Tillerson: US Still Hopes for Diplomatic Resolution to N. Korea Issue

Frederick Owens
November 22, 2017

Tillerson also has embraced a White House proposal to slash the State Department's budget by about 30 per cent.

The list now includes the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Mali, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

"I have since received troubling reports supporting those accounts, as well as a Dissent Channel message from career State Department officials arguing that the decision is inconsistent with USA law and will adversely affect efforts to protect children from being recruited and used as soldiers", wrote Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The secretary of state is required by law to annually identify countries that use or support the use of child soldiers, and does so within the agency's regular Trafficking in Persons Report.

Under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, countries on the State Department's annual child soldier list are not eligible for some forms of USA military assistance, absent a presidential waiver.

Reuters reported in June that Tillerson had disregarded internal recommendations on Iraq, Myanmar and Afghanistan.

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Jo Becker, children's rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said in the same post: "Secretary of State Tillerson apparently believes the list is subject to backroom political calculations, rather than facts on the ground and USA law".

Rachel Stohl, a senior associate at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington who focuses on children in armed conflict, said that by excluding the three countries from the list, "the Trump administration has further enabled perpetual human rights abusers". Special exceptions can be made, such as when the Obama administration issued waivers for Iraq, Myanmar, Nigeria, and Somalia in 2016, a move that was criticized at the time by organizations like Human Rights Watch. Representatives Tillerson explain his actions by a desire to send USA aid to these countries.

Herman Schwartz, a constitutional law professor at American University in Washington, said US courts would be unlikely to accept any challenge to Tillerson's interpretation of the child soldiers law as allowing him to remove a country from the list on his own discretion. Tillerson was excluded from the list of countries Afghanistan, Myanmar and Iraq after much deliberation and weighing all the "pros" and "cons".

Ali Kareem, who heads Iraq's High Committee for Human Rights, denied the country's military or state-backed militias use child soldiers.

Meantime, Tillerson did not reveal any other details of the new sanctions package and reminded that the US Treasury Department is due to make an official announcement on Tuesday.

The dissent memo recommends that the secretary of state follow the Child Soldiers Prevention Act and seriously consider the department's and legal experts' recommendations before making final decisions in the future.

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