Finland’s Minister of International Development, Heidi Hautala, announced that her government would join the Mine Ban Treaty during the treaty's Eleventh Meeting of States Parties in Cambodia last November. 

© 2011 Mary Wareham/Human Rights Watch

(Washington, DC) – Finland’s action to join the international treaty banning antipersonnel landmines should spur the United States and others to get on board without delay, Human Rights Watch said today.

Finland deposited its instrument of accession to the Mine Ban Treaty with the United Nations in New York on January 9, 2012. The Mine Ban Treaty comprehensively prohibits use, production, trade, and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines and requires their clearance and assistance to victims.

“Finland’s accession to the Mine Ban Treaty has been 14 years in the making,” said Steve Goose, director of the Arms division at Human Rights Watch. “It had been one of the most notable holdouts, and its decision to go ahead shows that the global stigma against antipersonnel mines keeps getting stronger.”

With Finland’s accession, a total of 159 nations are party to the Mine Ban Treaty, which was negotiated in 1997 and entered into force on March 1, 1999. Others that joined recently include South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, in November and Tuvalu in September.

Poland, which signed the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997, has indicated that it will ratify in 2012, making all European Union countries party to the treaty. In November, Somalia pledged to join in the coming months.

The majority of the other 35 nations that remain outside the ban treaty are in de facto compliance with most of the treaty’s provisions, including the United States. The US has not used antipersonnel mines since 1991, has not exported them since 1992, has not produced them since 1997, and is the largest donor to international demining programs.

The Obama administration began a comprehensive landmine policy review in late 2009. The Clinton administration, in 1998, 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.

“The United States should conclude its landmine policy review and accede to the Mine Ban Treaty as Finland has done,” Goose said. “Further delays simply aren’t justified, on any grounds.”

Finland enacted legislation approving accession to the Mine Ban Treaty in late 2011, after several years of internal landmine policy reviews. In November, Finland’s minister of international development, Heidi Hautala, announced that her government would join the Mine Ban Treaty within weeks.

Finland has made a commitment to destroy its stockpile of 1,029,763 antipersonnel mines within the next four years, as required by the Mine Ban Treaty. Finland has not produced antipersonnel mines since 1981 and has never exported the weapon. There are no mined areas in Finland.

Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate together with Jody Williams of the USA.