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U.S. Also Bears Responsibility For Landmines Crisis

Human Rights Watch (New York), 5 March 2001

Washington - At the outset of "Ban Landmines Week" in Washington, D.C., Human Rights Watch said that nearly eighty percent of the Pentagon's $25 million budget for humanitarian demining is used for travel costs and other logistical aspects of moving personnel and equipment around the world.

The United States spends more money on humanitarian mine programs than any other country, and Pentagon officials often insist that U.S. mines cause relatively little damage. But Human Rights Watch released fresh research showing that U.S.-manufactured antipersonnel mines have been used by government or rebel forces in at least twenty-eight countries or regions, causing numerous civilian casualties.

"The U.S. bears a special responsibility for the landmines crisis," said Stephen Goose, program director of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. "Washington is one of the largest producers and exporters of mines in the past, and one of the largest stockpilers today. President Bush should make joining the Mine Ban Treaty a high priority so that the U.S. can fully wield its influence and power to achieve a truly global ban on antipersonnel mines."

The week of March 5, 2001 has been declared "Ban Landmines Week" by the mayor of Washington, D.C. Nearly 200 members of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), from about ninety countries, and another 250 campaigners from forty-five U.S. states will participate in a series of meetings and events in Washington throughout the week. Human Rights Watch is a co-founder of the ICBL.

Human Rights Watch issued a Fact Sheet containing new information about use of U.S.-made antipersonnel mines around the world, U.S. mine exports, and U.S. spending on mine clearance and mine victim assistance programs.

The United States is not among the 139 countries that have signed the Mine Ban Treaty, which prohibits all use, production, trade, and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines. Current policy calls for the U.S. to join the treaty in 2006 if the Pentagon has found alternatives to antipersonnel mines. The Bush Administration has yet to make any statement on antipersonnel mines.

Human Rights Watch research shows that in the next fiscal year (FY 2002), funding for the Pentagon's search for alternatives to landmines will surpass funding for humanitarian mine programs. The U.S. exported over 5.6 million antipersonnel mines to at least thirty-eight countries between 1969 and 1992. The U.S. still has the third largest stockpile of antipersonnel mines in the world, more than 11 million, including stocks in twelve foreign countries, five of which have signed the Mine Ban Treaty.

The U.S. ranks eleventh among major donor countries when mine action funding is considered on a per capita basis and thirteenth when that funding is taken as a percentage of GDP.

Human Rights Watch urges that the role of mines should be part of the review of the U.S. military structure and weapons ordered in February 2001 by the Bush Administration. Many military experts have argued that antipersonnel mines have little to no utility in the war fighting principles currently being developed and adopted by the U.S. military for the twenty-first century.

Human Rights Watch calls on President Bush to submit the Mine Ban Treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent for accession, and through executive actions begin immediate implementation of the treaty's provisions. Short of joining the treaty, there are other important steps in the right direction that President Bush could take:

  • Declare a ban on the production of antipersonnel mines.
  • Immediately commit the United States to a policy of no use of antipersonnel mines in joint operations (NATO and otherwise) with states that have signed the Mine Ban Treaty. Similarly, commit the United States to a policy of no transiting of antipersonnel mines across the territory, air space, or waters of Mine Ban Treaty signatory states.
  • Instruct the Department of Defense to immediately withdraw all stockpiles of antipersonnel mines from countries that have signed the Mine Ban Treaty.
  • Take steps necessary to insure that any systems resulting from the Pentagon's landmine alternative programs are compliant with the Mine Ban Treaty.
  • Remove from consideration the battlefield override feature of the dumb mine replacement program.
  • Eliminate the RADAM program.

For more information, please see:
The United States and Antipersonnel Mines-2001 (Human Rights Watch
Fact Sheet, March 2001) at http://www.hrw.org/press/2001/03/lmfacts.htm
Clinton's Landmine Legacy, Human Rights Watch Report, June 2000) at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2000/uslm/
Landmine Monitor Report 2000: Toward a Mine-Free World, Human Rights Watch Report, June 2000) at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2000/landmines/

Copyright 2001 Human Rights Watch. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).