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(Geneva) - Substantial progress is being made in the global effort to eradicate antipersonnel landmines, but the United States remains on the sidelines, Human Rights Watch said today as a new report about landmines was released. In the United States, an ongoing review is considering whether the US should join the international treaty banning the weapon.

The 65-page report, "Landmine Monitor 2010," is an annual survey issued by Human Rights Watch and other members of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). The report says that fewer civilians were killed and injured in the past year than in any previous year, and more contaminated land was cleared than ever before.

"The US should not be on the outside looking in at the most successful humanitarian and disarmament treaty of the past decade," said Steve Goose, Arms Division director at Human Rights Watch. "The Obama administration has been pondering the Mine Ban Treaty for more than a year now. It's time to make the right decision."

A total of 156 nations are parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, and another two countries have signed but have not yet ratified. Nearly all of the 37 states that have not yet joined are in de facto compliance with most of the treaty's provisions.

The report cites significant progress in eradicating antipersonnel mines under the framework provided by the Mine Ban Treaty:

  • Nearly 200 square kilometers of land was cleared of mines and explosive remnants of war in 2009, and seven countries announced completion of their clearance activities in 2009 and 2010: Albania, China, Greece, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Tunisia, and Zambia;
  • There were 3,956 new mine and explosive remnants of war casualties in 2009, the lowest number recorded by the Monitor in the decade since it began reporting and a drastic reduction on the estimated 26,000 recorded and unrecorded casualties per year in the 1990s;
  • The Monitor has removed Nepal from its list of mine producers, leaving a dozen countries listed, of which as few as three - India, Myanmar, and Pakistan - are believed to continue actively manufacturing antipersonnel mines.
  • For the first time in a decade of reporting, the Monitor has not listed Russia as actively laying antipersonnel mines, leaving Myanmar as the only government confirmed as using the weapon in 2009-2010;
  • More than 45 million stockpiled antipersonnel mines have been destroyed by 86 states parties to the Mine Ban Treaty.

For years the US has obeyed most of the key provisions of the Mine Ban Treaty - no use, no production, and no trade - while strongly supporting international programs to get mines out of the ground and to help victims. But it has not acceded to the treaty. When the Mine Ban Treaty was established in 1997, the Clinton administration set the objective of joining the Mine Ban Treaty in 2006, but the Bush administration reversed course in 2004.

The Obama administration began a comprehensive landmine policy review in late 2009 and attended the Second Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty in November 2009, the first time the US had attended a formal meeting of the treaty. The US has confirmed that it will attend the week-long 10th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, which opens in Geneva on November 29, 2010.

Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the ICBL, which received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to bring about the Mine Ban Treaty and for its contributions to a new international diplomacy based on humanitarian imperatives. Human Rights Watch is final editor of "Landmine Monitor
2010."  The Landmine Monitor project was renamed Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor in 2010.

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