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United States Policy

Antipersonnel Landmines

There was no change in the Clinton administration policy announced in May 1998 that the U.S. would join the Mine Ban Treaty in 2006 if the Pentagon was successful in identifying and fielding alternatives by that time. After several years of inaction, Pentagon spending and activities related to the search for alternatives expanded, but it also became increasingly clear that the 2006 date was unlikely to be met. While the U.S. deserved credit for continuing to increase the amount of money it devoted to mine clearance programs around the world, it had not taken adequate steps to move closer to a comprehensive ban on the weapon.

There were several disturbing developments in 2000. For the second year in a row, the Pentagon asked for $48 million for a new mine system called RADAM that would contain not only antitank mines, but also antipersonnel mines banned under the Mine Ban Treaty. Congress cut funding to $8 million in 1999 and appropriated $28 million in 2000. Moreover it came to light that the "alternative" that was farthest along in the developmental stages, the so-called man-in-the-loop system, still contained a feature that when activated would return the munition to traditional antipersonnel mine status, and therefore be prohibited by the ban treaty. Human Rights Watch also discovered U.S. Air Force plans to stockpile antipersonnel mines in Qatar, a party to the Mine Ban Treaty.

Conventional Weapons and Military Transfers or Training

U.S. efforts in 2000 to control the flow of conventional weapons focused on illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons. In February 2000, the Department of State released a fact sheet outlining U.S. priorities in this area, which included increasing domestic and international transparency of arms transfers, helping other countries destroy surplus weapons stocks, and enforcing U.N. arms embargoes. These priorities reflected input from U.S.-based NGOs, often acting in concert as members of the Small Arms Working Group and the Arms Transfers Working Group.

In November 1999 the International Arms Sales Code of Conduct Act of 1999 was signed into law as an amendment to the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2000. The amendment, the result of a compromise between Representatives Cynthia McKinney (Democrat, Georgia) and Sam Gejdenson (Democrat, Connecticut), required the Clinton administration to support efforts to negotiate an international code of conduct for arms transfers. The following month, the U.S. endorsed the 1998 E.U. Code of Conduct on arms exports. At this writing, the U.S. government had not incorporated into national regulations E.U. Code criteria that went beyond those already followed by the U.S., so it was unclear how the U.S. intended to adhere to the criteria. Also in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, Congress required the Secretary of State to submit by May 2000 reports on small arms proliferation and the arms export licensing process. At this writing, both reports to Congress were pending.

At a NATO meeting in May 2000, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced arms export reforms to facilitate U.S. arms exports to close allies. Under the Defense Trade Security Initiative, the U.S. introduced seventeen changes to its domestic arms regulations, most aimed at expediting the export licensing process. NGOs expressed concern that the exemptions would undermine efforts to monitor U.S. weapons exports and ensure that they are not illegally diverted to unauthorized end users.

The Leahy Amendment, which prohibited the U.S. from giving security assistance to abusive forces, continued to have a beneficial impact on U.S. policy. In August, U.S. Special Forces arrived in Nigeria to help train and equip battalions of Nigerians to serve as peacekeepers in Sierra Leone. In order to comply with the Leahy law, the U.S. pledged to screen all potential trainees and exclude those suspected of having committed human rights abuses. It did not, however, take the further step of promoting prosecution of human rights abusers as a condition for such assistance.

In March 2000 the Departments of Defense and State released a three-part report outlining foreign military training programs in fiscal years 1999 and 2000, of which two parts were classified. The declassified portion of the report was a disappointing setback for efforts to increase transparency in foreign military assistance. It no longer identified the foreign military units trained, for example, and thus made more difficult the monitoring of U.S. compliance with the Leahy law.

In July 2000, the U.S. General Accounting Office released a report summarizing U.S. efforts to stem the proliferation of small arms. It stated that between 1996 and 1998, the U.S. authorized transfers or delivered $3.7 billion in small arms, primarily to close allies (Turkey was one top recipient), and acknowledged that some of these weapons had ended up on the black market. The GAO also noted U.S. contributions to international efforts to control the trade in small arms and its role in helping other states destroy excess weapons. In a second report, released in August, the GAO examined the U.S.'s end-use monitoring efforts. The GAO concluded that the Department of Defense was failing in three areas: requiring field personnel to conduct and report on end-user checks; requiring field personnel to conduct such checks in response to specific circumstances or for certain weapons systems; and complying with the reporting requirements of the Arms Export Control Act of 1996. The report attributed these failures to inadequate training and guidance provided to field personnel on end-use monitoring requirements.

In September 2000 the Defense Department released its portion of the annual "Section 655" report, detailing arms sales for fiscal year 1999. As of October 2000, the State Department had not yet released its complementary portion.

Chemical and Biological Weapons

The United States was in "technical non-compliance" with the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention until May 2000, when, three years late, it began submitting its initial declarations under the treaty with respect to possession or production of chemical weapons. Although U.S. declarations included almost 600 chemical manufacturing facilities, it was unclear if all facilities that should be declared were included. Inspections of U.S. industry facilities also began in May. According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, the United States would most likely not meet the 2007 deadline for the complete destruction of its chemical weapons stockpiles.

There was concern in 2000 that the U.S. was not providing needed leadership in the negotiations for a compliance protocol to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). The ad hoc group charged with negotiating the protocol hoped to complete its work before the fifth review conference of the BWC, scheduled for late 2001, but absence of U.S. support for this effort undermined its prospects for success.

Relevant Human Rights Watch


Angola Unravels: The Rise and Fall of the Lusaka Peace Process, 9/99

Landmine Monitor Report 2000: Toward a Mine-Free World and the Executive Summary: Landmine Monitor Report 2000, 9/00

NATO: Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign, 2/00

South Africa: A Question of Principle: Arms Trade and Human Rights, 10/00

United States: Clinton's Landmine Legacy, 7/00

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000

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