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Rights group urges US to join landmine treaty

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Wednesday urged the US [press release] to become a state party to the Mine Ban Treaty [text], repeating a plea made in March [JURIST report]. The call was prompted by the release of "Landmine Monitor 2010" [materials], an annual report detailing the treaty's progress released by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) [advocacy website]. The 2010 report shows international progress in preventing deaths from landmines, as well as in eradicating their use. HRW criticized the US government's stance on the issue while noting that it, along with almost all 37 states who have not joined the treaty, "are in de facto compliance with most of the treaty's provisions." HRW stated:

The US should not be on the outside looking in at the most successful humanitarian and disarmament treaty of the past decade. The Obama administration has been pondering the Mine Ban Treaty for more than a year now. It's time to make the right decision.
The US State Department said last November that the US would be maintaining its current policy [JURIST report], with spokesperson Ian Kelly stating [text] that "[the Obama administration] ... determined that we would not be able to meet our national defense needs, nor our security commitments to our friends and allies if we sign this convention." Despite this, the US government sent representatives to the December 2009 convention of state parties, where it announced that US landmine policy was under review. US representatives will attend the Tenth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty [summit website], convening in Geneva next week.

The US is one of only two countries in the western hemisphere that is not a party to the treaty. The treaty currently has 156 state parties worldwide, with two additional signatories who have not ratified the treaty. 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 Presidential Decision Directive 64 [FAS backgrounder], instructing the US military to explore alternate weapons and outlining US commitment to sign the treaty by 2006. The treaty opened for signature in December 1997, and signatory countries ban the use [ICBL backgrounder] 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.

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