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US officials accuse Tillerson of violating federal law on child soldiers

Myanmar, Iraq and Afghanistan were excluded in the list of countries using child soldiers [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 November, 2017

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State officials have accused the US Secretary of State of violating federal law on child soldiers by omitting Myanmar, Iraq and Afghanistan from the list.
A group of officials accused US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of violating a federal law on Tuesday designed to prevent the enlisting of child soldiers by foreign militaries.

Tillerson excluded Myanmar, Iraq and Afghanistan from an annual list of offending countries that use or fund child soldiers, despite the department publicly acknowledging the conscription of children in those countries.

The omission of the three countries from the annual list makes it easier for countries to receive military aid from the United States.

An internal 'dissent' memo, first obtained by Reuters, found Tillerson's move to be at odds with recommendations from regional bureau heads and internal lawyers.

"Beyond contravening US law, this decision risks marring the credibility of a broad range of State Department reports and analyses and has weakened one of the US government’s primary diplomatic tools to deter governmental armed forces and government-supported armed groups from recruiting and using children in combat and support roles around the world," reads the July 28 memo.

Tillerson had first disregarded the internal recommendation on Myanmar, Iraq and Afghanistan in June, and defended his decision by citing the countries efforts to crack down on the crimes.

The new documents however, reveal the scale of opposition by state department officials, with dissenting officials arguing that the criteria for the federal law to be applied did not depend on effort, and as such was a violation'.

The child soldiers law stipulates that the American government must be satisfied no children under the age of 18 "are recruited, conscripted or otherwise compelled to serve as child soldiers" in order to be removed from the list.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Mali, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are currently included in the list.

Iraq denies the country's military uses child soldiers, and the Myanmar government spokesman challenged accusers to prove child soldiers were being used. The Afghan defence and interior ministries similarly deny accusation of child soldiers, despite the findings of state department reports and human right groups.  

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