State Dept employees protest exclusion of violators from child soldiers list

Cheryl Sanders
November 22, 2017

The "dissent" memo alleges Tillerson's June decision not to include Iraq, Myanmar and Afghanistan on the list of countries that use child soldiers violated the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, according to the news service.

Previously, under the Obama administration, the State Department had left Afghanistan off the list, when the legal advisor argued that child soldier use there fell outside the law. Although Iraq and Myanmar were listed in last year's report, they were granted waivers by the Obama administration that allowed the provide them military assistance, a decision that was criticized at the time. The memo also asserts that Tillerson's decision sends the message that minimal efforts are sufficient and that "we as a government are not interested in upholding worldwide norms, nor in holding countries accountable for ongoing abuses against children".

The Human Rights Watch called on Tillerson to reinstate Iraq and Myanmar to the list, as well as add Afghanistan.

A State Department spokesman told Reuters that Tillerson "thoroughly reviewed all of the information presented to him and made a determination about whether the facts presented justified a listing pursuant to the law". "Unless Tillerson reverses this action, he will gravely damage USA credibility in ending the use of children in warfare".

Herman Schwartz, a constitutional law professor at American University in Washington, said USA courts would be unlikely to accept any challenge to Tillerson's interpretation of the child soldiers law as allowing him to remove a country from the list on his own discretion.

However, she said Tillerson had reviewed all the evidence when deciding what countries to put on the offenders' list in June and did not agree that Iraq, Afghanistan and Myanmar merited inclusion.

Asked at a photo opportunity why his agency chose to leave the countries off the list, Tillerson hesitated, then simply said, "It's all in the report".

Human Rights Watch, the United Nations, and other organizations have documented the use of child soldiers in all three countries by regular or militia forces. "We can say today with full confidence that we have a clean slate on child recruitment issues", he said. Human rights advocates have estimated that dozens of children are still conscripted there.

The State Department has not yet commented.

Meantime, Tillerson did not reveal any other details of the new sanctions package and reminded that the US Treasury Department is due to make an official announcement on Tuesday.

Other reports by iNewsToday