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Sri Lanka taken off UN's child soldier list

Country has made strides in rehabilitating ex-combatants

Sri Lanka taken off UN's child soldier list

Decommissioned Sri Lankan child soldiers look forward to a new life reporter, Colombo
Sri Lanka

June 13, 2013

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Sri Lanka has been removed from the UN secretary-general’s annual report on children and armed conflict.

The report released yesterday highlighted progress made in 2012 to protect children living in countries affected by conflict.

Nepal was also removed the secretary-general’s list of countries using child soldiers.

“During the previous reporting period, all parties in Nepal and Sri Lanka were delisted after full implementation of their action plans. In 2012, no further violations were recorded by any party in those country situations,” the report said.

Sri Lanka fought a 30-year war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which ended in 2009.

The country’s inclusion on the UN list resulted from the recruitment of child soldiers by the LTTE and some Tamil political groups.

They were accused of knowingly recruiting and using child soldiers as frontline troops.

At the end of the war 11,696 ex-combatants surrendered. Some 594 child soldiers -- 364 boys and 230 girls -- were among them.

All were rehabilitated under a UNICEF assisted program and reintegrated into society by the government.

“Boys and girls -- some younger than eight-years-old –- were made to serve in armed groups. Usually they were made to fight on the frontline, participate in suicide missions, or act as spies, messengers or lookouts,” said Kingsley Karunaratne, Admin Secretary of Rule of Law Forum, affiliated to the Asian Human Rights Commission.

A former child ex-combatant who did not want to be named and who now works in a garment factory in Ratmalana near Colombo said she was abducted at age 16 to be trained as a child solider.

“I wanted to go back home to go to school but they did not allow me,” she said.

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