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HRW asks Lanka not to help Karuna abduct kids

The rights group has asked Sri Lanka to stop helping the pro-Govt Tamil rebel group headed by Karuna, reports PK Balachandran.
None | By PK Balachandran, Colombo
UPDATED ON JAN 24, 2007 04:56 PM IST

The US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has asked the Sri Lankan government to stop helping the pro-government Tamil militant group headed by Karuna to abduct children and train them to fight the LTTE.

In its 100-page report entitled "Complicit in Crime: State Collusion in Abductions and Child Recruitment" which was released in New York on Wednesday, HRW said that the Karuna group was operating with impunity in government-controlled areas in the eastern districts of Sri Lanka.

"The Karuna group is abducting children in broad day light in areas firmly under government control," said Brian Adams, Asia Director at HRW.

"The government is fully aware of the abductions but allows them to happen because it is eager for any ally against the Tamil Tigers," he charged.

UNICEF had documented more than 200 cases of child recruitment by the Karuna group, but the real number was certainly much higher due to under reporting, Adams said.

Jo Becker, Child Rights Advocate at HRW, was even more harsh in indicting the Sri Lankan government.

"After years of condemning child recruitment by the Tamil Tigers, the government is now complicit in the same crimes.

The government's collusion on child abductions by the Karuna group highlights its hypocrisy," Becker said.

Grounds too flimsy says government

The Sri Lankan government has been trashing allegations of complicity in the recruitment of children of Karuna, saying that the charges were not based on scientifically collected information.

The Defence Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said last week that the report of the UN Special Representative Allan Rock, on which the allegations were based, was compiled after a fleeting field visit, during which he had gathered second hand or third hand information, from sources which were pro-LTTE.

"If we trace the ultimate source, we'll end with Prabhakaran! (the LTTE leader)" Rambukwella said.

The Sri Lankan government proposes to refute the allegations when the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon presents his report to the Security Council in early February.

Moon, in his report, has called for "targeted measures" against the LTTE and the Karuna groups, and has appealed to the Sri Lankan government to investigate the complicity of sections of its armed forces in the recruitment of kids by the Karuna group.

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