(Washington, DC) – The administration of President Barack Obama should conclude a five-year-long policy review and announce a decision to join the treaty to ban landmines.
In March 2014, Human Rights Watch urged President Obama to announce the results of the policy review by the time of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty’s Third Review Conference, which opens in Maputo, Mozambique on June 23.
“It’s going to be embarrassing for the US to have to explain to the high-level officials at the summit meeting why it has been reviewing its landmine policies for five years without making a decision,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch and chair of the United States Campaign to Ban Landmines, a coalition of more than 400 nongovernmental organizations. “It’s time for the US to commit to the Mine Ban Treaty as the best framework for achieving a world without landmines.”
The United States is not among the 161 nations that have signed the treaty, which comprehensively bans antipersonnel landmines and requires their clearance and assistance to victims. The Clinton administration in 1997 set the objective of joining the treaty in 2006, but the Bush administration reversed course in 2004.
At the Mine Ban Treaty’s Second Review Conference in Cartagena, Colombia in December 2009, a US official announced that the US had begun a comprehensive landmine policy review “initiated at the direction of President Obama.” US officials have participated in Mine Ban Treaty meetings in an observer capacity ever since. In 2012, the US told the treaty’s annual meeting that its landmine policy review would conclude “soon” while it informed the 2013 annual meeting that the review was “pressing forward to a conclusion.”
“Like the rest of its NATO allies, all of which have joined the Mine Ban Treaty, the US has no need for antipersonnel mines,” Goose said. “The US hasn’t used mines in more than two decades, proof positive that there are other weapons, tactics, and means of carrying out required missions.”
The US should conclude its policy review with a decision to join the Mine Ban Treaty as soon as possible, to prohibit the use of antipersonnel mines immediately, and to begin destruction of all stocks of antipersonnel mines, Human Rights Watch said.
The US and nearly all of the 34 non-signatory countries already follow the Mine Ban Treaty’s key provisions. The last recorded US use of antipersonnel landmines was more than 20 years ago, during the 1991 Gulf War. The US has had an export ban on antipersonnel mines since 1992. There has been no known US production of antipersonnel mines since 1997. The US is the world’s largest contributor to global mine clearance and victim assistance programs.
Since the US policy review began, the administration has received letters or statements of support for the Mine Ban Treaty from 68 Senators, 16 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, key NATO allies, senior military veterans, dozens of leaders of nongovernmental organizations, victims of US landmines, and more than 200,000 concerned Americans.
Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, together with its coordinator, Jody Williams, for its efforts to bring about the Mine Ban Treaty and for its contributions to a new international diplomacy based on humanitarian imperatives.