Rights panel backs UN child soldiers charge against Sri Lanka

Nov 16, 2006 (AFP) – A New York-based rights group asked Sri Lanka’s government Thursday to arrest security force members allegedly involved in forcibly recruiting child soldiers on behalf of a Tamil rebel faction. Human Rights Watch said its investigations supported the findings of a top UN official who charged Monday that Sri Lankan security forces were involved in rounding up children for enlistment by a pro-government rebel faction.

Sri Lanka’s army has flatly rejected statements made on Monday by UN ambassador Allan Rock that government soldiers rounded up Tamil children to be recruited and that troops gave photographs to the rebel faction known as the “Karuna group” to choose potential recruits.

“The president said that if there is credible evidence of such incidents he would have them investigated,” the government said in a statement Tuesday, a day after Rock’s statements.

It was the first time the UN has made such a charge against the government.

The Tamil Tigers have long been under fire for using child soldiers in the ethnic separatist war.

Human Rights Watch, which last year stepped up a campaign against child recruitment by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), said it wil