;

(iv) require that the police and Government security forces thoroughly investigate all complaints of child abductions, no matter by whom they were allegedly committed, and seek to find and return the abducted children;

(v) enforce the criminal prohibition against child recruitment under existing domestic law, and enact and enforce such additional measures as may be necessary to deter and punish the abduction of children in Sri Lanka;

(vi) make every effort to enable and facilitate humanitarian access to its population; and

(vii) assess and address the welfare and security of the Sri Lankan Muslim community, and especially its children and youth.

The Working Group of the Security Council
I respectfully recommend that the Working Group propose to the Security Council that it should :

(i) consider targeted measures against LTTE to address its continuing failure or refusal to stop recruiting and deploying children; those measures might include travel bans, asset freezes and an arms embargo;

(ii) call upon Member States to assist in the application of those measures; and

(iii) consider the adoption of similar measurers in relation to TMVP/Karuna should those parties not, by the time this matter is next considered by the Working Group, implement the recommendations made in respect of them and set forth above.

The Alan Rock report if one were to read in full is candid, damning in terms of evidence of horrendous and terrible acts of omission on the part those whose task is to provide for the safety and well being of civilians particularly children.

A discerning reader who may persuse the recommendations could reasonably arrive at conclusions on whether Radhika was correct in her diplomatic utterances on the positives she has observed. Point being ‘zero tolerance ‘true or false? This column thinks it is a charade of cynical proportions of all engaged in this enterprise.

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