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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 106

No American Military Assistance to Nations that ignore Recruitment of Child Soldiers

Daya Gamage – US Bureau Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 21 April ( A bill introduced this week in the U.S. Senate would put restrictions on U.S. military assistance for governments that use child soldiers. The legislation was intended to encourage governments to prohibit, demobilize and rehabilitate child soldiers from national forces and government-supported militias.

Several human rights organizations including Amnesty International USA and World Vision US in a letter to the United States Congress have urged to get the U.S. administration to work with the international community to bring to justice rebel leaders that kidnap children for use as child soldiers.

It has been reported that an estimated 250,000 children are exploited in state-run armies, paramilitaries and rebel groups around the world. They serve as combatants, porters, human mine detectors and sex slaves. Their health and lives are endangered and their childhoods are sacrificed.

Introduced April 19 by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Sam Brownback (R-KS), the bill would curtail U.S. military assistance to governments that fail to take steps to demobilize and stop recruiting children into the armed forces or government-supported militias. Countries that take steps to demobilize child soldiers would be eligible for certain forms of assistance in that process for up to two years, to help professionalize their forces and ensure U.S. taxpayer dollars are not used to finance the exploitation of children in armed conflict.

"This bill creates strong incentives for foreign governments to end any involvement in the use of children as soldiers," said Joseph Mettimano, director of public policy and advocacy for World Vision U.S.

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.

Mettimano will testify at a Senate hearing on "Casualties of War: Child Soldiers and the Law," to be held Tuesday, April 24. Other speakers will include Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier who is author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier; Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch; and Anwen Hughes, senior counsel for Human Rights First's refugee protection program.

In a letter to lawmakers, Mettimano and his counterparts at Human
Rights Watch, the Center for Defense Information and Amnesty International USA urge support for the legislation, which is in alignment with the standards the U.S. has accepted for its own armed forces under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, ratified in 2002. It also encourages the U.S. to expand funding to rehabilitate former child soldiers and work in international cooperation to bring to justice rebel leaders that kidnap children for use as soldiers.

- Asian Tribune -

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