For Immediate Release
US: Nobel Laureates Urge Obama to Ban Landmines
Letter Signed by 15 Peace Prize Recipients
NEW YORK - Fifteen Nobel Peace Prize recipients have sent a letter
to President Barack Obama urging him to ban antipersonnel landmines,
Human Rights Watch said today. The letter was sent on November 30, 2010,
as the Obama administration's formal review of US landmine policy
entered its second year.
The letter was signed by: Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams (1976),
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (1980), Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1984), Elie
Wiesel (1986), Oscar Arias Sánchez (1987), His Holiness Dalai Lama
(1989), Rigoberta Menchú Tum (1992), F.W. De Klerk (1993), José
Ramos-Horta (1996), Jody Williams (1997), John Hume (1998), Shirin Ebadi
(2003), Wangari Maathai (2004), and Mohamed El Baradei (2005).
Jody Williams, an American, was awarded the prize along with the
International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) largely for their role in
bringing about the Mine Ban Treaty.
"As a Nobel Peace Laureate himself, President Obama should exercise the
moral weight that the prize carries and heed his fellow laureates' call
to ban landmines," said Steve Goose, Arms Division director at Human
Rights Watch and chair of the ICBL. "This letter is a powerful sign of
support for the US to join the Mine Ban treaty."
On December 1, 2009, a State Department official confirmed that
President Obama had initiated a comprehensive review of US landmine
policy. The Nobel letter expresses hope that the landmine review, still
under way, "will be guided by the humanitarian concerns that have
already led 156 nations to ban the weapon, including nearly all U.S.
The letter says:
United States accession to this important instrument
would bring great benefits to the U.S. and the world. It would
strengthen U.S. national security, international security, and
international humanitarian law. It would help strengthen the fundamental
goal of preventing innumerable civilians from falling victim to these
indiscriminate weapons in the future, and help ensure adequate care for
the hundreds of thousands of existing survivors and their communities.
U.S. membership would help spur to action the 39 states that remain
outside the treaty.
The United States is participating as an observer in the Tenth Meeting
of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Geneva, Switzerland, which
began on November 29. The Mine Ban Treaty comprehensively bans
antipersonnel mines, requires destruction of stockpiled mines within
four years, and urges extensive programs to assist the victims of
Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the ICBL. Human Rights Watch
also serves on the steering committee of the United States Campaign to
Several Nobel Peace laureates have long expressed concern at the
humanitarian impact of antipersonnel mines and have worked for their
- The nongovernmental organization founded by Adolfo Pérez Esquivel
(1980), Servicio Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ), has worked to ensure that the
Mine Ban Treaty is ratified and implemented throughout Latin America.
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1984) publicly endorsed the call for a ban
on antipersonnel mines in March 1995, when he was president of the All
Africa Conference of Churches. Tutu opened a regional conference on
landmines in South Africa in May 1997 that proved instrumental in
building African-wide support for creating a strong treaty to ban
- His Holiness Dalai Lama (1989) endorsed the call for a total ban on
landmines in 1995 at the urging of the Supreme Patriarch of Cambodian
Buddhism, Maha Ghosananda, and Cambodian landmine survivors.
- Rigoberta Menchú Tum (1992), Betty Williams and Mairead Maguire
(1976), and the three other founders (Williams, Ebadi, and Maathai) of
the Nobel Women's Initiative, established in 2004, have actively
supported the ICBL. Activities have included statements to annual
meetings of the Mine Ban Treaty, media work, and outreach to governments
that have not yet joined.
- José Ramos-Horta (1996) spoke out against landmines and other
weapons designed to inflict pain and death in his Nobel Peace Prize
acceptance speech. When he became the Timor-Leste's first foreign
affairs minister, the government acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty, making
it the first disarmament treaty that the new country joined after
- Jody Williams (1997) was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in
recognition of her leadership role as founding coordinator of the ICBL.
Williams spearheaded the civil society-based campaign that cooperated
with a group of small and medium-sized countries through the "Ottawa
Process" to create the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.
- Shirin Ebadi (2003) opened the "Mine Clearing Collaboration
Campaign" in 2004 to demand that Iran take greater action to clear mines
laid during the Iran-Iraq war, assist mine victims, and join the Mine
- Wangari Maathai (2004) participated in several events at the First
Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty, in Nairobi, Kenya in November
and December 2004.
Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.