Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
US Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Re: Mine Ban Treaty
Dear Secretary Clinton:
We are writing to urge the United States to participate in the Second Review Conference of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which opens in Cartagena, Colombia on November 30, 2009. More than 100 governments are expected to attend this milestone event, also known as the "Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World."
A total of 156 nations are party to this landmark agreement, while another two states have signed, but still not ratified. Since the treaty entered into force on March 1, 1999, the use of antipersonnel mines has largely dried up, trade in these weapons has virtually stopped, and only about a dozen of the more than 50 countries that manufactured antipersonnel mines in the past still retain the capacity. More than 42 million antipersonnel mines have been destroyed from stockpiles. Large tracts of land have been cleared of these mines and returned to productive use. The number of civilians killed and wounded by mines each year has fallen dramatically.
Nearly all of the 37 states that have not yet joined are in de facto compliance with most of the treaty's provisions. The United States has not used antipersonnel mines since 1991 (in the first Gulf War), has not exported them since 1992, has not produced them since 1997, and is the biggest donor to mine clearance programs around the world. Despite these steps, the US has not yet prohibited antipersonnel mines. The Clinton administration in 1997 set the objective of joining the Mine Ban Treaty in 2006, but the Bush administration reversed course in February 2004 and announced that it did not ever intend to join.
Human Rights Watch recommends that the United States initiate a review of US policy on joining the Mine Ban Treaty and reengage on this issue by participating in the Cartagena Summit. We urge the US to fulfill its long-held intention to join the Mine Ban Treaty.
Acceding to the treaty would reinforce the Obama administration's stated commitment to international humanitarian law, protection of civilians, arms control and disarmament, and multilateralism. It would remove an impediment to smooth relations with our NATO and other treaty allies. It would allow the US to assume political leadership on the landmine issue, beyond its leadership in funding clearance and victim assistance. It would help to convince the other countries not yet party to join, strengthening the norm against the weapon, thereby ensuring it is not used in the future, creating additional humanitarian and socio-economic harm.