HRW Calls On U.S. To Return Iraq, Myanmar To Child Soldier List

HRW Calls On U.S. To Return Iraq, Myanmar To Child Soldier List

 Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the United States to return Iraq and Myanmar to the U.S. list of governments using child soldiers, saying both countries continue to recruit children as soldiers.

Reuters reported on Saturday (June 24) that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to remove Iraq and Myanmar from the U.S. list of the world’s worst offenders in the use of child soldiers.

Three U.S. officials said Tillerson overruled his own staff’s assessments on the use of child soldiers in both countries and rejected the recommendation of senior diplomats in Asia and the Middle East who wanted to keep Iraq and Myanmar on the list.

HRW released a report on Monday (Jun 26) saying the United Nations and non-governmental organizations including HRW have continued reporting on the use of children by regular or militia forces in Myanmar and Iraq.

The U.N. documented child requirements by Myanmar’s armed forces in 2016, according to the HRW report, and the army also released dozens of child soldiers last week.

HRW also reported it had documented child recruitment by militias linked to the Iraqi government, referring to Popular Mobilization Forces (Hashid al-Shaabi).

“Taking Burma [Myanmar] and Iraq off the list when they continue to use child soldiers is both contrary to US law and harms children still in the ranks,” said Jo Becker, the children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Secretary of State Tillerson apparently believes the list is subject to backroom political calculations, rather than facts on the ground and US law. Unless Tillerson reverses this action, he will gravely damage US credibility in ending the use of children in warfare.”

“The Child Soldiers Prevention Act gives the president some discretion in applying sanctions against countries using child soldiers, but it doesn’t give the State Department discretion to take off countries that belong on the list,” Becker said. “Tillerson should do what the law requires and return Burma and Iraq to the list.”