Practice Relating to Rule 135. Children
Section A. Special protection
In 1994, in its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Sri Lanka stated, with respect to child victims of armed conflict and refugees:
There are several urgent needs that have to be met [including] the special health and nutritional needs of infants and pre-school children … [and the] care and rehabilitation of children traumatized by violence.
In 2008, in its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child under the 2000 Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, Sri Lanka stated:
22. The Government agencies involved in the protection of the rights of the child are:
(a) National Child Protection Authority (NCPA);
(b) Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Empowerment (MCDWE);
(c) Department of Probation and Child Care Services (DPCCS);
(d) Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL).
23. There are many civil society organizations which collaborate with the above Government agencies on child protection issues. The Government has undertaken several initiatives to safeguard children’s protection rights including creating public awareness through the media which plays a key role in advocacy.
24. In April 2007, the Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Empowerment established a Task Force in relation to children affected by the armed conflict. It focused on issues raised in United Nations Security Council resolution 1612 and the Security Council Committee set up under it. Subject areas of focus in the Task Force include conformity of Sri Lankan legislation with the  Convention [on the Rights of the Child] to provide protection for children affected by the armed conflict … , preventing the exposure of the identity of child combatants, promotion of universal birth registration, protection … of child soldiers, improving law enforcement and the strengthening of institutional capacity, specifically, the HRCSL and the NCPA, and the setting up of a National Database.
36. The former Special Representative of the [UN] Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict Mr. Olara Otunnu was invited by the Government to visit Sri Lanka in May 1998 … During his meeting with the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] he raised several issues concerning the protection, rights and welfare of children affected by the ongoing conflict. The LTTE made the following commitments in relation to children in armed conflict to Mr. Otunnu during his meeting with the LTTE[:]
(d) During his visit Mr Otunnu stressed the importance of all parties including the non-State sector, observing the Convention of the Rights of the Child. He urged the LTTE to make public their respect of the principles and provisions of the Convention. However, the LTTE did indicate their willingness, to enable their cadres to receive information and instructions on the provisions of the Convention …
37. These commitments were not implemented by the LTTE. …
57. Sri Lanka’s abiding commitment to the welfare of children irrespective of gender, ethnicity, caste and religion is borne out by its welfare programmes focussed on children, which includes the provision of free healthcare … island-wide. These welfare programmes, including its poverty alleviation programmes, have benefited children without discrimination and led to sustained declines in under five mortality and maternal mortality, high levels of life expectancy at birth and high levels of literacy. However, these main social benefits are seriously eroded when children are used in armed conflict and suffer death, maiming, abuse and exploitation.
58. The Government is firmly committed to ensure that all children have the right to live with their families in dignity, be free of fear, intimidation and harassment … and be healthy.
Assistance and Protection to Victims of Crime and Witnesses Bill
74. The priority and emphasis of the Government on the protection of children from abuse and exploitation is manifested through the creation of a separate statutory authority namely the NCPA [National Child Protection Authority]. The NCPA was established through an Act of Parliament in 1998. It functions as a multi-sectoral Government body with an infrastructure capable of effectively responding to child abuse and exploitation, so that the Government could fulfil its obligations under the Convention [on the Rights of the Child] in relation to child protection issues. The NCPA promotes legal reform, child friendly judicial processes, strengthening law enforcement and justice for children and promoting access to therapy, counselling and rehabilitation of child victims of abuse.
75. The NCPA also undertakes activities in relation to the conduct of special investigations, relating to child abuse …
76. According to …section 39 of the National Child Protection Authority Act No. 50 of 1998:
“Child” means a person under eighteen years of age;
“Child abuse” means any act or omission relating to a child which would amount to a contravention of any of the provisions … and includes the involvement of, a child in armed conflict which is likely to endanger the child’s life or likely to harm such a child physically or emotionally.
77. The NCPA has a mandate to provide support in relation to the provision of protective care for child combatants. Thus paragraph (i) of section 14 of the NCPA Act mandates the NCPA “to recommend measures to address … humanitarian concern[s] relating to children affected by armed conflict and the protection of such children, including measures for their mental and physical well-being and their reintegration into society”.
78. Among the other functions of the Authority are the following:
(a) To advi[s]e the Government on measures for the prevention of child abuse;
(b) To advise the Government on measures for the protection of victims of such abuse;
(c) To recommend legal, administrative or other reforms required for the effective implementation of the national policy for the prevention of child abuse; and
(d) To take appropriate steps where necessary for securing the safety and protection of children involved in criminal investigations and criminal proceedings.
79. The Government has established the Women and Children’s Police Bureau and 36 Women and Children’s Police Desks for law enforcement in relation to the abuse and exploitation of women and children across the country.
80. A separate Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Empowerment was established in 2005 by the present Government. This Ministry supports and assists the Government in its efforts to prevent child abuse and in the protection, rehabilitation and reintegration of children who have been subjected to abuse …
81. The Government has collaborated with the United Nations to set up the TFMR [Task Force for Monitoring and Reporting], the monitoring and reporting mechanism set-up under the Security Council resolution 1612.
82. In conformity with resolution 1612 paragraph 2(a), the Objective of the TFMR is: (a) the systematic gathering of timely, objective, accurate and reliable information on the recruitment and use of child soldiers in violation of applicable international law and on other violations and abuses committed against children affected by armed conflict in Sri Lanka and (b) reporting to the Working Group of the Security Council on children and armed conflict as set up under resolution 1612.
83. In accordance with resolution 1612 and Section VI, paragraph 2 of the Terms of Reference of the Working Group on the Security Council on children and armed conflict, the TFMR will focus on violations against children affected by armed conflict beginning with its application against the party to the conflict listed in annex II of the [UN] Secretary General’s report (S/2005/72) as applicable to Sri Lanka.
107. All children in war affected areas[,] including those who have managed to escape from the LTTE as well as those vulnerable to recruitment[,] are provided [with] free preventive and curative health care by the Government. This has continued during the entire period of the conflict without discrimination, even in uncleared areas. All salaries of health staff in the North and East including medical professionals, nurses, labourers, technicians as well as public health staff including Family Health Workers, Public Health Inspectors and Medical Officers of Health are disbursed by the Government through regular allocations from the Treasury. Drugs, dressings, intravenous fluids and all other items are also provided by the Government. …
108. Children vulnerable to recruitment and those who have escaped have access to a wide network of Government primary health care services and free curative health care services. This includes an emphasis on maternal and child care services. This has continued throughout the conflict from 1983 and is sustained by the Government. The package of services for children in the North-East is the same as those provided in the rest of the country.
109. Children vulnerable to recruitment in the war affected areas have had continued access to immunization services. National Immunisation Days were carried out in conflict areas even during the height of the conflict, in the 1990s. These activities were undertaken through the organisation of “Days of Tranquillity” and “Corridors of Peace” by the Government and Ministry of Health in collaboration with UNICEF and civil society organizations such as Rotary. The programme enabled parents to bring their children to immunisation centres. All services were provided by local Ministry of Health staff. INGOs [International NGOs] and NGOs in addition to Rotary helped in such activities, including ICRC and UNHCR. The LTTE did not create barriers to such activities at that time.
110. The Health component of the Action Plan for Children Affected by War was developed as an effort to reach children vulnerable to recruitment in the North and East.
[footnote in original omitted]
In 2008, in its combined third and fourth periodic reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Sri Lanka stated:
118. There are provisions in several laws which prohibit the publication of particulars of children involved in legal proceedings in such a way as to enable their identification. Nevertheless the media, while not publishing the name and address of child victims, continues at times to publish other details regarding the victim’s family etc. which enable the identification of the victim. This is also relevant in the case of child combatants, particularly those who “surrender”. More advocacy is needed to prevent the exposure of their identity in the media.
345. The Government is finalizing an amendment to Emergency Regulations to deal with the situation of child surrendees – Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions and Powers) Regulation No. 1 of 2005. The amendment will provide for … appearance before a Magistrate …
346. The Magistrate is required to make a determination regarding the placement of the child considering the best interests of the child and with a view to effecting family reunification or placing him or her with extended family having due regard to the safety of the child and family.
348. As a follow up to Security-Council resolution 1612 and the United Nations Secretary-General’s report on children affected by the conflict, a task force meets regularly under the Secretary [of the] Ministry of Child [D]evelopment to discuss and follow up outstanding issues, particularly in relation to action needed. These include issues such as … birth registration and the provision of alternat[iv]e care.
370. The most recent development in this area is an inter-agency initiative on children affected by armed conflict, supported by UNICEF. A workshop was held in March 2008 [with] the participation of the MoCDWE [Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Empowerment], DPCCS [Department of Probation and Child Care Services] and NCPA [National Child Protection Authority], district-level officials and NGOs working on this issue. The purpose of the workshop was to review and harmonize [the] existing child protection strategy for these children and establish the basis for the definition of minimum standards of practice across all State and non-State actors and agencies.
371. Working groups have begun to formulate standards and guidelines in eight thematic areas: advocacy strategy; community awareness/participation/protection; special protection; protective/interim care and case management; school reintegration, psychosocial support, gender and other cross-cutting issues; vocational training/livelihoods; government structures; and coordination structures/referral mechanisms. Models of best practice will be developed in each area.
372. As follow up, at national level there will be a consultation with the government to define coordination mechanisms at national and district level, to develop a referral mechanism model and to identify capacity building needs. At district level, the workshop conclusions will be shared with relevant child protection stakeholders in order to identify steps to develop [a] best practices model, to recommend to the national level actions and support needed, and to participate in the elaboration of operational guidelines.
426. Financial and human resource constraints and logistical difficulties weigh heavily against the expansion of juvenile courts beyond the existing one in Colombo. In January 2008 the President of Sri Lanka publicly recognized the need for more juvenile courts to hear cases involving children including child soldiers, referring to the undesirability of child offenders mingling with adult offenders. Possibly due to increased awareness and sensitivity among judges, there are ad hoc initiatives in certain courts to try and ensure separate hearings in cases involving children.
427. The Community Based Corrections Act No. 46 of 1999 provides for a range of non-custodial orders for the rehabilitation of offenders which could be imposed in lieu of imprisonment. These include unpaid community work; attending educational, vocational, personal training or development programmes; and undergoing assessment and treatment for alcohol or drug addiction. This Act has not been used in respect of children in conflict with the law.