International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)
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Groups Worldwide Urge the U.S. to Ban Landmines

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Press Release -- For Immediate Release

Groups Worldwide Urge the U.S. to Ban Landmines

Mine Ban Treaty Turns 12 Today

By joining the Mine Ban Treaty, the U.S. would send a clear signal that all types of antipersonnel mines are unacceptable weapons. Photo: Giovanni Diffidenti

By joining the Mine Ban Treaty, the U.S. would send a clear signal that all types of antipersonnel mines are unacceptable weapons. Photo: Giovanni Diffidenti

Geneva, 1 March 2011 - Civil society groups worldwide are calling on the United States to ban antipersonnel landmines immediately, said the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) today, as the Mine Ban Treaty turned twelve. Campaign members will meet today and throughout the month with U.S. representatives in dozens of countries to urge the U.S. to join the Mine Ban Treaty.

"It is absurd that the U.S. continues to cling to a weapon that is so horrific that only a country like Myanmar still uses it," said Sylvie Brigot, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. "If nearly all of the United States' closest military allies were able to remove antipersonnel mines from their arsenal without compromising their national security, we are confident the U.S. can as well."

The Obama Administration started a comprehensive review of its landmine policy in late 2009 to determine whether to join the Mine Ban Treaty. Officials have consulted with allies, States Parties to the treaty, international organizations, civil society including landmine survivors, and former military personnel. No date for completing the review has been made public yet. By joining the Mine Ban Treaty, the U.S. would help send a clear signal that all types of antipersonnel mines are unacceptable weapons, would strengthen international security, and would spur to action some of the other 38 states still outside the treaty.

The U.S. already follows the core obligations of the Mine Ban Treaty: it has not used antipersonnel landmines since 1991, has not exported any since 1992, and has not produced since 1997. It is also the world's largest individual donor to mine action and victim assistance programs. This should be complemented by a legal commitment to end the threat of use of antipersonnel mines.

In 2010, ICBL members undertook an array of actions calling for the policy review to result in a decision by the U.S. to join the Mine Ban Treaty:

  • In March 2010, 65 U.S.-based NGOs signed a letter to President Obama, welcoming the policy review and urging that it results in a decision to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty.
  • On 18 May 2010, 68 U.S. Senators wrote to President Obama, expressing strong support for the ban on antipersonnel mines.
  • In June 2010, landmine survivors from various regions of the world shared testimonies during a meeting with U.S. officials.
  • On 30 November 2010, sixteen Nobel Peace Prize laureates sent a letter to President Obama. Signatories included Mohamed El Baradei, Shirin Ebadi, Aung San Suu Kyi, His Holiness Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, and Jody Williams.

At the beginning of 2011, a Bush policy adopted in 2004 took effect, whereby the U.S. renounces the use of so-called "dumb" mines or "persistent" mines everywhere in the world, including on the Korean peninsula. The U.S. retains the right to use so-called "smart" mines equipped with a self-destruct or self-deactivation mechanism.

"So-called smart mines are by no means safe for civilians. While these mines are active, they cannot distinguish between a soldier and an innocent civilian. And their self-destruct mechanisms have an estimated failure rate of 1 to 10%. By retaining the right to use them, the U.S. stands completely at odds with the international norm that rejects landmine use," said Atle Karlsen, mine clearance expert at Norwegian People's Aid and a member of the Governance Board of the ICBL.

Adopted in 1997, the Mine Ban Treaty entered into force on 1 March 1999, just 15 months after it was negotiated - the shortest time ever for a multilateral treaty. The treaty comprehensively bans all antipersonnel mines, requires destruction of stockpiled mines within four years and destruction of mines already in the ground within 10 years, and urges extensive programs to assist the victims of landmines. The ICBL calls on all states to join the treaty. The Eleventh Meeting of the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty will be held from 28 November - 2 December 2011 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

ENDS

More information and interviews:
Amelie Chayer, Communications Officer (in Geneva, GMT+1)
mobile: +33 6 89 55 12 81
email: media@icbl.org

Background & Figures

Eighty percent of the world's countries (156 countries) have joined the Mine Ban Treaty. China, Russia, and the United States are among the 39 states that have not yet joined. But nearly all of those states are in de facto compliance with most of the treaty's provisions. Every NATO member has foresworn the use of antipersonnel mines except for the U.S., as have other key allies, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Australia, and Japan. In the Western Hemisphere, only the U.S. and Cuba have not joined the Mine Ban Treaty.

Some 45 million antipersonnel mines have been destroyed from stockpiles since the Mine Ban Treaty was adopted; only 12 of the more than 50 countries that manufactured antipersonnel mines in the early '90s still have a production capacity; trade in antipersonnel mines has virtually stopped; and large tracts of land have been cleared and returned to productive use. Landmines still contaminate 66 states.

The ICBL, 1997 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is a global network of advocacy organizations, mine clearance operators, victim assistance organizations, and dedicated individuals, working in over 90 countries towards the goal of a mine-free world.

Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor: www.the-monitor.org