Sri Lanka UN voices concern over staff member forcibly recruited by rebels

The national staff member was recruited by force in the Government-declared ‘no-fire zone,’ where the world body says as many as 180,000 civilians are seeking refuge from the clashes.“The UN in Sri Lanka has protested to the LTTE that UN national staff, as well as children in general, are protected under national and international law from recruitment by armed groups, and has called for their immediate release,” according to a statement issued by the Office of the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the island nation.Another UN national staff member was recruited two weeks ago, but despite repeated requests from the UN, has yet to be released.“The brutal and inhuman treatment of civilians by the LTTE is utterly reprehensible, and should be examined to see if it constitutes war crimes,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said last week, calling on the Government and the LTTE to immediately halt the fighting to allow all civilians to evacuate the conflict zone. Navi Pillay deplored the mounting deaths and injuries of civilians due to the “bitter” conflict, pointing out that certain actions undertaken by both the Government and LTTE could constitute violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.“We need to know more about what is going on, but we know enough to be sure that the situation is absolutely desperate,” she said. “The world today is ever-sensitive about such acts that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”Repeated shelling has continued in the no-fire zone, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).Other areas where civilians are sheltering have been hit, and OHCHR noted reports that over 2,800 people may have been killed and 7,000 others injured – many in the no-fire zones – since late January. Many children are believed to be among the casualties, with hundred having lost their lives and over 1,000 hurt. 16 March 2009The United Nations today voiced its “grave” fears for the safety of one of its staff and three family members, including a 16-year-old girl, forcibly recruited this weekend by the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who have been fighting the Sri Lankan Government in the country’s north. read more