On January 31, the Trump Administration changed U.S. landmine policy, re-authorizing the use of landmines, which U.S. forces haven't used in decades. Humanity & Inclusion, co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), and co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, denounced this major setback in the fight against these barbaric weapons.
Silver Spring, Maryland--As we observe the International Mine Awareness Day on April 4, Humanity & Inclusion calls the U.S. to reverse its new landmine policy, which threatens the resounding success of the Ottawa Convention which prohibits landmines and has reduced by three the number of victims in 20 years.
"It is unimaginable that after more than 20 years of fighting and victories against these infamous weapons, the U.S. would re-launch the use of mines," said Emmanuel Sauvage, Head of the Armed Violence Reduction Division at Humanity & Inclusion. "We refuse to go back to the scenario of the 90s, when we counted more than 20,000 victims a year. In addition to being irresponsible and giving a negative signal to countries that haven’t joined the Convention, the policy of the United States is absurd."
COVID-19 & landmines
The new policy state that landmines are "a vital tool in conventional warfare,” which seems unlikely when the U.S. military hasn’t chosen to use them in decades.
"A landmine is not ‘vital,’" notes Sauvage. "What is ‘vital’ is to join worldwide efforts to combat the COVID-19. We urge the Trump administration to reverse this decision and to concentrate on the first actual priority: addressing the vulnerabilities of 60 million people living in mine/ERW affected countries where COVID-19 could further increase vulnerability of people affected directly or indirectly by mines."
Indeed, the decision to redeploy landmines now appears totally irrelevant and does not correspond to the world's COVID-19 challenge. Even the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for an ‘immediate global ceasefire’ to prioritize the fight against the pandemic.
In 1997, the Ottawa Convention prohibiting the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel mines marked a turning point in the fight against landmines. There are 164 States parties to the Convention, making the ban on landmines a universal norm of international humanitarian law. The U.S. is one of the few countries that has yet to join the 1997 Mine Ban Convention, sharing ranks with China, Egypt, India, Israel, Pakistan, and Russia. In 20 years, the use of landmines has almost been eradicated.
The Ottawa Convention has almost completely dried up the trade of this weapon: In 1999, 50 states were still producing landmines and 160 million landmines were stockpiled. Today only 11 states still produce landmines, and stockpiles are below 50 million.
More than 120,000 casualties have been recorded in the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor database in the period 1999–2018, with the annual number of recorded victims divided by 3 in 15 years. The global trend has indeed been positive, showing the resounding victory of the Ottawa Convention. Nonetheless, 2018 was the fourth year in a row with exceptionally high numbers of recorded casualties due to landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW)--including improvised types that act as antipersonnel mines, cluster munition remnants, and other ERW.
Globally at least 60 million people live in contaminated areas. These data show that we cannot enjoy the luxury to take the Ottawa Convention for granted. It needs continuous strengthening, instead of being cowardly attacked by some states.
For the first time in seven years, funding dedicated to victim assistance as part of the global mine action budget increased in 2018. Humanity & Inclusion calls on the donor community to turn this positive change into a trend. States Parties in a position to provide assistance should continue keeping people at the center of their action supporting better access to vital services for people injured, survivors, affected families and communities in humanitarian crisis, situations of protracted conflict, and in development contexts.
There are no ‘smart’ mines
Presented by the Trump administration as "an important tool," the Pentagon policy states that the “advanced, non-persistent landmine” that is currently under development, would deactivate after a period of time, and would be “designed to reduce unintended harm to civilians and partner forces.”
"This is absolute nonsense," said Humanity & Inclusion mines and explosive weapons expert Gary Toombs. "There are no such things as ‘smart’ landmines! Mines that self-destruct remotely have, like any electronic device, the potential to fail and may not function or may malfunction, leaving behind dangerous explosives. Even fragments of improperly destroyed landmines can be dangerous!"
The Ottawa Convention bans the acquisition, production, stockpiling and use of anti-personnel mines. The Convention was opened for signing on 3 December 1997. It entered into force on 1 March 1999. A total of 164 States are party to the Convention and one State (the Marshall Islands) has signed but not ratified the Convention.
About Humanity & Inclusion
Humanity & Inclusion is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for nearly 40 years. Working alongside persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our action and testimony are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since it was founded in 1982, Humanity & Inclusion has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) works constantly to mobilize resources, jointly manage projects and to increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Humanity & Inclusion is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 and the winner of the Conrad N. Hilton Award in 2011. Humanity & Inclusion takes action and campaigns in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task.