Saturday, February 28, 2009

Land Mines: Time for U.S. to join ban on land mines

On the tenth anniversary of the treaty banning antipersonnel landmines, the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines calls on President Barack Obama to work for Senate ratification of the treaty this year.

"U.S. accession to the Mine Ban Treaty would be a low-cost gesture of diplomatic goodwill with both humanitarian and practical benefits," said Lora Lumpe, coordinator of the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines. "This treaty has saved thousands of lives and limbs."

On March 1, 1999 the Mine Ban Treaty entered into force, just 15 months after it was completed -- very fast by diplomatic standards. The treaty comprehensively bans all antipersonnel mines, requires destruction of stockpiled mines and clearance of mines already in the ground, and urges assistance for the victims of landmines. Today 156 countries are party to the treaty.

As a result, the world has seen a near total end to the use of these indiscriminate weapons by national militaries, as well as a reduction in their use by non-state combatants. It has also brought international assistance to thousands of mine victims and billions of dollars for clearing mines and other explosive ordnance left over from wars long ended.

As President Obama seeks to repair America's reputation abroad, as well as to restore its alliances, U.S. participation would almost certainly aid efforts to universalize the treaty by increasing pressure on other hold-out nations like Russia -- one of only two states, along with Myanmar, that has laid new anti-personnel mines in recent years.

On February 10, 2009, leaders from 67 non-governmental organizations issued a letter calling on President Obama to join the Mine Ban Treaty. Though Mr. Obama was supportive of efforts to restrict landmines when he was a Senator, the new administration has not yet taken a position on the agreement.

"The U.S. has not needed antipersonnel mines in any of its military operations in the past 17 years," said General Robert Gard, who commanded troops in Korea and Vietnam. "It is an outmoded weapon with no real military utility. Yet using landmines today would put the U.S. squarely at odds with NATO allies and other friends."

The U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines is one of 70 campaigns comprising the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). It includes dozens of national organizations and thousands of individual members and is currently coordinated by the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Source: Friends Committee on National Legislation
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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