Sunday marked the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, commemorating victims who have suffered the effects of the deadly weapons. Antipersonnel landmines have been dubbed indiscriminate killers, as they injure and kill more civilians than soldiers. In the wake of armed conflict, women and children often come across these hidden killers - in fields or on the way to school - and are maimed or killed.
The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty prohibits all use, production and trade of antipersonnel mines, provides timelines for destroying stockpiles, and recommends assistance programs for mine victims. Although 156 other countries have signed and ratified the Mine Ban Treaty, the U.S. has not. All U.S. military allies are party to the treaty, and Cuba is the only other country in this hemisphere that hasn't signed the treaty. Given that the U.S. was the first country to call for the elimination of landmines in the 1990s, the U.S. ought to sign the treaty to solidify its commitment to arms control.
In 2009, 67 national organizations asked President Obama to undertake a review of U.S. landmine policy. The State Department announced the beginning of the review in December 2009, and there is hope that it will end with a decision to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty.
The International Campaign to Ban Landmines is considered one of the most successful NGO campaigns to create momentum around a multilateral arms control instrument. The treaty was signed and ratified in a record 15 months, and over the course of the last 11 years, the weapons have come to be regarded by many countries as illegitimate weapons of war. Click here for more information about the treaty and the campaign.
Still, the U.S. has one of the largest landmine stockpiles, despite the fact that landmines have not been deployed by the U.S. since the first Gulf War.