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Call on Tamil Tigers to End Child Soldier Use

Canada: Prime Minister Should Call on Tamil Tigers to End Child Soldier Use

Prime Minister Paul Martin should publicly call on the Tamil Tigers to end all recruitment of children in Sri Lanka and to release the children currently in their ranks, former Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy and Human Rights Watch urged in a letter made public today.

“Canada provided refuge to thousands of Tamils fleeing human rights abuses by the Sri Lankan government during the war,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “It should also address the Tigers’ on-going recruitment and use of Tamil children as soldiers.”

Human Rights Watch published an extensive report in November 2004, documenting the extensive recruitment and use of child soldiers by the Tamil Tigers, officially known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. In the report, dozens of former child soldiers described how the Tamil Tigers use intimidation and threats to pressure Tamil families in the North and East to provide their sons and daughters for military service.

The Tamil Tigers have continued to recruit children since the tsunami. Since the December 26 disaster, UNICEF has registered over forty cases of child recruitment, including several cases of child recruitment from relief camps for tsunami survivors.

Human Rights Watch urged the Prime Minister to call on the Tamil Tigers and its humanitarian arm, the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, to end efforts to control all relief efforts in Tamil areas, and to allow unhindered operation and access by impartial local and international organizations. It also urged Canada’s support for basic human rights protections by both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers as a core component of any future peace process.

In addition to Dr. Axworthy, who serves on the international board of directors for Human Rights Watch, other signers of the letter included Jasmine Herlt, director of the Human Rights Watch Toronto Committee, and Noah Novogrodsky, advocacy co-chair for the Toronto Committee and the director of the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto Law School.

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