The Obama administration has waived nearly all US sanctions against countries using child soldiers despite a recent executive order to fight human trafficking.
By Foreign Policy,
US President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum on Friday waiving sanctions under the Child Soldiers Protection Act of 2008 for Libya, South Sudan and Yemen that Congress legislated to halt US arms sales to countries that are “worst abusers of child soldiers in their militaries,” the US-based periodical Foreign Policy reports Tuesday.
According to the report, Obama also partially waived penalties against the Democratic Republic of the Congo in an effort to allow continued military training and arms sales to the African country.
Angered by Washington’s move, human rights activists say the waivers are damaging to the aim of using US influence to discourage nations that get American military support from using child soldiers. They also insist the measure contradicts the rhetoric Obama used in a speech he delivered on Friday when signing the executive order.
“When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed — that’s Slavery,” Obama claimed during his address. “It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world. Now, as a nation, we’ve long rejected such cruelty.”
Many among the American human rights community are upset that despite such forceful oratory against the use of child soldiers, the US president has waived for the third consecutive years all penalties against states that are major abusers of the human rights violation.
“After such a strong statement against the exploitation of children, it seems bizarre that Obama would give a pass to countries using children in their armed forces and using U.S. tax money to do that,” said Jesse Eaves, the senior policy advisor for child protection at World Vision, as quoted in the report.
Eaves insists that the Obama administration wants to maintain its ties with regimes that it needs for security cooperation and that such blanket use of US waivers allows the administration to avert the objective of the law, which was supposedly to uphold internationally recognized human rights and child protection protocols when dishing out American military aid to other nations.
“The intent in this law was to use this waiver authority only in extreme circumstances, yet this has become an annual thing and this has become the default of this administration,” Eaves was quoted as saying in the report.
According to the periodical, Obama first waived the sanctions in 2010, the first year they were to go into effect. At the time, the White House failed to inform Congress of its decision in advance, triggering a strong backlash. A reported justification memo pointed to a number of security-related excuses for the waivers. Sudan was going through a fragile transition, for instance. Yemen was crucial to counterterrorism cooperation, the administration argued.