Sunday, March 1, 2009, is the 10th anniversary of the historic treaty banning antipersonnel mines becoming binding international law. The Mine Ban Treaty obligates its participants to comprehensively discontinue the use, production, stockpile, and transfer of antipersonnel landmines; to destroy stockpiles within four years; to clear mines within their own territories within ten years, and to provide continuing assistance to mine survivors.
The United States is one of thirty-nine countries that have not yet formally joined the treaty and thus remains at odds with the widespread international rejection of the weapon.
“Jesuit Refugee Service/USA urges President Obama and the U.S. Congress to sign and ratify the Mine Ban Treaty,” said Fr. Kenneth J. Gavin, S.J., Director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.
Speaking at a conference on security policy in Germany on Feb. 9, 2009, National Security Adviser James L. Jones, a retired U.S. Marine four-star general, said, “The President has made clear that to succeed against 21st century challenges, the United States must use, balance, and integrate all elements of national influence: our military and our diplomacy, our economy and our intelligence, and law enforcement capacity, our cultural outreach, and … the power of our moral example, in short, our values.”
“Joining the treaty would be a clear reassertion of moral leadership, and a signal that the U.S. values those innocent people who continue to be killed and maimed by landmines,” said Fr. Gavin.
“Every day, JRS programs seek to relieve the suffering of the victims of the tragic effects of land mines and cluster bombs, which take a terrible toll on the lives of refugees and internally displaced persons, killing and maiming the innocent and preventing families in war – torn regions from returning to their homes,” said Fr. Gavin.
“In the decade since the Mine Ban Treaty took effect,
the weapon has become so stigmatized that it is almost inconceivable that the United States would ever use it again,” said Steve Goose, director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch.
“The U.S. should stop being the odd man out and join its allies in banning antipersonnel mines.”
“A decision to sign the Mine Ban Treaty would certainly reinforce President Obama’s stated commitment to international humanitarian law, protection of civilians, arms control and disarmament, and multilateralism,” said Goose.
A total of 156 nations are party to the Mine Ban Treaty, and another two states have signed, but still not ratified. China, Russia, and the United States are among the 37 states that have not yet joined. But, nearly all of those states are in de facto compliance with most of the treaty’s provisions.
The United States has not used antipersonnel mines since 1991 (in the first Gulf War), has not exported them since 1992, has not produced them since 1997, and is the biggest donor to mine clearance programs around the world. But it still stockpiles more than 10.4 million antipersonnel mines for potential use in the future.
“The U.S. did not need to use antipersonnel mines in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, or any place else in the past 17 years,” said Goose. “Clearly the weapon has little or no military value to U.S. forces today.”
“The Mine Ban Treaty has made a major difference on the ground in dozens of mine-affected countries, but despite the successes to date, too many people’s lives remain impacted by uncleared minefields, too many mine survivors are denied decent living conditions, and too many mines are still stockpiled,” said Sylvie Brigot, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.
“We always knew that pursuing a mine-free world would be a long-term mission, but it can be done. States Parties need to recommit themselves to doing everything in their power to end the suffering caused by these weapons. This is ‘mission possible.'”