Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been accused by department colleagues of flaunting the law—and, no, it doesn't have to do with Russia.
Reuters reported Tuesday that several State Department employees sent a letter over the summer to show that they disagreed with Tillerson's June decision to take Afghanistan, Iraq and Myanmar off a list of countries named in conjunction with the Child Soldiers Prevention Act. The government employees said Tillerson made his decision even though he knew "all three governments either had governmental armed forces or supported armed groups that recruited and used child soldiers in 2016." They said Tillerson therefore compromised the U.S.'s credibility on human rights issues.
Related: Rex Tillerson should resign from the Trump administration, former State Department official says
Here are seven quick facts to know about the Child Soldiers Prevention Act and the issues it addresses:
1. The legislation was signed into law by then-President George W. Bush in 2008.
2. It restricts U.S. relationships with nations that use young people for military service, defining "child soldier" as anyone under 18 who participates in conflict as part of governmental armed forces, anyone under 15 who has been recruited to join state armed forces and anyone under 18 who has been recruited to be part of non-state armed forces. The term "child soldier" also covers kids in roles like cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard or sex slave.
3. The scope of the child soldier problem is difficult to determine. UNICEF claims there are about 300,000 child soldiers worldwide, but The Washington Post fact-checker recently discovered that the statistic is outdated (to the tune of four Pinocchios). Its source is also murky. A spokeswoman for UNICEF told the Post that the 300,000 number was "indeed a very old stat, and we encourage colleagues and partners not to use it."
4. Other data are also difficult to find. According to The Guardian, 40 percent of child soldiers are girls. As of 2005, 40 percent of armed organizations worldwide had child members, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
5. Ex-President Barack Obama came out against the use of child soldiers, saying that "when a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed—that’s slavery," but he also repeatedly waived sanctions against certain countries on the list, according to ForeignPolicy.com.
6. President Donald Trump and his administration haven't spoken out much about child soldiers, though in March the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said "standing up to modern slavery and forced labor is a core element of foreign policy."
7. The 2017 list of offenders included the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. A State Department spokesperson told Reuters that Tillerson "thoroughly reviewed all of the information presented to him and made a determination about whether the facts presented justified a listing pursuant to the law."
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