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Holding the Government Accountable

ICBL Releases New Annual Landmine Report

Continued Push for a Mine Free World: Tenth Annual Landmine Report Released

by Doug Tuttle, CDI Research Assistant

In November 2008, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) released its tenth annual report, “Landmine Monitor Report, 2008: Towards a Mine-Free World.” The report acts as the de facto monitoring regime for the Mine Ban Treaty, and monitors states’ (party to it) implementation of, and compliance with, the treaty. It also examines the international community’s response to humanitarian issues associated with landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). The United States, along with Russia, China, Israel and India are among the few nations not party to the treaty, which is considered one of the most successful international disarmament regimes in history.

In the eleven years since the Mine Ban Treaty was adopted in December 1997, the successes have been staggering. Today, there are 156 States that have ratified the treaty. Perhaps the most impressive accomplishment is that the Mine Ban Treaty stigmatized the use of landmines and use of anti-personnel landmines by governments and nonstate groups has become very rare. Indeed, only two confirmed cases of government use of anti-personnel landmines, by the Russian Federation and Myanmar, were reported in 2008.

The Mine Ban Treaty has also yielded a number of more tangible results. Over 50 countries are known to have produced landmines in the past. Today, there are only 13 producers. Since the mid-1990s, the number of countries stockpiling landmines has fallen from more than 130 in the mid-1990s to 44 in 2008. In the past year, three states party to the Mine Ban Treaty completed their stockpile destruction obligation including Afghanistan, Burundi and Sudan. Total stockpiles are thought to be nearly 100 million lower than they were 10 years ago. In the past year, 122 square kilometers of mined area have been cleared, and mine risk education activities have been reported in 61 countries.

Despite all of these successes, considerable work is yet to be done to reach the goals of the global landmines campaign. There were 5,426 casualties caused by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in 2007. While this is down from years past, it shows a slow in the steady decline of landmine related casualties. Belarus, Greece and Turkey, all who have considerable stockpiles of landmines failed to meet their March 1, 2008 destruction deadlines, and two-thirds of parties with 2009 mine clearance deadlines have announced they will not be able to meet them. On a whole, the level of victim assistance, has been disappointing, and has lagged behind expected rates.

Although the treaty enjoys a tremendous level of support, the absence of the United States taints the Mine Ban Treaty’s overall image. The United States was the first country to call for a global landmines ban, but the United States has never signed the Mine Ban Treaty. The United States objected to treaty provisions that would outlaw its use of landmines in the Korean Demilitarized Zone and “mixed use” (anti-tank and anti-personnel) systems. Since the adoption of the Mine Ban Treaty, U.S. landmine policy has remained disjointed. Bill Clinton released a Presidential Decision Directive (PDD 64) in 1993 which enunciated a landmine policy that would draw the United States closer inline with the Mine Ban Treaty and sought to end the use of anti-personnel landmines outside of Korea by 2003, as well as aggressively seek alternative technologies for anti-personnel landmines and mixed tank systems and destroy all non-self destructing landmines not needed in Korea by 1999. The Bush administration did its best to distance itself from the Clinton policy during its first term, without formally declaring a policy of its own. Unfortunately in 2004, when the administration did unveil a new U.S. landmine policy, it reinforced the military utility of anti-personnel landmines, effectively ending the possibility of U.S. accession to the treaty during the Bush years and ensuring that all milestones set forward under Clinton would not be met.

While it is unlikely that U.S. accession to the Mine Ban Treaty will be on the agenda of Barack Obama’s “First 100 Days,” signs indicate that the new administration could move the United States towards the Mine Ban Treaty. In September 2008, Obama stated, “In general, I strongly support international initiatives to limit harm to civilians caused by conventional weapons.” While in the Senate, Obama co-sponsored legislation that prohibited future procurement of victim-activated landmines and supported legislation restricting the transfer of cluster munitions. Obama may also find unexpected cooperation from the Pentagon. The same month, the Defense Department announced that it was abandoning plans to produce the Spider Munitions System, a victim-activated weapons system that would have violated the Mine Ban Treaty. A new U.S. landmine policy announced by the Obama administration not only has the potential to save lives, it puts the United States in a position to re-engage as a global leader for progress on human security, instead of a hindrance.

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