HI outraged by Trump administration's decision to use landmines
The Trump administration has announced a deadly shift in its landmine policy, putting civilian lives in danger.
Jemerson, 12, lost his left hand to a landmine left over from the conflict in Colombia. | © J.M. Vargas/HI
The Trump Administration has announced a deadly landmine policy shift, effectively committing the U.S. to resume the use and stockpiling of antipersonnel landmines. Landmines are devastating, victim-activated devices that cannot discriminate between the footstep of a child or that of a soldier. HI, a co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, denounces this historic setback for the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
New "auto-destruct" landmines?
The move is a sharp reversal of President Obama’s 2014 commitment that inched the U.S. closer to compliance with the 1997 Ottawa Convention, known as the Mine Ban Treaty. President Obama’s move left only the Korean peninsula as an exception, due to ongoing mine use in the demilitarized zone.
The announcement states, "The Department of Defense is issuing a new landmine policy. This policy will authorize Combatant Commanders, in exceptional circumstances, to employ advanced, non-persistent landmines specifically designed to reduce unintended harm to civilians and partner forces."
Non-persistent mines are typically laid on the ground surface, and are intended to destroy themselves within a relatively short period of time—from a few hours to days.
Sending the wrong signal
The U.S. is one of the few countries that has yet to join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, sharing ranks with China, Egypt, India, Israel, Pakistan, and Russia. There are 164 States parties to the treaty, making the ban on landmines a universal norm of international humanitarian law. However, the great paradox of this policy shift is that for nearly 30 years, the U.S. has refrained from using or trading antipersonnel landmines.
“The U.S. claims that the protection of civilians is at the core of their defense policy,” notes Alma Taslidžan Al-Osta. “For the last four decades, Humanity & Inclusion has been documenting the indiscriminate effects of landmines on civilians. This announced setback on landmines is thus in contradiction with existing U.S. policy.”
What’s more, the policy change would send a very negative signal, essentially handing a blank check to States or groups willing to continue or expand their use of landmines, which had significantly decreased after the entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty.
A dangerous step backwards
Humanity & Inclusion’s decades of experience with clearing landmines, as well as taking care of survivors of landmine explosions, leads to the conclusion that no use is safe. “We oppose in the strongest terms the idea that military commanders will feel empowered to use mines,” Meer notes. “The safest landmine is the one that is never produced.”
Humanity & Inclusion will work with its partners at the International Campaign to Ban Landmines to encourage U.S. authorities to reverse this deadly plan in the months ahead.
HI's work on landmines
Humanity & Inclusion runs or supports projects to minimize the impact of landmines on civilians in dozens of countries, returning land to communities through demining, teaching people to spot, avoid and report explosive remnants of war through risk education, and providing support and care to victims of landmines. The organization works to raise the visibility of these landmine victims and their communities, so that the world is reminded of the scourge of landmines.
About the Mine Ban Treaty
The Mine Ban Treaty prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of antipersonnel mines. It is the most comprehensive international instrument for eradicating landmines and deals with everything from mine use, production and trade, to victim assistance, mine clearance and stockpile destruction.