Tens of millions of dollars of U.S. military financing will continue to flow toYemen and three other countries that recruit and use child soldiers, despite a 2008 U.S. law designed to restrict U.S. taxpayer funding of foreign militaries that enlist children to fight in war.
The White House issued a memorandum Tuesday evening to allow military funding to Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Chad, three of the six countries on the State Department’s list of foreign governments that recruit and use child soldiers in state-backed armed forces and militias.
Human rights advocates say the presidential waivers, issued for a second year in a row, undermine the intentions of Congress.
“The law could be very effective if it was applied the way Congress intended, but instead the administration has chosen to disregard the law and exert poor leadership on this issue,” said Jo Becker, advocacy director of Human Rights Watch’s Children’s Rights Division. “Last year, the administration said they were putting governments on notice and giving them time to address the problem, but this year governments that have shown no progress are still getting assistance no strings attached.”
In Yemen, children who are 15 years old and younger have been recruited to fight in the government’s conflict with rebels. Becker says that as recently as August, Human Rights Watch observed children serving in Yemen’s Central Security force, an elite paramilitary unit, and with the army’s First Armored Division, which defected to the opposition in March.