For Immediate Release
Chief Communications Officer
mrussell [at] phrusa [dot] org
Nation's Leading Health Professionals Ask President to Join Landmine Ban
WASHINGTON - In a letter sent to the White House today,
the presidents of the American Medical Association, American College of
Physicians, American Nurses Association, American Academy of
Pediatrics, and more than a dozen other leading health associations
asked President Obama to join the Landmine Ban Treaty.
The 19 health associations that sent today's letter represent more
than 700,000 physicians, dentists, nurses and public health experts.
They are among many medical, humanitarian, religious and veterans groups
pushing for the US to join the treaty, which bans the use, trade and
stockpiling of antipersonnel mines. Eighty percent of the world's
nations and nearly all US allies have now banned the weapon.
"As health professionals see first-hand, landmines kill, amputate and
blind men, women and children," they wrote in their letter.
Antipersonnel mines "propel shrapnel, vegetation and contaminated soil
and debris into soft tissue and bone, often producing severe infection,"
they continued. "We urge you to support a US ban on these inherently
"Imagine your child stepping on a landmine on the way to school,
losing a limb and facing this trauma without access to basic medical
care. It's a horrific scenario, yet that is the reality for many
landmine victims around the world today," said American Medical
Association President Cecil Wilson, MD. "As physicians who care for
landmine victims can attest, the damage is devastating and preventable,
which is why we support the US joining the ban on these weapons."
Today's letter was organized by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). As a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines,
PHR shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. "I have seen the impact of
landmines on communities in Kosovo," said Dr. Robert Lawrence, Chairman
of the Board of Physicians for Human Rights. "Long after the fighting
stops, landmines continue to terrorize and maim innocent bystanders.
This treaty is a vaccination against the scourge of landmines, and it's
time for the US to join the international community in rejecting this
Thousands of people, most of them civilians, are injured or killed by
antipersonnel landmines each year. Those living in mined areas are
often afraid to travel or tend their crops, kept prisoner by the hidden
dangers of nearby landmines.
In 1991, PHR exposed the overwhelming threat of landmines by working with Human Rights Watch to release Coward's War: Landmines in Cambodia.
The report was the first to call for a comprehensive ban on the weapon
and helped galvanize international attention to the devastating effects
of antipersonnel landmines on civilians, particularly children. In 1997,
the majority of the world's nations signed the Mine Ban Treaty, and the
International Campaign to Ban Landmines accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Obama Administration is currently conducting a formal review of
US landmine policy. The US last used the weapon in the 1991 during the
first Gulf War. President Clinton did not sign the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty,
though he instructed the Pentagon to find alternatives to the weapon,
and he set a 2006 treaty objective. President George W. Bush, who also
declined to join the treaty, removed the 2006 goal, but also banned
certain types of mines from the US arsenal. In May 2010, 68 US Senators,
including 10 Republicans, sent a letter to President Obama urging him
to work toward ratification of the landmine convention, an indication
that the Senate may be in favor of ratifying the treaty.
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PHR was founded in 1986 on the idea that health professionals, with their specialized skills, ethical duties, and credible voices, are uniquely positioned to investigate the health consequences of human rights violations and work to stop them. PHR mobilizes health professionals to advance health, dignity, and justice and promotes the right to health for all.