Appendix I. Letter to President Rajapakse
November 21, 2006
President Mahinda Rajapakse
The Presidential Secretariat
Colombo Sri Lanka 01
Sent via facsimile to 94 11 2331246
I am writing with deep concern about reports of child abductions in Sri Lankas east. As you well know, the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict has long been a practice of the LTTEand Human Rights Watch has repeatedly and forcefully condemned such serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Recently, however, we have also found disturbing evidence of complicity by Sri Lankan security forces in the abductions and use of children in armed conflict.
Ambassador Allan Rock, special advisor to the Special Representative to the Secretary General on Children in Armed Conflict, reported last week that elements of the government security forces were aiding and abetting the Karuna group. According to UNICEF, the group has abducted more than 150 children in the Batticaloa district alone since June 2006. Other abductions have taken place in the districts of Ampara and Trincomolee. Ambassador Rock says the government has tolerated these abductions, it has failed to investigate them and, at times, it has directly taken part.
Mr. President, Human Rights Watchs independent investigation of the issue confirms Ambassador Rocks findings. We conducted research in the eastern districts last month and collected incontrovertible evidence of the Karuna groups abductions, including involvement by government security forces. In some cases, the military rounded up boys and young men and recorded their names, prior to Karuna cadre taking them away. Parents have repeatedly seen their abducted children held in Karuna camps, and there is no way to transport abducted children from Batticaloa district to the area around Welikanda without passing through numerous military and police checkpoints. Other parents have seen their abducted children in the offices of the TMVP, which in Batticaloa and Ampara towns are guarded by the police.
Human Rights Watch will be issuing a report based on the information collected during the trip. We were encouraged to hear that you had ordered an investigation into Ambassador Rocks allegations. We would like to reflect that positive step in our report, and highlight initiatives the government has taken to hold accountable those who may have violated the law, including members of the military and police and the Karuna group.
Towards that end, we kindly ask your office to provide us with any information about the investigative unit that has been established to look into abductions by the Karuna group and the governments role. Who is directing the unit, to whom does it report, and how will it perform its work? We are eager to note any arrests and prosecutions that take place, as well as other measures the government takes to ensure that the practice of abductions stops, and that those children already abducted are returned safely to their homes.
Mr. President, we are deeply saddened that major armed conflict in Sri Lanka has resumed. Inevitably civilians will be harmed. But we trust and hope that, under your leadership, steps can be taken to minimize the hostilities impact on those who are most vulnerable to abuse. Any action you take and information you provide by December 4 will be accurately reflected in our report.
cc: Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights