London, 2 October 2013 - The US government is taking some positive steps to put pressure on some states to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers. In its 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report, the US Department of State listed the Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Myanmar, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for their responsibility for the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. The US has developed military assistance programs with seven of these countries. Such military assistance for four of them will now be suspended or limited due to their continued recruitment and use of child soldiers as established under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008

Following the determination of President Obama on the Child Soldiers Prevention Act two days ago, the Central African Republic and Rwanda will receive no military assistance because of their record of recruiting or supporting the recruitment of children, while the DRC and Somalia will receive only limited assistance. However, the US President decided to waive the application of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act 2008 in respect to Chad, South Sudan and Yemen on grounds of national interest.

Child Soldiers International welcomes the decision by the US President to withhold military assistance to the Central African Republic and Rwanda. The decision sends a strong message to these governments to change their policies and practices and, if followed up with concrete recommendations, it could contribute to the implementation of the necessary remedial measures. The organisation regrets, however, that a similarly strong message is not going out to countries like Chad and Yemen by the blanket waivers of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act.

In the Central African Republic, the worsening of the security and humanitarian situation has led to increased recruitment and re-recruitment of children by the forces that are now in power. In Rwanda, both the UN and international NGOs have consistently reported on the active support of the Rwandan authorities in the recruitment of civilians, including children, in Rwandan territory to join the “M23” armed group, active in eastern DRC. The Rwandan government must promptly implement the recommendation of the Committee on the Rights of the Child to implement a plan of action to end such recruitment and bring to justice those responsible.

In Chad, despite the commitments made by the government in the 2011 joint action plan signed with the UN, the recruitment of children into the army continued in 2012, with 34 cases verified by the UN. Child Soldiers International remains concerned that recruitment procedures have not been strengthened to prevent underage recruitment and that accountability measures have not been taken as no investigations were conducted into the 2012 recruitment incidents and child recruitment and use has still not been criminalised in national law.

Similarly in Yemen, the recruitment of children into the Yemeni armed forces and allied tribal militias is continuing. Some limited steps have been taken by the authorities, including a commitment to sign an action plan with the UN, but there is a strong need to put pressure on the Yemeni government and military to professionalise its recruitment procedures and implement measures to address the association of children by militias.

For these reasons, Child Soldiers International opposes blanket waivers to the Child Soldiers Prevention Act: they send the wrong message to the governments concerned and they deprive the US of an important tool to support the measures needed to prevent child recruitment.

Background

In June 2013, the US Department of State listed ten governments that recruit or use children as soldiers. Of these Myanmar, Sudan and Syria receive no military aid by the US. The other seven – the Central African Republic, Chad, DRC, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen – fall under the ban to certain type of military assistance under the terms of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act (2008), save for the US President’s decision to waive the application of the Act on grounds of national interest. In previous years, President Obama had waived the ban for most of military assistance under the Act.

For information about the recruitment and use of children in Chad and Yemen, please see:
• Child Soldiers International, Briefing on the status of implementation of the June 2011 Action Plan on children associated with armed forces and groups in Chad, May 2013 (https://www.child-soldiers.org/shop/briefing-on-the-status-of-implementation-of-the-june-2011-action-plan-1
• Child Soldiers International, Yemen: Shadow Report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, March 2013 (https://www.child-soldiers.org/shop/yemen-shadow-report-to-the-committee-on-the-rights-of-the-child-1

For general information on how countries, including the US, should refrain from transferring arms or military assistance to states where there is a risk of child recruitment or use, please see:
• Child Soldiers International, Louder than words: an agenda for action to end state use of child soldiers, September 2012 (Part IV, https://www.child-soldiers.org/shop/louder-than-words-1

For text of the US Presidential determination on waivers to the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, please see: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/09/30/presidential-memorandum-determination-respect-child-soldiers-preventio-0

For more information contact Child Soldiers International at +44 (0) 20 7367 4110