Cablegate: Unicef Reports Spike in Ltte Child Recruitment In

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) issued a
press statement saying there has been a significant increase
in the number of reports concerning child recruitment by the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during the month of
July. Since the tsunami, UNICEF had seen a considerable
decline in reports of LTTE child enlistment until July, when
reports to UNICEF of the LTTE's recruitment of minors rose
substantially. The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) has
also received increased reports of child recruitment by the
LTTE in July, while Save the Children noted an increase in
pressure on children to re-enlist in Jaffna. Meanwhile,
press reports indicated that parents of students at a school
in Batticaloa protested after hearing from an unknown source
that the children were in danger of being abducted by the
LTTE. Newspapers also reported that a number of signs have
been posted in Jaffna urging the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) to
protect minors from LTTE recruitment. However, the UNICEF
statement did say that the LTTE released nine underage
cadres to parents in Killinochchi on July 17. The SLA also
told the press that three minors escaped the LTTE after
being abducted at a temple festival on July 21. The UN
Security Council has resolved to start monitoring child
recruitment in Sri Lanka starting in 2006, a directive
supported by the Government of Sri Lanka. End summary.


2. (U) UNICEF received 14 reports of underage recruitment
in May in the Batticaloa district. According to their press
statement, there were 18 cases reported in June and 28 in
the first three weeks of July. This is a sizeable increase,
especially considering there were only 24 cases reported to
UNICEF island-wide for the month of May.

3. (SBU) Hagrup Haukland, head of the SLMM, told poloff
that there has been an increase in reports concerning
underage enlistees for the month of July. Haukland added
that the SLMM will issue its July report in the beginning of

4. (SBU) Julian Chellappah, a Save the Children
representative, told poloff on July 26 that his organization
has not received any increase in reports from eastern
districts regarding LTTE underage enlistment. However,
Chellappah did receive reports of significant pressure being
placed on children who were released by the LTTE in the past
to rejoin in Jaffna. Chellappah told poloff that Save the
Children and UNICEF are coordinating at the district level
in the north to find out more. The two organizations will
meet on August 3 to discuss the next steps in preventing and
monitoring underage recruitment in accordance with the
Action Plan for Children Affected By War, devised in 2003 by
UNICEF and the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) and agreed to
by the LTTE.


5. (U) According to a July 28 SLA statement to the press,
parents removed their children from the Sandiweli Maha
Vidylaya school in Batticaloa upon hearing that grade 11
students were being targeted for abduction by the LTTE. The
SLA said that after taking their children home, about 50
parents returned to the school to protest the ongoing child
recruitment by the LTTE. The military noted that the
protest lasted for 3 hours and caused authorities to close
the school. The SLA said that the remaining students also
went home due to fears of abduction and recruitment by the

6. (SBU) The SLA reports to the media also said that on
July 25, parents began a poster campaign in the Jaffna
district urging the SLA to protect their children from
becoming Tamil Tiger enlistees. The paper carrying the SLA
statement said that parents in Jaffna have been complaining
that their children are being abducted by the LTTE and given
weapons training.


7. (SBU) The rise in recruitment comes during a popular
season for temple festivals, the most common place for the
LTTE to seek underage enlistees. However, many non-
governmental organizations (NGOs) and UNICEF have installed
a presence at temple festivals, and until this point, have
been successful in eliminating LTTE underage recruitment at
these events. (Note: Recruitment periods also tend to be
cyclical, with an increase in enlistments every three to
four months, corresponding with the beginning of a new
training session. However, recruitment did not follow this
trend for several months after the tsunami.) The reports of
increased child recruitment come in after LTTE political
wing leader S.P. Thamilselvam renewed his promise June 18 to
the Executive Director of UNICEF, Ann Veneman, to halt the

8. (U) According to a military press statement, on July 21
the LTTE abducted three minors at a temple festival who
later escaped and went to SLA authorities. The report noted
that these children from Batticaloa, kidnapped while
performing religious rites, were taken to Sampoor for
weapons training. (Note: We could not confirm whether
UNICEF or other NGOs were present at this festival.)

9. (SBU) On July 26, Geoffrey Keele, UNICEF Spokesperson,
told poloff that UNICEF is unsure if there has been an
increase in the number of abductions for recruitment

10. (SBU) In a July 28 meeting, Senior State Counsel
Yasantha Kodagoda told poloff that it is quite clear from
the increased reports to UNICEF that LTTE child recruitment
is on the rise. Kodagoda speculated that the increase in
recruitment signals either a desperation of the LTTE to
strengthen its military forces, preparation for leaving the
Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) signed in 2002, or a political
strategy to present the group as a greater threat. No
matter what the LTTE's reasons, Kodagoda said, current
UNICEF policy is not working to deter child recruitment.


11. (U) At a July 25 meeting with the Tokyo Donor
Conference Co-Chairs, President Chandrika Bandaranaike
Kamaratunga noted that the LTTE continues to recruit child
soldiers in violation of the CFA. She asked the
international community to keep exerting pressure on the
terrorist organization to stop accepting underage cadres.

12. (U) On July 26, the UN Security Council unanimously
adopted a resolution to monitor nations or rebel groups that
kill, maim, or sexually abuse children in war zones, or
recruit them as soldiers. The UN is disappointed with the
continued recruitment and use of children in armed conflict
by the LTTE, and will begin monitoring Sri Lanka in 2006.

13. (U) The Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry issued a media
release on July 28 supporting the UN Security Council
resolution and the effort of the UN to protect children from
armed conflict. The GSL said that the resolution is an
opportunity for the LTTE to show its commitment to follow
humanitarian norms that will allow them to gain more
credibility in the political realm.


14. (SBU) As the protests in Batticaloa and Jaffna
demonstrate, parents are becoming more vocal about their
anger about the recruitment of minors, and they may serve as
a significant force in pressuring the LTTE to stop using
child soldiers. Whereas before the CFA, parents feared the
LTTE and did not speak out about child recruitment, this
fear has slowly been channeled into protest. After the CFA,
parents complained primarily to the SLMM about child
recruitments. In the last six months, parents have become
more active, protesting the abduction and recruitment of
children directly to the LTTE as well as to international

15. (SBU) In addition to enraged parents bringing pressure
to bear on the LTTE, the UN Security Council's directive may
also prove useful in exerting international pressure on the
LTTE to limit child recruitment. Septel update to follow
next week.

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