WASHINGTON: The United States on Thursday added Pakistan and Turkey to its Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) list, a designation that could lead to strict sanctions on military assistance and listed countries’ participation in peacekeeping programmes.
The designation is included in the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report (see page 49), which ranks countries in various tiers in accordance with their efforts for eliminating trafficking.
The US Child Soldiers Prevention Act requires publication in the annual TIP report of a list of foreign governments that have recruited or used child soldiers during the previous year (April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021). The entities reviewed for this designation include armed forces, police, other security forces and government-supported armed groups.
The 2021 CSPA list includes governments of the following countries: Afghanistan, Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela and Yemen.
Designation can elicit sanctions on military aid, country’s participation in peacekeeping missions
Three of these countries — Congo, Somalia, and Yemen — have appeared on every CSPA list since 2010, when the designation started. Nine others — Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Burma, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Syria — have appeared more than once over the last 10 years.
Six governments were identified on the first CSPA list in 2010.
Ten years later, the list more than doubled to 14 countries and to 15 in 2021 — the highest number of countries ever identified in a single year. This year’s list includes repeat offenders, two one new additions — Pakistan and Turkey — and some renewed appearances that were previously removed.
The statement, issued by the State Department in Washington, defines the term “child soldier” as: Any person under 18 years of age who takes a direct part in hostilities as a member of governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces.
Those compulsorily recruited into governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces are also included as are those under 15 years of age who have been voluntarily recruited into governmental armed forces, police or other security forces.
Any person under 18 years of age who has been recruited or used in hostilities by armed forces distinct from the armed forces of a state is also considered a child soldier.
The term “child soldier” is also applied to a person who is serving in any capacity, including in a support role, such as a “cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard, or sex slave”.
The CSPA prohibits listed governments in the following US programmes: International Military Education and Training, Foreign Military Financing, Excess Defence Articles, and Peacekeeping Operations. Some programmes undertaken pursuant to the Peacekeeping Operations authority are exempted.
The CSPA also prohibits the issuance of licences for direct commercial sales of military equipment to such governments.
Beginning October 1, 2021, and effective throughout fiscal year 2022, these restrictions will apply to the listed countries, except those who receive a presidential waiver, applicable exception, or reinstatement of assistance pursuant to the terms of the CSPA.
The determination to include a government in the CSPA list is informed by a range of sources, including first-hand observation by US government personnel and research and credible reporting from various UN entities, international organisations, local and international NGOs, and international and domestic media outlets.