Lanka to probe child conscription charges

Colombo, August 29:

Sri Lanka has appointed a panel to investigate allegations that its military has helped an armed group recruit child soldiers to fight separatist Tamil rebels, the government said today.

The Committee to Inquire into Allegations of Abduction and Recruitment of Children for Use in Armed Conflict comes as the government is regularly drawing heavy international criticism over human rights in its fight against the rebels.

Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Ministry said the committee will comprise top government administrators and representatives of the armed forces.

It said the committee was appointed following a commitment made to the UN Security Council in February that “independent and credible investigations” will be held over allegations against government forces.

In November, Allan Rock, the UN special representative for children and armed conflict on Sri Lanka, alleged that government forces were helping and at times directly participating in child conscription for Karuna militia, a splinter group that broke away from the mainstream Tamil Tiger rebels. The government, at the time, flatly denied any military involvement.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has a long history of child abduction and recruitment during their two-decade civil war.