An antipersonnel landmine is an explosive device that designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person and that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons. These weapons cause amputations, burns, shrapnel wounds as well as sight and hearing damage.
Antipersonnel landmine were widely used around the world in the period from World War II until the treaty banning their use, production, transfer and stockpiling was adopted in 1997. As a result, dozens of nations have mine-affected land that must be cleared before it can be returned to productive use. There are hundreds of thousands of landmine survivors who require continued care over their lifetimes. Long after wars are over, landmines make land unusable for farming, schools or living, preventing people from rebuilding lives torn apart by conflict.
The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) was established in 1992 to advocate for a world free of antipersonnel landmines. It received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize together with its founding coordinator Ms. Jody Williams of Vermont for their role in creating the Mine Ban Treaty.
To date, a total of 161 nations are party to the Mine Ban Treaty, which requires that countries clear mine-affected areas within ten years and provide assistance to victims of the weapons. States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty include all European Union member states, all of NATO (except the US), and major US allies such as Afghanistan, Australia, Iraq, and Japan.
The ICBL’s Landmine Monitor initiative systematically verifies and document nations' compliance with the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and the humanitarian response more generally to the global landmine crisis. According to Landmine Monitor, since the Mine Ban Treaty became binding international law on March 1, 1999, use of the weapons dropped dramatically, more than 47 million antipersonnel mines have been destroyed from stockpiles, 27 nations have completed clearance to become mine-free, and the number of new mine victims each year has decreased.
President William Jefferson Clinton was the first world leader to call for the eventual elimination of all antipersonnel landmines in September 1994. While his administration did not sign the Mine Ban Treaty after it was negotiated in 1997, Clinton set the goal of 2006 for the US to join. That commitment was abandoned by President George W. Bush in February in 2004, who issued a policy that the US would never join the treaty.
Despite the fact that it has not yet joined the Mine Ban Treaty, the United States has not used antipersonnel mines since 1991, has not exported them since 1992, has not produced them since 1997, and has no plans for future procurement. It has been the world’s leading donor for mine clearance and victim assistance.
In December 2009, the US Department of State confirmed that a comprehensive landmine policy review had been “initiated at the direction of President Obama.” Until the current policy review is completed, the Bush administration policy remains in place, permitting the US to use its stockpile of millions of self-destructing, self-deactivating antipersonnel mines. Under this policy, the US has since 2011 prohibited the use of antipersonnel mines that do not self-destruct – sometimes called “persistent” or “dumb” mines.
Over the past 20 years, the US has fought a wide range of conflicts, both high and low intensity in a variety of environments, and has demonstrated that it can employ alternative strategies, tactics, and weaponry without having to resort to antipersonnel mines, either “smart” or “dumb.” It has also spent more than one billion dollars on the development and production of systems that could be considered alternatives to antipersonnel mines.
US accession to the Mine Ban Treaty would help to convince the other countries not yet party to join, strengthening the norm against antipersonnel mines, thereby ensuring they are not used in the future and create no additional humanitarian and socioeconomic harm.
The US landmine policy review process is expected to conclude by the time of the Third Review Conference of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which opens in Maputo, Mozambique in June 2014.
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For more on the Mine Ban Treaty, go to www.icbl.org
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