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U.S. soldiers collect landmines in Mosul, Iraq on January 8, 2005. (Photo: Mauricio Lima/AFP via Getty Images)

'The World Is Waiting': Biden Urged to Reverse Trump Landmine Policy, Join Global Treaty

"President Biden should forswear future U.S. production and use of anti-personnel landmines and fulfill the previous U.S. goal of eliminating this inherently indiscriminate weapon."

Brett Wilkins

As a benchmark report on worldwide landmine casualties showed a 21% increase in deaths and injuries in 2020, one of the paper's editors on Wednesday renewed calls for the Biden administration to reverse a Trump-era policy allowing the U.S. to use anti-personnel mines and join 164 nations in adopting the historic Mine Ban Treaty.

"To help prevent further landmine casualties, the United States should join the Mine Ban Treaty without delay."

The report—entitled Landmine Monitor 2021—was produced by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), which is chaired by Human Rights Watch. The publication says there were at least 7,073 casualties from landmines and explosive remnants of war last year, up from 5,853 deaths and injuries reported in 2019.

The paper states that half of the people reported killed or maimed by mines and unexploded ordnance last year were children, many of them born years or decades after the weapons were laid. According to the report, Myanmar's military regime—as well as nonstate militants in Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan—have used landmines in 2021.

Noting that the United States is one of 12 landmine-producing nations, and taking aim at former President Donald Trump's 2020 rollback of Obama-era restrictions on the use of anti-personnel mines—and President Joe Biden's failure to rescind his predecessor's policy—one of the report's editors implored the U.S. to reverse course.

"President Biden should forswear future U.S. production and use of anti-personnel landmines and fulfill the previous U.S. goal of eliminating this inherently indiscriminate weapon," Mark Hiznay, associate arms division director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. "The world is waiting for the U.S. to join the international treaty banning landmines."

To date, 164 nations—including every other NATO member as well as key U.S. allies Japan and Australia—have joined the Ottawa Convention, commonly called the Mine Ban Treaty. Although the U.S. helped negotiate the accord, it has not signed or ratified it.

"The U.S. has spent millions to clear and destroy landmines laid around the world, which shows it understands the harm caused by these weapons," Hiznay said. "To help prevent further landmine casualties, the United States should join the Mine Ban Treaty without delay and be part of the international consensus rejecting landmines."

Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of 21 U.S. lawmakers called on Biden to reinstate the lifted restrictions and set the nation on a "definitive path" to joining the Mine Ban Treaty.

"It is the right thing to do," the lawmakers asserted, "for our country, for the world, and for our men and women in uniform."

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