Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

For Immediate Release

Press Release

US: Ban All Antipersonnel Landmines

Landmark Treaty Marks 12th Anniversary

The ongoing review of United States landmine policy should result in a decision to ban all types of antipersonnel landmines, Human Rights Watch said today. March 1, 2011, will mark 12 years since the international treaty banning antipersonnel mines became binding international law.

"The United States has not used antipersonnel mines in two decades," said Steve Goose, Arms division director at Human Rights Watch."They are a deadly relic of the past and should never be used again."

The US already follows most of the key provisions in the Mine Ban Treaty, which comprehensively bans all antipersonnel mines and requires clearance of contaminated areas and assistance to victims of the weapon. The US has not used antipersonnel mines since 1991 in the first Gulf War, has not exported them since 1992, and has not produced them since 1997. It is also the biggest donor to mine clearance and victim assistance programs around the world. But it still stockpiles millions of antipersonnel mines for potential future use.

As of January 1, under a 2004 Bush administration policy decision, the US will no longer use so-called "dumb mines" or "persistent mines" anywhere in the world, including in South Korea. These landmines, the most common type, are usually buried in the ground and remain there, awaiting a victim. The US is in the process of destroying its stockpile of more than one million of these mines.

However, the US says it reserves the right to use "smart" or "non-persistent" mines anywhere in the world. These mines have "self-destruct" features designed to blow the mine up after a period of time. The Mine Ban Treaty also prohibits these mines because they too pose unacceptable dangers to civilians. They are typically dispersed indiscriminately by aircraft or artillery in the hundreds or thousands over large areas. Many fail to explode as designed, and lay in wait for a victim or a mine clearer.

The US began a comprehensive landmine policy review in late 2009, at the direction of President Barack Obama. The Clinton administration in 1998 set the objective of joining the Mine Ban Treaty in 2006, but the Bush administration reversed course in February 2004 and announced that it did not intend to join.

Over the past year of the policy review, there have been notable expressions of support for a US ban on landmines. In November 2010, 16 Nobel Peace Prize laureates - including Mohamed ElBaradei, Shirin Ebadi, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, and Jody Williams - wrote to President Obama, himself a Nobel laureate, urging a US decision to join the Mine Ban Treaty. In May 2010, 68 US Senators sent a letter to Obama expressing strong support for the ban on antipersonnel mines. Under the US constitution, a two-thirds Senate majority is necessary for the US to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty.

A total of 156 nations are parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, and another two have signed but not yet ratified. China, Russia, and the United States are among the 37 states that have not yet joined. But nearly all of those states are in de facto compliance with most of the treaty's provisions. Every NATO member except the US has foresworn the use of antipersonnel mines, as have other US allies, including Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Mine Ban Treaty entered into force on March 1, 1999, just 15 months after it was negotiated - the shortest time ever for a multilateral treaty.

Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.


Human Rights Watch (HRW)

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...

Norwegian 'People vs. Arctic Oil' Case Heads to European Human Rights Court

"We have to take action now to limit irreversible damage to our climate and ecosystems to ensure livelihoods for the coming generations," said one activist.

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·

'Let Scientific Evidence Determine Origin' of Covid-19, Say Heads of US National Academies

"Misinformation, unsubstantiated claims, and personal attacks on scientists surrounding the different theories of how the virus emerged are unacceptable."

Jake Johnson, staff writer ·

EU Parliament Overwhelmingly Votes to End Caged Animal Farming

1.4 million people across Europe signed a petition to "End the Cage Age," and MEPs are now calling for a ban by 2027.

Julia Conley, staff writer ·

Frontline Foe of Formosa Plastics Plant in 'Cancer Alley' Among 2021 Winners of 'Green Nobels'

Sharon Lavigne, the North American recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize, is being recognized for stopping construction of a plastics manufacturing plant in her Louisiana community.

Andrea Germanos, staff writer ·

50+ Groups Urge Biden to Swiftly Fill Open Seat on FCC to Remedy Digital Divide, Restore Net Neutrality

"If we are to reach the goal of having a country where everyone, no matter their address or size of their bank account, has affordable access to high-speed internet, we need a full commission as soon as possible."

Kenny Stancil, staff writer ·