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Sunday, June 20, 2010

U.S. Senator Dick Durban reacts to media reports of US military aid to Child Soldier-recruiting Somali regime: violates

ssistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today asking her to look into reports that U.S. financial support to the Somali Transitional Federal Government is being used to pay for the use of child soldiers - potentially a violation of U.S. law.


Durbin's letter follows media reports that the Somali government has hundreds of child soldiers on its front lines, some as young as 9 years old.

Asian Tribune was one of the media outlets that broke the news giving extensive details of amount of U.S. military assistance to Somalia, how US went to the UN to change the rules to provide military assistance as there is sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, the findings of a recent UN report of child soldier use by the Somali government, the U.S. Congress-enacted laws that prohibit the United States to provide any military assistance or training to countries that use child soldiers in their fighting cadres.

"I write with great concern over media reports that US military financing to the Somali Transitional Federal Government is being used to pay for the use of child soldiers. Such assistance would appear to be in violation of the Child Soldier Prevention provision of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 which prohibits US military assistance to governments of a country that use child soldiers," Durbin wrote.

He further noted, "We should be doing everything we can to not only end military support for governments that engage in this troubling practice, but to also help such children reintegrate into their families and society. I recognize that the Somali Transitional Federal Government is trying to bring some measure of stability to that war torn country. However, it should not do so on the backs of its precious children, and certainly not with the help of the American taxpayer."

The Asian Tribune report gave the extracts of the relevant sections of the U.S. laws that prohibit such military assistance and training.

Senator Durbin, who is heading the sub-committee on human rights in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, has authored three laws restricting the use of child soldiers. The first, the Child Soldier Prevention Act, restricts U.S. military assistance to countries or entities which use children as soldiers. The second law, the Child Soldiers Accountability Act, makes it a federal crime to recruit or use child soldiers. The third, the Human Rights Enforcement Act, makes it unlawful to knowingly provide material support to the use of child soldiers.

Amnesty International estimates that more than 250,000 children are fighting in active conflicts around the globe. In the last decade, 2 million children have been killed in combat and 6 million were seriously injured.

Child soldiers are often used in front line combat, serve as human mine detectors, participate in suicide missions, and act as spies, messengers and sex slaves. The United Nations recently reported that the use of child soldiers is on the rise in Somalia and that schools are being used as recruitment centers. The Asian Tribune quoted the April 2010-released report that mentioned Somalia as one of the countries using child soldiers.

In his strongly-worded letter to Secretary of State Clinton, Senator Durban said: "I recognize that the Somali Transitional Federal Government is trying to bring some measure of stability to that war torn country. However, it should not do so on the backs of its precious children, and certainly not with the help of the American taxpayer."Published by HT Syndication with permission from Asian Tribune.

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