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US Criticized for Supplying Arms to Nations That Recruit Child Soldiers

FILE - A group of children at the U.N. protection of civilians site in Juba, South Sudan, play with a toy gun.

A United Nations watchdog committee has found the United States in violation of treaty obligations aimed at protecting children in armed conflict, and preventing the sale and trafficking of children. The Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, completed a three-week examination of the United States and seven other countries.

The U.S. is the only country in the world that is not party to the convention. However, it has ratified two optional protocols to the convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Both protocols were reviewed at the session.

Under the protocol on children in armed conflict, the committee expressed concern about the deaths of children killed by U.S. airstrikes in countries such as Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan.

Human rights expert Benyam Dawit Mezmur says the committee is troubled by full or partial presidential waivers that enable the U.S. to provide military training and assistance to armed forces in countries where the recruitment and use of children as soldiers is practiced.

He tells VOA the U.S. argues it needs to provide military aid to such countries as Yemen, Afghanistan and South Sudan to professionalize their armed forces.

"The conflict that is going on in South Sudan has a child as its face," Mezmur said. "It has been extremely devastating for children. Now to talk about partial or full waiver for the government of South Sudan to be able to have access to military equipment and commercial sale access from the government of the United States of America, we do not believe that will actually help to professionalize the armed forces. We do not believe that will help in the implementation of the Optional Protocol in South Sudan."

The Committee of Experts commends the United States for the progress being made in the fight against the trafficking and exploitation of children. However, it says the U.S. falls short in preventing abuse in areas such as the sale of children for work purposes, organ trafficking, adoption, or the use of children in pornography.