Practice Relating to Rule 136. Recruitment of Child Soldiers
Sri Lanka’s Penal Code (2006) states:
Any person who –
(d) engages or recruits a child for use in armed conflict,
shall be guilty of an offence.
“child” means a person under eighteen years of age.
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:
1. The Government of Sri Lanka considers the recruitment of children for armed conflict as one of the most serious aspects of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka. The Government recognizes that child recruitment is an extreme form of child abuse and exploitation, and that the loss of childhood as a result of recruitment is irreplaceable. It is in direct contravention of the  Convention on the Rights of the Child and the  Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, … to [both of] which [the] Government is a party. Sri Lanka ratified the Convention and the Optional Protocol on 11 August 1991 and 12 February 2002 respectively. Sri Lanka was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol.
2. Sri Lanka also ratified the Convention [on the Worst Forms of Child Labour] No. 182 (1999), of the International Labour Organization on 1 March 2001. This defines child soldiering as one of the worst forms of child labour and prohibits the forced or compulsory recruitment of children under the age of 18 for use in armed conflict.
3. The Government has consistently maintained a zero tolerance approach towards child recruitment … in accordance with its obligations under the Convention and in particular, the  Optional Protocol. The Government unequivocally condemns the recruitment of children for armed conflict and regards it as the most serious human rights violation directly attributable to the armed conflict. It recognizes that the majority of children thus recruited not only suffer untold abuse and hardship, but run the risk of being maimed, disabled and killed.
5. Sri Lanka abides by the articles of the Convention [on the Rights of the Child]. Accordingly, all recruitment to the Sri Lankan Armed Forces is voluntary and between the ages of 18 and 22 at the time of enlistment.
6. The Penal Code (Amendment) Act No. 16 of 2006 relating to the prohibition on the recruitment of children as combatants was enacted in Parliament on 1 January 2006. Therefore, engaging or recruiting children for use in armed conflict is now recognised as an offence. Any person convicted of this offence shall be liable to imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding 30 years and to a fine.
7. The Government supported and welcomed the unanimous adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1612 on children in armed conflict in July 2005. This resolution gives effect to a series of measures, including the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism on children exposed to the armed conflict. Accordingly, the Government established the Task Force for Monitoring and Reporting (TFMR) in July 2006 in collaboration with relevant United Nations agencies. Sri Lanka maintains close collaboration with the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and presented an Aide-Memoire with relevant information in February 2008. Security Council resolution 1612 remains closely relevant to the Sri Lankan armed conflict situation which has existed for over two decades as it is one in which children have and continue to experience child recruitment, internal displacement and other child rights violations. The monitoring and reporting mechanism set-up under the Security Council Resolution 1612 provides an opportunity to obtain comprehensive information on incidents involving children due to the conflict.
8. However, verification of the accuracy and reliability of information, objectivity of the incidents reported and proper analysis are issues yet to be fully resolved. Figures on child recruitment are mainly those collected through a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) database established in 2003. The data represents information on child recruitment reported by parents to UNICEF offices located in conflict affected areas of the North and the East. However this may not fully represent the total picture due to factors such as fear, intimidation and harassment of concerned families by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), a non-State party entity in Sri Lanka, which continues to recruit children as combatants. Anecdotal information indicates a high prevalence rate of child recruitment among women headed households particularly widows, but no exact figures are available. Since the child recruitment database by UNICEF was established in 2003, it does not reflect the widespread recruitment which occurred during the period from 1983 to 2002. The only information during this period is that available with the Armed Forces, that nearly 60 per cent of the estimated 14,000 LTTE cadres were child recruits. Most of the current LTTE leadership today were probably child combatants who have survived to adulthood.
9. Sri Lanka is committed to uphold the rights of all Sri Lankan children including the protection rights of children exposed to the armed conflict. Sri Lanka’s armed forces have consistently maintained 18 years as the legally-established minimum age of recruitment, also in accordance with relevant international treaty obligations. However, the LTTE have recruited children since the commencement of the conflict in 1983. Advocacy against child recruitment has been consistently maintained by the Government with support from the international community particularly UNICEF. But so far, this has not had the desired impact and child recruitment practices by the LTTE still continue. … [T]here have been regular visits to conflict affected areas by high-ranking United Nations officials who have advocated against child recruitment. The last was by the United Nations Special Advisor Mr. Alan Rock in November 2006. Despite commitments made to Mr. Rock by the LTTE that child recruitment would cease from January 2007, and that an Action Plan to do so would be developed, this has yet to be implemented.
10. An Action Plan for Children Affected by War was signed by the Government, UNICEF and the LTTE in 2003 in the aftermath of the 2002 Cease-Fire Agreement (CFA). This included a clear commitment by the LTTE to stop child recruitment while collaborating with the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) …
12. Since the signing of the CFA, as of 31 March 2008, UNICEF has recorded in its database 6,259 cases of child recruitment by the LTTE. Out of this total, 3,784 were boys, 2,475 girls, and 2,047 were regarded as released children. There were 1,429 children recruited under 18 but who had reached 18 years as of March 2008. Those under 18 years were 168. UNICEF has also recorded underage recruits by the Karuna faction, which is a break-away group of the LTTE in the East. The total known to UNICEF is 463. Outstanding cases under 18 years are 131 with 66 recruited under 18 years but are now above that age.
13. The LTTE has been identified as a party that recruit[s] or use[s] children in situations of armed conflict in the report to the [UN] Secretary-General on children and armed conflict and in further reports in 2006 (S/2006/1006) and in 2007 (S/2007/758). In 2007, the Karuna faction of the LTTE was also included as a party responsible for child recruitment.
14. The UNSG [UN Secretary General] in a report issued in 2005 highlighted LTTE’s continued use and recruitment of children following the signing of the CFA in 2002. This reached a peak in 2004 when there were over 1,000 cases of recruitment and re-recruitment reported by parents to UNICEF. Increasing number of girls was a new feature. Most of the recruitment occurred in the Eastern Province.
15. The UN Secretary General’s report of 2006 states that the LTTE continued the recruitment and the re-recruitment of children who had previously run away. The report indicated that as of end 2006, out of a total of 5,794 cases, 1,598 remained with the LTTE. The report also indicated an overlap of 37 per cent between children recorded by UNICEF and children who were released, ran away or returned home. This suggests that the UNICEF figures reported approximately one third of the total cases of recruitment. Higher levels of recruitment were reported from Kilinochchi (which is an “uncleared” area where the LTTE dominates) with more girls being recruited from Mullativu. A disturbing feature reported was the release of children through the so called “North-East Secretariat on Human Rights” and to an “Educational Skills Development Centre”, both of which are run by the LTTE. Children were placed in this facility without parental consent. No independent verification was possible. As a perpetrator, the LTTE’s control of the centre is highly questionable. During this period, the LTTE had conducted systematic programmes on civil defence training. UNICEF reported that children were also involved in such programmes and much of them were conducted during school hours, while school principals and teachers were helpless.
16. In April 2004, “Colonel” Karuna, the LTTE Commander in the East[,] broke away from the LTTE and fighting between the two factions was intensified in the East. UNICEF reported child recruitment by the Karuna faction of the LTTE in the East. Allegations were made of state complicity. This is now under investigation through a Committee constituted under the Secretary to the Ministry of Justice. An issue regarding making a distinction between adults and children will be remedied soon through a new Gazette notification pertaining to the release of children and child friendly procedures.
17. The Government continues to work in close collaboration with UNICEF, as well as International Non-governmental organizations (INGOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other community based organizations to prevent children from being recruited as combatants by the LTTE and other breakaway groups of the LTTE such as the Karuna faction and the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP).
20. The United Nations Secretary-General’s report of December 2007 reports a decline in child recruitment by the LTTE as reported by UNICEF. However, whether this is a decline in under reporting due to the heightening of hostilities and the inability of parents to report needs to be given serious consideration. The report also highlights greater travel restrictions imposed by the LTTE. This affects adults and children aged 13 and above. During this period there was also a reduction in the number of children handed over by the LTTE to their educational skills development centre in Killinochchi.
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 to provide protection for children affected by the armed conflict, [and the] prevention of child recruitment …
27. Enlistment of soldiers to the Armed Forces of Sri Lanka is governed by the Soldiers Enlistment Regulations of 1955. Enlistments are conducted either as “recruits” or “directly enlisted soldiers”. The regulation states that:
“No person shall be enlisted as a recruit in the Regular Force unless he is between the ages of 18 and 22 on the date of his enlistment” and “no person shall be enlisted as a directly enlisted soldier in the Regular Force unless he is between the ages of 18 and 40 years on the date of his enlistment”.
Enlistment of a recruit means “any soldier other than a directly enlisted soldier” and enlistment of directly enlisted soldier means “any person who is selected for an appointment requiring technical or other special knowledge training”.
28. The above mentioned requirements have been strictly complied with by the Armed Forces and there have been no exceptions.
29. In addition, the extension of service or re-recruitment of a soldier is applicable only to a soldier already in service, as stated in the Soldiers Service Regulations No 1 of 1994; hence the issue of age does not arise.
30. Sri Lanka does not have any legislation providing for compulsory recruitment or conscription.
31. All recruitment to the armed forces is voluntary, as categorically stated in the Soldiers Enlistment Regulations of 1955:
Paragraph 3 states that: “Applications from persons desirous of being enlisted as recruits shall be called for by advertisements in the Gazette.”
Paragraph 10 states that: “Applications from persons desirous of being enlisted as directly enlisted soldiers shall be called for by advertisement in the Gazette. Such advertisement shall set out the special qualification necessary for the posts which are being filled.”
The minimum age of enlistment is 18 years.
32. The following declaration was made by Sri Lanka at the time of its ratification of the Optional Protocol:
The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka declares in accordance with article 3 (2) of the Protocol that under the laws of Sri Lanka: (a) there is no compulsory, forced or coerced recruitment into the national armed forces; (b) recruitment is solely on a voluntary basis; (c) the minimum age for voluntary recruitment into national armed forces is 18 years. …
33. All the requirements mentioned under … Article [3 of the (2000) Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict] are strictly complied with by the armed forces in respect of enlistment of soldiers.
34. The LTTE is distinct from the armed forces of the State. The LTTE have consistently recruited children since 1983 in violation of international law and since 2006, local law, specifically the Penal Code.
35. The Sri Lankan armed forces have estimated that between 1983 to 2002, out of a total of 14,000 LTTE combatants, as many as 60 per cent of the combatants were below the age of 18 years. Both boys and girls have been recruited. Estimates also reveal that at least 40 per cent of the LTTE fighting force were killed in action during the 1983–2002 period. These mostly consisted of children between the ages of 9 and 18. Most of the adult leadership of the LTTE today were probably child combatants. This could be one of the factors which hinder a total elimination of child recruitment as the LTTE leadership is not committed to cease such recruitment. In addition, fear and intimidation are factors which lead to recruitment, as well as kidnapping and abduction.
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, to add strength to the advocacy campaign against child recruitment. … The LTTE made the following commitments in relation to children in armed conflict to Mr. Otunnu during his meeting with the LTTE[:]
(a) The LTTE undertook … not to conscript children below the age of 17 years. The LTTE leadership accepted that a framework to monitor these commitments would be put in place;
37. These commitments were not implemented by the LTTE. Despite such repeated pledges by the LTTE leadership to end child recruitment, they continue to do so even today. Such children include not only those living in un-cleared areas but also those in areas that have been consider[ed] “cleared” from the LTTE.
38. According to UNICEF data as of 31 March 2008, there have been a total of 6,259 cases of child recruitment by the LTTE since the signing of the CFA in 2002. Out of this 3,784 were boys and 2,475 were girls. Although these numbers are high, these are still lower than the actual numbers. It is not possible to accurately determine the full extent of under-age recruitment for several reasons. Some parents are not fully aware of the existing UNICEF reporting mechanisms. Due to fear of reprisals by the LTTE, many do not report such cases. Most families suffer from intimidation and threats if they contravene LTTE orders.
39. According to the cumulative statistics of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) when it was operational, out of 3,830 ceasefire (ruled) violations by the LTTE during the period 22 February 2002 to 30 April 2007, 1,743 violations were related to child recruitment. This amounts to 45.51 per cent of LTTE’s total ceasefire (ruled) violations during that period.
40. The strategies adopted by the LTTE and the Karuna Group to recruit children to their cadres are manifold. However, the most common form of conscription is through fear and intimidation of families as well as abductions, and kidnapping. Of equal importance is their ruse to “motivate” children through deliberate efforts to glorify war, violence and martyrdom. Children, being extremely impressionable[,] are easily conditioned to regard violence as a source of power. They can thus, get attracted to join armed groups masquerading as champions of a particular cause.
41. Children are not only forcibly recruited … Children are not equipped to form an informed opinion in regard to the legitimacy of such causes and therefore become easy prey for such illegitimate power groups. They are consequently denied a multiplicity of rights, including the right to health, education, recreation, leisure and play and most importantly of all to be able to live and grow in their own family and community. With the prolonged conflict, and LTTE’s difficulties to recruit adequate numbers of adults, the poverty situation which is aggravated in a conflict environment, indoctrination of young people even in schools in such areas, the practice of child recruitment continues. The LTTE promises food and payment to the children they recruit.
44. According to information obtained from the Security Forces, children are usually recruited by the LTTE in the age range of 7–17.
45. Analysis of … data compiled by UNICEF … indicates significant child recruitment in 2002, the same year the CFA [Cease-Fire Agreement] was signed between the Government and the LTTE. It could also be due to the fact that this was the first data gathered on a systematic basis where families had an opportunity to report, and access given to the LTTE in areas controlled by the Security Forces, pursuant to the CFA signed in February 2002. Although there were indications of a decline in recruiting children as combatants in 2004 and 2005, it was not clear how significant these findings were. …
47. Although the Government attempted to raise the issue of child recruitment during its talks with the LTTE on the Cease Fire Agreement held in Geneva from 22–23 February 2006, the LTTE declined to discuss the topic. The Statement issued at the conclusion of talks states that “The Government and the LTTE discussed all issues concerning the welfare of children in the North East, including the recruitment of children.”
48. Based on codes of confidentiality, details of individual child combatants are not disclosed. However, personal information, place of abduction, age when recruited and date of recruitment could be provided by [the] Government to the Committee on the Rights of the Child upon request.
49. The Government in 2003 decided to collaborate with UNICEF to draw up a plan to prevent child recruitment. Thus an Action Plan for Children Affected by War (the Action Plan) was signed between the Government, the LTTE and UNICEF in April 2003. The Action Plan focuses on child recruitment … in terms of preventative strategies … In the Action Plan, the LTTE made commitments to cease the practice of child recruitment and release all those already recruited. However, this commitment was not implemented.
50. There was however systemic weaknesses in the planning of this initiative by UNICEF. Government institutions, particularly the NCPA [National Child Protection Authority], which has the mandate to uphold the protection rights enshrined in the Convention [on the Rights of the Child] was left out of the planning process and the project because the LTTE did not like the way they had advocated against child recruitment. Strong objections by the LTTE interfered with the selection of partners to the project by UNICEF. Due to [the] NCPA’s consistent zero tolerance and non-negotiable policy against child recruitment, the LTTE objected to [the] NCPA’s participation in the Action Plan. The NCPA was and still, as the key national agency for child protection, is committed to protect children from recruitment as these children are not only at risk of injury, disability and death but also vulnerable to serious, long term psychological problems and deprivation of education, and worst of all, their right to life is at risk. They are also being denied … the full enjoyment of the childhood among their parents, siblings, extended family and friends. Instead of the NCPA, the Ministry of Social Welfare was selected to provide training inputs through the Department of Probation and Child Care Services as the partner Government institution for child rehabilitation. This Department was “acceptable” to the LTTE.
51. Both the NCPA and the HRCSL [Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka], which is also involved in promoting child rights in conflict areas are members of the Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (TFMR). The HRCSL, which is also a member of the TFMR, advocates a zero tolerance policy in relation to the recruitment of children as combatants, and has expressed their deep concern about the continued recruitment of child soldiers by the LTTE. Media releases issued by HRCSL have articulated these policies in a comprehensive manner. The HRCSL has extended its mandate to cover the rights of children affected by the conflict and also performs a monitoring role. HRCSL take steps to produce before Magistrate child combatants who surrender themselves in order to obtain necessary custodial orders and to provide protective care.
52. Although the Government provided LTTE more than 100 birth certificates of children recruited since April 2005, most of these children have not been released.
53. The Penal Code (Amendment) Act No. 16 of 2006 relating to the prohibition on the recruitment of children as combatants, was enacted in Parliament on 1 January 2006. Therefore, engaging or recruiting children for use in armed conflict is now recognised as an offence. Any person convicted of this offence, shall be liable to imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding 30 years and to a fine.
54. [The] ILO [International Labour Organization]  Convention [on the Worst Forms of Child Labour] No. 182 … , which Sri Lanka ratified on 1 March 2001, defines child soldiering as one of the worst forms of child labour and prohibits the force[d] … recruitment of children under the ages of 18 years for use in armed conflict. The Government is committed to implement the Convention in collaboration with ILO.
58. The Government is … committed to the prevention of recruitment … by the LTTE and its break-away Karuna faction. The Government maintains [towards] the recruitment of children as combatants … a zero tolerance and [considers it a] non–negotiable issue. However, in the context of the ongoing fight against LTTE, the Government seeks the support of relevant international organizations to strengthen the capacity of institutions such as the NCPA, the HRCSL and the Office of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation to protect children from being used as combatants ….
61. Relevant changes have been made to the law, in particular to the Penal Code in order to address crimes against children. Thus section 358A(1)(d) of the Penal Code pronounces that any person who engages or recruits a child for use in armed conflict shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding thirty years and to a fine. Paragraph (b) of that subsection states that any person who subjects or causes any person to be subjected to forced or compulsory labour shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding twenty years and where the offence is committed in relation to a child for a term not exceeding thirty years and to a fine.
62. Sri Lanka is a signatory to the Paris Commitments to protect children from unlawful recruitment … by armed forces or armed groups. …
63. The Assistance and Protection to Victims of Crime and Witnesses Bill which will be presented in Parliament shortly sets out the rights and entitlements of victims of crime and witness protection. …
72. A precursor to the National Authority on the Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses is the Centre for Victims of Crime which was established in 2002. The main functions of the Centre are to take measures for the Prevention and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses. This includes crime prevention, prevention of re-victimization, the organizing of workshops, training programmes and media programmes targeting the police and other stakeholders of the criminal justice system as well as Government officials such as District Secretaries, Divisional Secretaries and Grama Niladharies.
73. It is expected that once this Bill is promulgated as an Act of Parliament, those under threat or at risk of forced recruitment would have the confidence to complain and seek assistance.
81. The Government has collaborated with the United Nations to set up the TFMR, 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 … of child soldiers in violation of applicable international law … 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 Secretary General’s report (S/2005/72) as applicable to Sri Lanka.
84. The TFMR will also focus on the recruitment of child soldiers. … [V]iolations and abuses committed against children affected by armed conflict including abduction of children … will also be addressed.
89. Child recruitment information is collected in a database established in 2003. There is also a record of children who have “surrendered” and those who are under interim care and protection. Care and protection of child “surrendees” are undertaken by the Office of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation. The NCPA provides support as do other relevant agencies including UNICEF.
91. Pursuant to a decision taken by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Human Rights (IMCHR) in November 2007, the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights established a multidisciplinary Committee to inquire into allegations of abduction and recruitment of children for use in armed conflict. The Committee is mandated to:
(a) Take any measure it may deem necessary to initiate inquiries on, and monitor the investigations into, allegations made against some elements of the security forces in connection with the recruitment and abduction of children by the LTTE’s break-away Karuna faction;
(b) Recommend measures for the protection of complainants and witnesses from reprisals at all stages of an investigation and thereafter …
92. With regard to 48 affidavits submitted to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) by people from the Eastern Province, regarding child abduction and recruitment, two senior Superintendents of Police were assigned to investigate these cases and make recommendations. A detailed report with regard to these 48 affidavits was submitted. The Committee has also requested detailed information from the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Senior Deputy Inspector-General of Police/North East, in this regard.
93. … Reports of on-going investigations into alleged disappearances have been called for and measures to prevent child recruitment will be reinforced with the assistance of the local community, the divisional and district administration, the police and the armed forces.
95. It is proposed to set up Village-level Committees for the purpose of surveillance and prevention of recruitment of children for armed conflict …
96. Guidelines on Protective care, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Child Combatants have been developed in collaboration with the office of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation.
97. The Guidelines include the following:
(a) To advocate against child recruitment at all levels of society as a core responsibility of the Government;
(b) To mobilize and empower families and communities to protect children at risk of recruitment utilizing community networks working in collaboration with relevant Government authorities;
(c) To facilitate interventions at community level which address early childhood deprivations and provide alternative paths to socio-economic advancement as poverty and marginalization of families are some root causes for recruitment;
98. As part of the Action Plan for Children Affected by War, formulated in 2003, UNICEF collaborated with the Government in planning a mass media awareness campaign on child rights, emphasizing advocacy against child recruitment. This involved posters, road-side signs, radio broadcasts and leaflets. … This was planned to educate parents on their responsibilities to report child rights violations, particularly underage recruitment.
99. According to reports by UNICEF, the mass media campaign was indefinitely postponed to January 2004 as the LTTE did not approve of the key messages. It was subsequently never implemented.
104. … [T]he prevention of new recruits as envisaged in the Action Plan Affected by War faced serious constraints in 2003 due to LTTE’s lack of commitment ma[i]nly due to the fact that the Action Plan was formulated by UNICEF and the LTTE. Thus it was not effectively implemented.
124. The Government considers it important that an effective follow-up at community level once the child leaves the centre is provided. … A district referral system will be formulated on existing reintegration services, … to address … prevention of recruitment.
126. The NCPA is committed to prevent children being used as combatants. This involves advocacy against recruitment …
137. The Government seeks financial support to … prevent recruitment through advocacy … There is also need for financial assistance for vulnerable families to prevent recruitment and to strengthen the communication system so that all children are able to attend school and therefore not be recruited.
[footnotes 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:
17. Legislation was passed in a number of areas to strengthen children’s rights and enhance their protection. These included the following:
(c) The Penal Code (Amendment) Act No. 16 of 2006 … new section 358A has criminalized outstanding worst forms of child labour as stipulated in the International Labour Organization (ILO)  Convention No. 182 [on the Worst Forms of Child Labour]: … [including] recruitment of children in armed conflict.
66. Currently a restructuring of the underage recruitment database system maintained under the Sri Lanka Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1612 is being discussed.
331. The Government abides strictly with the  Convention on the Rights of the Child and has never recruited children under the age of 18 years to the Sri Lanka Armed Forces. This rule still operates. All recruits have to present a birth certificate which confirms their age as being 18 years. This is a practice in all forms of government employment.
335. The Penal Code was amended in 2006 (Amendment 16). Accordingly the engagement or recruitment of children for use in armed conflict has been criminalized (section 358A).
336. The Action Plan for Children Affected by War was a multi-sectoral programme drawn up in 2003 during the period following the Ceasefire Agreement. It involved the participation of the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam], with the prime focus being securing the release of child combatants recruited by the LTTE, [and] preventing further recruitment. …
341. … The Government is following up allegations of continued child recruitment by the TMVP [Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal] as a serious issue.
347. The Government set up a Sri Lanka Task Force for Monitoring and Reporting on children affected by armed conflict in terms of Security Council resolution 1612 on July 2006. The Task Force secretariat is based in UNICEF and coordinates information gathering at national level data. The Task Force will be the contact point for the global Steering Committee. … The governmental agencies which are members include the NCPA [National Child Protection Authority] and the Human Rights Commission. One of the most important aspects which need[s] to be strengthened in the Committee is the need for the verification of incidents being reported. This includes greater attention to accuracy and objectivity. Another is the need to build the capacity of the only two State institutions which have serious difficulties in fully participating in the reporting process due to lack of resources to build the capacity of their institutions to record and report child related incidents to the Sri Lanka Task Force on 1612.
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 child recruitment.
In 2009, in its combined third and fourth periodic reports to the Committee against Torture, Sri Lanka stated:
61. Sri Lanka is, at present, successfully emerging from a protracted, 30 year armed conflict with the terrorist group, the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam]. The LTTE was well known for their use of children in armed conflict, sometimes as young as 14 years, for active combat and for suicide missions. The Government of Sri Lanka has, throughout the conflict, maintained its strong condemnation and unequivocal abhorrence … [of] the recruitment … of children in armed conflict.
62. … [T]he Government of Sri Lanka has undertaken strong deterrent measures, and continues to undertake, progressive action towards addressing child recruitment … The Government has consistently maintained a zero tolerance policy towards child recruitment … in armed conflict and maintains an 18 year old lower limit [for recruitment] … [in]to its armed forces.
66. Sri Lanka was among the first Member State[s] to volunteer to set up a National Task Force in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolutions 1539 and 1612 to monitor and report on these activities.
67. The end of the conflict in Sri Lanka in May 2009, and the end of the terrorist activities of the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam], marks a significant starting point for the Government and for the children affected by the armed conflict. Today, with the end of [LTTE] terrorism, most child combatants have been identified. As the LTTE no longer has a ruthless organizational structure to force innocent parents to part with their children, the abhorrent practice of force[d] recruitment of child soldiers has ceased to exist.
68. With the demolition of the LTTE’s ruthless organizational structure, parents are no longer forced to part with their children for purposes of combat.
91. … [T]he Penal Code (Amendment) Bill on the recruitment of children as combatants was passed on the 1 of February 2006. There under the “engaging and recruiting children for use in armed conflict” was considered an offence.
93. … Sri Lanka … [launched] a campaign at the highest executive level to combat child recruitment by the President of Sri Lanka on 26 February 2009 …
98. As a reflection of the government’s commitment at the highest executive level to combat child recruitment, His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa launched on 26th February 2009 the joint Government of Sri Lanka and UNICEF Public Awareness Campaign on Child Recruitment … [The] campaign targets armed groups, vulnerable communities and children affected by the armed conflict; and communicates the government’s commitment to responding to child recruitment. The message of the campaign is three[-]fold:
(a) The Government of Sri Lanka has a zero tolerance policy for child recruitment which is a crime under national and international law;
(b) Armed groups are to immediately release all children in their ranks …
99. “Bring back the Child” is a multimedia campaign that calls on those who recruit children to stop, and for those children currently in their ranks to be released … Concurrently, the campaign aims to strengthen the capacity of communities to protect children against the threats of recruitment. The campaign has been airing for a period of two months on television, radio and through newspapers, billboards and posters across the country, with a focus on the north east, and in the country’s three languages – Sinhalese, Tamil and English.
In 2011, in its Humanitarian Operation Factual Analysis July 2006–May 2009, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence stated:
31. The LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] made ruthless use of children. It forcibly recruited even children as young as 10 years in the areas it dominated. Families were coerced to provide at least one child for its cause during the initial stages of the conflict. The LTTE ideology was promoted at ceremonies forcibly held in schools, and children were abducted even whilst in school. Conscripted children were subject to indoctrination as well as brutal training. Some were even brainwashed into becoming suicide cadres.
32. Even after the signing of the ceasefire agreement of 2002, recruitment of children by the LTTE continued unabated. Although the LTTE agreed to release child soldiers in its custody and to refrain from such recruitment in the future, it failed to honour either of these undertakings. In 2006, UNICEF estimated that over 5,700 of the LTTE’s cadres were children.
The Ministry of Defence also stated:
The LTTE … capitalised on the ceasefire period by significantly increasing its recruitment activities, including in Government controlled areas. This included the abduction of adults and children. The SLMM [Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission] determined that the LTTE was responsible for 1,743 instances of child recruitments.
The Ministry of Defence further stated: “On 18 May 2009, Sri Lanka defeated the LTTE, bringing to an end three decades of conflict and suffering.”
In 2012, in a section entitled “Theme area: Human Rights” of its National Plan of Action to Implement the Recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, which also includes a section entitled “Theme area: International Humanitarian Law Issues”, Sri Lanka’s Government stated:
9.79 – Investigate any such instances where there is prima facie evidence of conscription of children as combatants and ensure that offenders are brought to justice.
In 2012, in its fifth periodic report to the Human Rights Committee, Sri Lanka stated:
7. As the Committee is aware, Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and territorial integrity was threatened by a terrorist group known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for a period of nearly three decades …
8. The LTTE waged a separatist conflict in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka to create a mono-ethnic separate state in those areas. …
12. Between February 2002 and May 2007, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), observers of the CFA [2002 Ceasefire Agreement], ruled that the terrorist group had violated the CFA 3830 times as opposed to 351 attributed to Government forces. It must also be noted that the large majority of violations attributed to the terrorist group by the SLMM included … recruitment of child soldiers.
[footnote in original omitted]
Sri Lanka also stated: “In accordance with the Government obligations under UNCRC [1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child] no children were recruited by the Government of Sri Lanka during the 30 year conflict.”