Published: Wed, November 22, 2017
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

State Department Officials Accuse Tillerson of Violating US Law on Child Soldiers

State Department Officials Accuse Tillerson of Violating US Law on Child Soldiers

A group of State Department employees penned a memo accusing the agency's leadership of violating USA law by refusing to call out three countries for not doing more to stop the recruitment of child soldiers.

Tillerson allegedly violated the Child Soldiers Prevention Act in June, when he made a decision to exclude Iraq, Myanmar and Afghanistan from a US list of offenders regarding the use of child soldiers, according to a confidential "dissent" memo from July 28 obtained by Reuters.

The officials' unusual use of the State Department's dissent channel highlights the degree of disapproval regarding the exclusions and the demand for stronger accountability surrounding human rights abuses.

The dispute centers on the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Afghanistan, Myanmar (also known as Burma) and Iraq. He routinely issued waivers to Iraq and Myanmar, exempting them from the law's restrictions. It was addressed to Brian Hook, the director of policy planning within the State Department, and eventually was shown to Tillerson.

Approximately 12 State Department officials accused Tillerson of violating the law, which is meant to prevent foreign militaries from enlisting children, Reuters reported, citing worldwide government documents.

"It is hard to defend the decision not to list those countries as a legal matter", said the memo, which was first reported by Reuters and has been viewed by The Washington Post. Heather Nauert, the State Department spokeswoman, said on Tuesday during a news briefing. But he said there was a difference between countries that are "making little or no effort to correct their child soldier violations.and those which are making honest - if as yet incomplete - efforts".


The report is a method to disgrace countries into discontinuing the use of child soldiers.

The Secretary of State is in violation of USA law, according to a "dissent" memo published by department employees first reported by Reuters.

CNN has not independently obtained the memo, but a senior State Department official familiar with the document confirmed its authenticity. Tye said the official, who remains anonymous, aims to get Tillerson to amend the human-trafficking report by re-listing the three countries. "A lot of the Burmese child soldiers who were cut out of the report within weeks were forced to start ethnic cleansing".

The dissenting officials argued that the de-listing of offending countries "is inconsistent with United States law", "compromises U.S. credibility", and "undermines the department's work and harms children".

In the memo, the officials argued that the decision to exclude the countries "has risked sending a message to the authorities in all three countries - and to the worldwide community - that minimal efforts are enough" and that the United States was "not interested in holding countries accountable" for abuses.

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