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Lanka denies child abductions charge

A UN envoy has accused the SL army of helping a rebel group in carrying out abductions, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Nov 14, 2006 14:04 IST

The Sri Lankan Security Forces on Monday "vehemently" denied a top UN envoy's charge that sections of the armed forces were assisting the Karuna group in the abduction of children in the eastern Tamil-speaking district of Batticaloa.

A statement posted on the Army's website said that the forces were "perturbed" by the charge made on Monday by Ambassador Allan Rock, Special Advisor to the UN Representative for Children in Armed Conflict.

"The forces vehemently deny any involvement whatsoever with the breakaway LTTE group for abductions in Batticaloa," it said.

Earlier, President Mahinda Rajapaksa had told Ambassador Rock that he would "immediately" investigate allegations of nexus between the Karuna group and sections of the Security Forces and bring the guilty to book.

In an exceptionally strong indictment, Ambassador Rock had said that children as young as 13 or 14 were being abducted by the armed Karuna group with the help of a section of the Sri Lankan Security Forces.

"The mission discovered a disturbing development involving the Karuna abductions.

It found strong and credible evidence that certain elements of the government security forces are supporting and sometimes participating in the abductions and forced recruitment of children by the Karuna faction."

"The mission met with the parents of many of the abducted children in Batticaloa district.

As a result, it learned of eye-witness evidence that links the Karuna faction abductions to certain government elements."

"Based on the evidence as a whole, the mission concluded that some government security forces are actively participating in these criminal acts," Ambassador Rock said.

There were instances of the Sri Lankan army surrounding villages and taking pictures of young boys, and then the next day, the Karuna group cadres coming to these villages to pick up the boys they wanted, he said.

"Most of the abductions took place from houses," he noted.

"On June 15 and 16, in just two days, 70 children were abducted from an area dotted with army camps," Rock said.

UNICEF reported that in May alone, 135 kids had been abducted from Batticaloa. But Rock said that this could be just a third of the actual number.

Rock was told that the Karuna group was aiding the army and other Security Forces by identifying suspicious persons (persons in league with the LTTE led by Prabhakaran).

The military camps of the Karuna group were all located in the government-controlled areas, he noted.

"People did complain to the police and the army but they were not responsive. Human rights organisations have deteriorated, diminished or disappeared. People do not speak out for fear of being killed," he said.

The people told him that they wanted to get out of the area, but could not do so because the Security Forces were restricting their movements.

Frustrated, one family contemplated collective suicide, the envoy said.

First Published: Nov 14, 2006 13:34 IST