Hultgren Cosponsors Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Recruitment of Child Soldiers
Washington, DC — U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren (IL-14) has become an original cosponsor of bipartisan legislation to pressure countries against the recruitment and use of child soldiers, one of the UN’s six grave violations against children during armed conflict. Rep. Hultgren is Co-Chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission which recently hosted Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire and other experts to examine the United States’ record and explore ways to improve and deepen U.S. efforts to end the recruitment and use of children as soldiers.
The Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2017 (H.R. 1191) improves a 2008 law which requires the State Department to name and cut off military aid to countries where governments (or government-supported armed groups) recruit or deploy children in conflict situations. The law contained a waiver for national security reasons which became a weakness when President Obama annually exempted abusive nations. H.R. 1191 strengthens its predecessor, without compromising national security, to make it harder to invoke the waiver. It also clarifies that the recruitment of children into police or other security forces—as happens in Afghanistan and other nations—is also condemned.
“Forcing vulnerable children to pick up guns, to kill and to die for others is the most heinous of human rights abuses,” said Rep. Hultgren. “The psychological trauma for those who survive is unimaginable, the societal wreck it causes is profound and governments must be held accountable. The United States should make these abusers pay for their actions, and refuse to provide them military aid to further their aims. This legislation strengthens the Child Soldier Prevention Act and expands its reach so more children around the world are protected from the trauma of armed conflict.”
Children have been forced to take active part in at least 21 conflicts since 2001, and tens of thousands of children are serving in armed forces and armed groups today, including in Afghanistan, South Sudan, Sudan, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. They are found in government militaries and other government security forces, as well as extremist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram. Of the child soldiers, many are girls—used in combat roles, as laborers and as sex slaves or “brides.”
Child soldiers suffer horrible psychological effects from facing such unimaginable dangers, and it is extremely difficult for them to ever enter into normal adult life. The arrangement is harmful not only to the children, but destructive to the whole society and complicates any potential peace process and long term stability.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ-04) and also cosponsored by Reps. Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL-24), James P. McGovern (D-MA-2) and Randy K. Weber (R-TX-14).