Friday, February 15, 2013

US: Act to Protect Children in Conflict

On February 5, 2013, the UN Committee of the Rights of the Child reprimanded the US government for its treatment of children in areas of armed conflict, specifically Afghanistan.  The report told of hundreds of deaths of Afghani children due to US air strikes and attacks and the disappointing handling by the US government of the child soldier situation.  Unwillingly forced to become child soldiers, many Afghani youth are now excluded from US asylum, and some militaries with child soldiers have found loopholes in US laws to receive US military assistance.  The committee strongly suggested the US to take significant precautionary measures to ensure the safety of children abroad in conflict zones.  While the US has shown efforts to limit wartime involvement of innocent children, notably by the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act, which prohibited US military assistance to governments with child soldiers, the lack of consistency in enforcing these efforts is disappointing.  Waivers to this law have allowed continued use of youth armies in countries such as Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, South Sudan, and Yemen, and the US government must act to readdress this situation.  There are also many instances of former child soldiers seeking US refuge and being denied because of their previous involvement with foreign organizations on the grounds that it is “terrorist activity.”  Instead of grouping all foreign immigration into the same grounds for inspection, cases of child soldiers should be handled on a more case-by-case basis to ensure hundreds of innocents are not denied protection.

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