Friday, February 8, 2013

US Policy Towards Child Soldiers

            We live in a country with strict child labor laws and legal protections for minors, a country that was built on the ideals of freedom and human rights. However, overseas the US continues to support governments that violate these rights. The US provides military aid to over half a dozen governments that use child soldiers despite the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act, which prohibits US military assistance to such governments. The act allows for a special presidential waiver to continue supporting governments using child soldiers, such as Yemen, Sudan, and Libya. Recently, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child reviewed the US’s aid to these governments and released recommendations. Among these was “a full prohibition on US arms exports and military assistance to countries where children are used as soldiers.”
            It is hard to believe that the US provides military aid to these governments. By continuing to support them, we are putting weapons in the hands of children, encouraging child abuse, and sending these governments a message that violating human rights is okay. No American would ever approve of this message. So why does our government? As a key international power, the US sets an example and has a responsibility to protect human rights all over the world. By providing military aid to these governments, we are enabling them to take away these human rights. We need to stop all aid to governments not in compliance with international child soldier laws. If these governments were denied the military aid they rely on, the pressure would encourage them to stop using child soldiers.
            In addition, we need to provide assistance to children who have been forced into armed conflicts. According to the article, the US detains such children in inadequate conditions and often returns them to their abusive government, where they are then subject to torture. They are not given asylum or refugee protection in the US because under immigration law they are considered part of “terrorist organizations.” These children are not terrorists. They are victims of horrible human rights abuses and need protection and rehabilitation assistance. If the US doesn’t change its actions towards governments using child soldiers and increase assistance to these children, I am afraid we will see more governments use child soldiers in the future.

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