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Rights Group Calls on Obama to Require Prohibition of Child Soldiers


FILE - Mohammad (R), a 13 year-old fighter from the Free Syrian Army, aims his weapon as he runs from snipers loyal to the Syrian regime in Aleppo's Bustan al-Basha district October 29, 2013.

FILE - Mohammad (R), a 13 year-old fighter from the Free Syrian Army, aims his weapon as he runs from snipers loyal to the Syrian regime in Aleppo's Bustan al-Basha district October 29, 2013.

Human Rights Watch urged President Barack Obama’s administration to require foreign governments receiving United States military assistance to immediately end their use of child soldiers.

The rights group renewed its call Thursday, as the U.S. State Department issued its annual trafficking report with a new list of countries implicated in the use of child soldiers.

Many of the governments listed in Trafficking in Persons Report 2016 “receive U.S. military aid year after year despite their continued use of children as soldiers,” HRW children’s rights advocacy director Jo Becker said. “President Obama should make clear that countries using child soldiers are going to lose U.S. military support.”

Recruiting children

The list names ten countries: Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

А YouTube screen grab from an Islamic State propaganda video shows an IS recruiter with two child soldiers. Children as young as eight years old are reportedly being trained to serve in roles ranging from spies, to front line soldiers, to suicide bombers.

А YouTube screen grab from an Islamic State propaganda video shows an IS recruiter with two child soldiers. Children as young as eight years old are reportedly being trained to serve in roles ranging from spies, to front line soldiers, to suicide bombers.

Iraq was added to the list for the first time this year, while Afghanistan was excluded.

“The United States has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to support an Afghan militia that recruits and uses children to fight the Taliban,” Becker said. “Afghanistan should also be on this list and subject to military sanctions.”

Obama must decide by the end of September whether to waive the law’s military sanctions for any of the listed governments for fiscal year 2017.

In 2008, the U.S. Congress approved the Child Soldiers Prevention Act which prohibits certain forms of U.S. military aid to countries that use child soldiers in their national armed forces or support militias or paramilitaries that recruit and use child soldiers.

The U.S. president can waive the prohibition for national security reasons. Since the act went into effect in 2010, Obama has issued a waiver for 26 out of 33 countries using child soldiers.

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