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State Dept. revolt: Tillerson accused of violating U.S. law on child soldiers

State Dept. revolt: Tillerson accused of violating U.S. law on child soldiers

With his June decision to keep Iraq, Myanmar, and Afghanistan off the list of violators entirely, Tillerson further eroded the force of the 2008 law and "weakened one of the us government's primary diplomatic tools to deter governmental armed forces and government-supported armed groups from recruiting and using children in combat and support roles around the world", State Department officials charged in a confidential memo dated July 28.

The 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act bars countries known to have soldiers under the age of 18 from receiving aid, weapons, or training from the United States.

"Beyond contravening US law, this decision risks marring the credibility of a broad range of State Department reports and analyses and has weakened one of the USA government's primary diplomatic tools to deter governmental armed forces and government-supported armed groups from recruiting and using children in combat and support roles around the world", said the July 28 memo. Tillerson's adviser, Brian Hook, defended the decision, claiming that while Afghanistan, Iraq, and Myanmar may still have child soldiers, they are "making honest - if as yet incomplete - efforts" to curb the practice. Iraq and Myanmar were previously on the list, and Tillerson reportedly denied a State Department recommendation to add Afghanistan. However, the memo goes much further than simply voicing opposition to a department policy, and explicitly accuses Tillerson of breaking federal law.

CNN reached out to the State Department for comment but has not yet received a response.

The memo further explains that failing to list the three countries will harm children and make it more hard to combat the forced military labor of children worldwide. But lawmakers believe this sends a risky message to countries in violation of this law.

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In this years' report, the State Department ultimately singled out eight countries: The Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Countries on the list are excluded from receiving aid, training and weapons from the USA government unless the White House issues a waiver on the basis of U.S.

A State Department spokesman said Tillerson "thoroughly reviewed all of the information presented to him and made a determination about whether the facts presented justified a listing pursuant to the law".

"The Child Soldiers Prevention Act gives the president some discretion in applying sanctions against countries using child soldiers", Becker concluded, "but it doesn't give the State Department discretion to take off countries that belong on the list".