Citing child soldiers, HRW urges cut in military aid to Sri Lanka

[TamilNet, Friday, 27 April 2007, 03:18 GMT]
Human Rights Watch (HRW) this week called on the United States to curtail military assistance to Sri Lanka, along with other countries whose armed forces recruit youngsters into the military. The New York based rights group, which has long been critical of the Liberation Tigers for recruiting fighters under the age of 18 said “US military assistance should not go to finance the use and exploitation of children in armed conflict” and called for support for a bill tabled in the senate to cut military aid to such countries.

“Of 10 governments worldwide implicated in the recruitment or use of children as soldiers, nine receive US military assistance,” HRW said.

“A new bipartisan bill introduced by US Senators Richard Durbin and Sam Brownback would restrict such aid. Show your support for this legislation,” the group urged on its website (www.hrw.org).

It listed the countries as: Afghanistan, Burundi, Chad, Colombia, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Cote d'Ivoire, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda.

“These countries were identified in the 2006 State Department human rights reports as having child soldiers in government forces or government-linked militias. They also receive at least one form of US military assistance,” HRW said.

HRW admitted there were weaknesses in the bill.

“The bill will not automatically cut off aid to countries that are identified by the State Department as using or tolerating child soldiers. Countries that are seeking to implement demobilization measures would be eligible for assistance in that process and in the professionalization of their armed forces for up to two years before prohibitions on assistance would be imposed.”

“Moreover, the bill provides the president with the authority to waive restrictions if he determines that such a waiver is in the national interest.”

 

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