Washington/Islamabad: The US has added Pakistan along with 14 other countries in a list of Child Soldiers Prevention Act which identifies foreign governments having government-supported armed groups that recruit or use child soldiers, a designation that could result in restrictions on certain security assistance and commercial licensing of military equipment.
The US Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) requires publication in the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report a list of foreign governments that have recruited or used child soldiers during the previous year (April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021).
The countries which have been added to the annual TIP list of the US State Department are Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.
According to the State Department, the governments identified on the list are subject to restrictions, in the following fiscal year, on certain security assistance and commercial licensing of military equipment.
The term “child soldier” means any person under 18 years of age who takes a direct part in hostilities or who has been compulsorily recruited into governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces.
It also means any person under 15 years of age who has been voluntarily recruited into governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces or 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.
It also includes any such 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 assistance to governments that are identified in the list under the following authorities: International Military Education and Training, Foreign Military Financing, Excess Defence Articles, and Peacekeeping Operations, with exceptions for some programmes undertaken pursuant to the Peacekeeping Operations authority.
It also prohibits the issuance of licenses 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, absent 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 the US government personnel and research and credible reporting from various UN entities, international organisations, local and international NGOs, and international and domestic media outlets.