[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Wednesday urged the administration of US President Barack Obama [official website] to endorse the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty [text, PDF], which flatly prohibits land mines and requires their removal. HRW asserts that, while the US contributes to mine clearance and victim assistance more than any other nation, it should also ban formally the right to use mines in the future. HRW reports [press release] that 161 other nations have signed the treaty while the US has continually delayed its endorsement. In an open letter [text] to Obama in March, HRW noted that:
US accession [to the treaty] would help to convince the other countries not yet party to join, strengthening the norm against the weapon, and thereby helping to ensure that it is not used in the future. … Over the past 20 years, the US has fought a wide range of conflicts, both high and low intensity in a variety of environments, and has demonstrated that it can employ alternative strategies, tactics, and weaponry without having to resort to antipersonnel mines. It has also spent more than one billion dollars on the development and production of systems that could be considered alternatives to antipersonnel mines. Now is the time to ban these inhumane weapons that are no longer essential to US security or the security of US allies. Now is the time to join the Mine Ban Treaty.
According to HRW, signatories have destroyed more than 47 million mines, and 27 nations have become “mine-free.” As a result, land mine casualties and injuries have reportedly decreased across the globe.
The use and removal of land mines continues to be a contentious issue across the globe. In April 2007 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged [JURIST report] all countries to sign and abide by international treaties banning land mines for International Mine Awareness Day. Those treaties included the Ottawa Treaty, which bans all anti-personnel landmines, and the Protocol Five to the Certain Conventional Weapons Convention, was assembled to consider how to eradicate land mines left behind in former war zones. In April 2006 then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on states [JURIST report] to ratify the 1997 anti-personnel mine ban treaty, arguing the removal of all land mines would take ten years to complete, not 100 years as previously estimated.