Durbin, Colleagues Continue To Press Pompeo On Determination To Exclude Saudi Arabia From Child Soldiers List
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and U.S. Representatives Ami Bera (D-CA-07), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ-07), and Ted Lieu (D-CA-33) today lead several of their colleagues in a bicameral letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his reported decision to exclude the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from the State Department’s list of countries known to recruit and use child soldiers in the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, despite State Department experts’ findings that suggest Saudi Arabia should have been included on the list. Durbin and Leahy, along with 10 other Senators, first pressed Secretary Pompeo for information on his decision in July. In October, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Mary Elizabeth Taylor provided the Senators with a generic response that neglected to answer any of their questions or address their concerns.
“Public Law 110-457 is clear in restricting U.S. foreign assistance to any country known to use child soldiers. We therefore again request answers to the following questions by December 2, 2019,” the members wrote.
Along with Durbin and Leahy, the letter was also signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Along with Bera, Malinowski, and Lieu, the letter was also signed by U.S. Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-03), Jim McGovern (D-MA-02), Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX-15), Grace Meng (D-NY-06), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN-05).
Durbin authored the Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2008, which bans the U.S. from providing military assistance or arms sales to governments that use children in combat, but the president may waive the application of the law for specific countries if it is deemed to be in the national interest.
Full text of the letter is available here and below:
November 15, 2019
Dear Secretary Pompeo:
On July 2, 2019, a number of us wrote to you with concerns regarding the potentially inappropriate exclusion of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from the State Department’s list of countries known to recruit and use child soldiers in the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report as required under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-457). The omission occurred despite reported concerns voiced by State Department officials of Saudi complicity that should have led to its inclusion on such list. As such, our letter included a number of specific questions as to how the decision was made regarding Saudi Arabia.
On October 10, 2019, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Mary Elizabeth Taylor provided us with a generic response that neglected to answer any of our questions or address our concerns. Public Law 110-457 is clear in restricting U.S. foreign assistance to any country known to use child soldiers. We therefore again request answers to the following questions by December 2, 2019:
- What is the process when a country is recommended for inclusion on the child soldiers list? How does the State Department reconcile differing opinions among offices or bureaus?
- Did any State Department office or bureau recommend inclusion of Saudi Arabia on the child soldiers list?
- If so, what caused you to make the determination to exclude Saudi Arabia from the State Department’s list of countries known to recruit and use child soldiers in the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report? Specifically, what information did you use to make the determination, what was the source of that information, and what was the legal justification for such an omission (versus using a waiver at a later stage)?
- The State Department’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report notes media accounts indicating that Saudi Arabia may have “funded Yemeni militias that in some cases may have hired minors in combatant roles” and that all parties to the conflict “used both boys and girls as uniformed soldiers in combat…” including Saudi support for Sudanese combatants that included children. Does the Department believe these reports are credible? If not, why are they included in the Department’s report? If so, how were these credible reports of the use of child soldiers factored into the Department’s fact-based determination under the statute?
Thank you for your assistance.
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