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HI outraged by Trump administration's decision to use landmines

Explosive weapons

The Trump administration has announced a deadly shift in its landmine policy, putting civilian lives in danger.

Jemerson, 12, lost his left hand to a landmine left over from the conflict in Colombia.

Jemerson, 12, lost his left hand to a landmine left over from the conflict in Colombia. | © J.M. Vargas/HI

The Trump Administration has announced a deadly landmine policy shift, effectively committing the U.S. to resume the use and stockpiling of antipersonnel landmines. Landmines are devastating, victim-activated devices that cannot discriminate between the footstep of a child or that of a soldier. HI, a co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, denounces this historic setback for the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

The move is a death sentence for civilians. There are acts in war that are simply out of bounds. Nations, even superpowers, must never use certain weapons because of the superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering they cause. Landmines fall directly into this category. There is no use for landmines that cannot be accomplished by other means that do not so significantly and indiscriminately kill and maim civilians.
Jeff Meer, U.S. Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion.

New "auto-destruct" landmines?

The move is a sharp reversal of President Obama’s 2014 commitment  that inched the U.S. closer to compliance with the 1997 Ottawa Convention, known as the Mine Ban Treaty. President Obama’s move left only the Korean peninsula as an exception, due to ongoing mine use in the demilitarized zone.

The announcement states, "The Department of Defense is issuing a new landmine policy.  This policy will authorize Combatant Commanders, in exceptional circumstances, to employ advanced, non-persistent landmines specifically designed to reduce unintended harm to civilians and partner forces."

Non-persistent mines are typically laid on the ground surface, and are intended to destroy themselves within a relatively short period of time—from a few hours to days.

“Don’t be fooled, every weapon has a failure rate. The idea that so-called “advanced” landmines will be safer than older types of devices is absurd. What happens if they don’t neutralize as intended? Our teams see, first hand, how weapons often marketed as “self destructing” continue to injure, maim, and terrorize civilians all over the world on a daily basis.”
Alma Taslidžan Al-Osta, HI's Disarmament and Protection of Civilians Advocacy Manager.

Sending the wrong signal

The U.S.  is one of the few countries that has yet to join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, sharing ranks with China, Egypt, India, Israel, Pakistan, and Russia. There are 164 States parties  to the treaty, making the ban on landmines a universal norm of international humanitarian law. However, the great paradox of this policy shift is that for nearly 30 years, the U.S. has refrained from using or trading antipersonnel landmines.

The U.S. claims that the protection of civilians is at the core of their defense policy,” notes Alma Taslidžan Al-Osta. “For the last four decades, Humanity & Inclusion has been documenting the indiscriminate effects of landmines on civilians. This announced setback on landmines is thus in contradiction with existing U.S. policy.

What’s more, the policy change would send a very negative signal, essentially handing a blank check to States or groups willing to continue or expand their use of landmines, which had significantly decreased after the entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty.

A dangerous step backwards

Humanity & Inclusion’s decades of experience with clearing landmines, as well as taking care of survivors of landmine explosions, leads to the conclusion that no use is safe. “We oppose in the strongest terms the idea that military commanders will feel empowered to use mines,” Meer notes. “The safest landmine is the one that is never produced.”

Humanity & Inclusion will work with its partners at the International Campaign to Ban Landmines to encourage U.S. authorities to reverse this deadly plan in the months ahead.

Make no mistake, this is absolutely a step backwards. This significant and negative development is a thunderclap for all of the thousands of individuals who have survived contact with a landmine, as well as the family and friends of hundreds of thousands who have not.”
Jeff Meer, U.S. Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion.

HI's work on landmines

Humanity & Inclusion runs or supports projects to minimize the impact of landmines on civilians in dozens of countries, returning land to communities through demining, teaching people to spot, avoid and report explosive remnants of war through risk education, and providing support and care to victims of landmines. The organization works to raise the visibility of these landmine victims and their communities, so that the world is reminded of the scourge of landmines.

About the Mine Ban Treaty

The Mine Ban Treaty prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of antipersonnel mines. It is the most comprehensive international instrument for eradicating landmines and deals with everything from mine use, production and trade, to victim assistance, mine clearance and stockpile destruction.


Date published: 01/31/20


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