[JURIST] Several human rights groups and anti-mine activists on Monday urged [press release] the US to join the Mine Ban Treaty [text], marking the eleventh anniversary of the treaty's status as binding international law. Despite initial statements from the US State Department in November that the US would be maintaining its current policy [JURIST report], the US government announced in its first appearance at the December convention [summit website] of states party to the Mine Ban Treaty that the Obama administration has undertaken a review [DPA report] of current US landmine policy. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] Arms Division Director Steve Goose emphasized the importance of the US signing onto the treaty:
The humanitarian and political benefits would be huge, and it would not tie the hands of the US military. Some ask how the US can join when it is at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, but both those nations are members of the treaty and are already obliged to reject any use of antipersonnel mines.
The US is one of only two countries in the western hemisphere that is not a party to the treaty, which currently has 156 signatories worldwide. The US is also the largest financial supporter of mine clearance programs. In 2004, the Bush administration geared US policy away [CDI backgrounder] from signing the mine treaty and substituted usage of persistent mines with non-persistent mines. The Clinton administration did not sign the Mine Ban Treaty, but in 1998 issued [FAS backgrounder] Presidential Decision Directive 64, instructing the US military to explore alternate weapons and outlining US commitment to sign the treaty by 2006. The Mine Ban Treaty opened for signature in December 1997, and signatory countries ban [ICBL backgrounder] the use of anti-personnel mines, destroy stockpiles, and take measures towards clearing mines, as well as help countries with fewer resources clear mines and give assistance to victims.