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United States Policy

Antipersonnel Landmines
The U.S. continued to resist calls to sign the Mine Ban Treaty. In May, the Clinton Administration for the first time announced a U.S. intention to sign the treaty—but only in the year 2006 and only if suitable alternatives to landmines were developed at that time. Campaigners welcomed this endorsement of the treaty nonetheless, as well as the fact that the new policy acknowledged that antipersonnel mines contained in U.S. mixed-munition systems must also be eliminated. Campaigners also welcomed the completion in June, ahead of schedule, of the destruction of over 3.3 million U.S. non-self-destructing (“dumb”) antipersonnel mines, and increases in U.S. demining and victim assistance programs.

On the whole, however, 1998 was another very disappointing year for U.S. landmine policy. Above all, the eight-year delay in its commitment to sign the treaty signaled a clear unwillingness to heed the call of humanity by giving up this weapon at once. The delay left the U.S. in unlikely company, given that treaty signatories included every NATO ally save one (Turkey), every member of the European Union save one (Finland), every other country in the western hemisphere save one (Cuba), and other important U.S. allies such as Japan. Moreover, even the distant 2006 deadline was made dependent on the development and fielding of alternatives to antipersonnel landmines. Nearly all major U.S. military allies had already agreed that such a lengthy and costly search for alternatives was not justified by military necessity.

Campaigners also condemned U.S. pressure on NATO and other allies who had signed the treaty to allow continued U.S. stockpiling of antipersonnel mines on their territories, believing that maintaining U.S. stockpiles constituted a violation of the treaty. Other U.S. landmine policy disappointments included the continued retention of one million deadly “dumb” mines for use in Korea. Campaigners argued that if the U.S. insisted that dumb mines, which can remain buried in the ground waiting for a victim for decades, were essential for certain wars, other non-signatory nations would surely do the same. Finally, the Pentagon continued to go ahead with the proposed U.S.$210 million redesign of the remote anti-armor mine (RAAM) system to include ADAM antipersonnel mines. Even though the Pentagon had pledged not to make an acquisition decision until the year 2001, campaigners said that research on RAAM was unnecessary and costly and would provide yet another roadblock on the way toward U.S. signature of the Mine Ban Treaty under which such a system is banned. The proposed redesign conflicted with the stated U.S. policy to sign the treaty by 2006.

The Chemical Weapons Convention
U.S. legislation needed to implement the CWC was mired in election-year squabbles and was passed by Congress at the last possible moment, on October 20, as part of an omnibus spending bill. Regrettably, the U.S. Senate inserted reservations that directlycontravene articles of the treaty prohibiting states from attaching conditions to ratification. The legislation includes language opposed by the administration that enables the president to refuse a challenge inspection, prohibits samples collected during an inspection from leaving the country for analysis, and limits the number of industrial facilities required to declare their activities with chemicals that could be used to produce chemical warfare agents. The United States also failed to provide promised training and equipment to the OPCW, as well as funds it owed the agency.

A violation by the U.S. of key provisions of the CWC would, according to the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, make it “difficult to press the OPCW or other State Parties for greater transparency or to work effectively with other Parties to address questions about their implementation of CWC obligations.” Truer words could not have been spoken: in retaliation for the lack of inspections at U.S. commercial plants, several countries promptly threatened to bar future inspection of their factories as well. The escalating tit-for-tat on CWC implementation threatened to weaken the convention fundamentally—precisely the objective of those in the U.S. Congress who had opposed the CWC in the first place.

Conventional Weapons and Military Training
In 1998 information surfaced about a previously little-known U.S. Department of Defense training program called Joint Combined Exchange and Training (JCET). This program, which provided funds for U.S. troops to conduct “training exercises” with foreign militaries, had not been reviewed by the U.S. Congress. Initially the program was designed primarily to train U.S. troops, but over time the bulk of the training appeared to have been provided to other nations’ military forces. Thus the U.S. military was able to provided lethal-tactics training to states that were prohibited by the U.S. Congress from receiving training assistance under the traditional International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, which was subject to review by Congress. In 1998 U.S. Special Forces were found to have provided training to military units in countries such as Colombia, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Suriname, and Turkey despite congressional concern about the human rights records of these countries. In September, Congress passed a legislative amendment sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy prohibiting the training of foreign security forces that violate human rights and requiring the Department of Defense to prepare an annual report covering all military exercises and training involving foreign military troops.

To further crack down on the illicit trade in arms, the United States in 1998 enacted regulations under the amended Arms Export Control Act requiring persons “engaged in the business of brokering activities with respect to the manufacture, export, import or transfer of any designated defense article or defense service or any foreign defense article or defense service” to register with and obtain a license from the Office of Defense Trade Controls. This closed an important loophole—in the past, if weapons did not pass through the United States, the transaction was not regulated—which arms dealers and private military companies had used to evade government prohibitions on military transfers.

On June 10, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright proposed negotiations leading to a global agreement on combatting illicit arms trafficking, based on the OAS Convention, with the aim of concluding it in 2000. This initiative was taken on by the G-8 (industrialized) states. In a speech at the United Nations in September, Albright reinforced this proposal, stating that “All of us whose nations sell such weapons, or through whose nations the traffic flows, bear some responsibility for turning a blind eye to the destruction they cause. And all of us have it in our power to do something in response.”



Copyright © 1999
Human RIghts Watch