(WASHINGTON) — In a move criticized by human rights organizations, the Obama administration has decided to exempt Yemen and three other countries that use child soldiers from U.S. penalties under the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act.
In a memorandum to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Barack Obama said he had determined that “it is in the national interest of the United States” to waive application of the law to Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Yemen. He instructed Clinton to submit the decision to the Congress with a written justification for the move.(See pictures of child soldiers around the world.)
Obama’s memo, released by the White House on Monday, did not include the justification. Administration officials have said, however, that cutting off military aid to those four countries as required by the law would do more harm than good. And they have said that continuing close cooperation with them can be a more effective way of changing their practices.
Jo Becker, children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch, said Obama had supported the legislation when he was in the Senate.
“This is a ground breaking law,” she said. “This is the first year it has taken effect and he’s undercutting it.”
[from allAfrica.com/Lubanga Trial Website (The Hague):]
Irrespective of how Thomas Lubanga’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) concludes, it has indisputably helped to catapult into the global limelight the phenomenon and plight of child soldiers.
By taking former child soldiers to The Hague to recount how they were conscripted, the grueling training they endured, the battles they fought, and how they saw their fellow children kill and get killed in battle, the trial has given the world a vivid picture of the horrors of using child soldiers.
Besides the ten former child soldiers who testified, there were also expert witnesses that gave testimony on the use of child soldiers at the invitation of judges and prosecutors. The high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder among former child soldiers, why many armed groups took to using underage fighters, and the reason some families in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) shunned their children who abandoned the military were some of the issues experts described to the court.
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