Human rights

Landmines: US moves closer to global ban

(Geneva, June 21, 2022) – The Biden administration’s pledge not to use antipersonnel landmines anywhere in the world except on the Korean Peninsula is a big step forward, but it won’t far enough to ban this indiscriminate weapon, Human Rights Watch said today.

A June 21, 2022 White House fact sheet states that the United States will not produce or use antipersonnel mines outside the Korean Peninsula. It will destroy stocks except those needed for Korea. The policy sets the goal of eventually joining the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Convention.

“President Joe Biden is putting the United States back on the path to ending antipersonnel landmines, but greater ambition is needed to get there sooner,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch. “The United States should join its allies who rejected these indiscriminate weapons decades ago.”

Anti-personnel mines are designed to explode in response to the presence, proximity or contact of a person. They cannot distinguish between soldiers and civilians, making them illegally blind under international humanitarian law.

Due to their indiscriminate nature and the human suffering caused by the use of anti-personnel landmines, 164 countries have joined the Mine Ban Treaty, which completely bans the weapons and requires destruction of stockpiles, clearance of mined areas and victim assistance. The Mine Ban Treaty entered into force on March 1, 1999, and includes all NATO member states except the United States, all European Union member states, and allies of the United States. such as Australia, Japan and Ukraine.

The United States attempted to secure an exception for Korea during the Mine Ban Treaty negotiations in 1997 and was strongly rebuffed by its allies. Many retired US military officers, including those who commanded forces in South Korea, said the use of landmines there had little or no military value.

The U.S. landmine policy restores bans on the production and use of landmines that were reversed by a Trump administration policy directive issued on January 31, 2020. Trump’s policy reversed years of progressive measures by the US government to align its policies and practices with the mine. Ban Treaty, which the United States participated in negotiating in 1996-1997. The United States last used antipersonnel mines in 1991, has not exported any since 1992, or produced any since 1997.

Over the past 30 years, the United States has fought a series of conflicts – both high and low intensity – in various environments and has demonstrated that it can employ alternative strategies, tactics and weapons without resorting to to anti-personnel mines. It has spent more than a billion dollars developing and producing systems that could be considered alternatives to landmines.

“The United States must accept that the international ban on landmines applies in all circumstances, without geographic exception,” Goose said. “Adhering to the international ban on landmines would help the United States raise the norm against these weapons and prevent their use in the future.”

Human Rights Watch is chair of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and co-founder of the US Campaign to Ban Landmines. The ICBL was awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, along with its coordinator, Jody Williams, for her efforts in support of the Mine Ban Treaty and for her contributions to a new international diplomacy based on humanitarian imperatives.