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Landmines Campaign Condemns New US Landmine Policy

1 March, 2004

Media Statement

NZ Campaign Against Landmines (CALM)

5th Anniversary of the Mine Ban Treaty:

NZ Campaign Against Landmines condemns new US landmine policy

“New US government policy on landmines, unveiled at the State Department on Friday, is a dramatic and dangerous policy reversal which flies in the face of international consensus and jeopardises efforts to create a mine-free world,” said the New Zealand Campaign Against Landmines today.

Determined by the Department of Defence, Department of State, the National Security Council and President Bush, the new policy abandons plans for the US to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty and confirms that US troops may deploy antipersonnel landmines in Iraq or elsewhere.

“Today marks the 5th anniversary of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty becoming binding international humanitarian law. Celebrations of the significant and life-saving progress made under the treaty will be dampened by news of the new US policy.

“Recognising that mines are outmoded, indiscriminate weapons with limited military utility, the vast majority of governments (141 States Parties) have signed up to the Mine Ban Treaty. This support for the Mine Ban Treaty and the unprecedented cooperation of governments, non-governmental organisations and inter-governmental organisations such as the UN, has enabled:

· the destruction of more 52 million mines from global stockpiles,

· a drop in the number of mine producing countries, from 54 to 14,

· the removal of hundreds of thousands of mines from the ground, · a reduction in the number of casualties (from an average of 26,000 to 15-20,000 each year), and

· the slowing of trade of the stigmatised weapon.

“Previously, US government policy set the country on track to join the rest of the international community and accede to the Mine Ban Treaty in 2006, when the destruction of America’s stocks of ‘dumb’ mines was also scheduled.

“The new policy rejects the Mine Ban Treaty and delays the destruction of those ‘dumb’ mines until 2010. It also allows the US to continue using so-called ‘smart’ mines which although they are set to deactivate or self-destruct cannot discriminate between the foot of a soldier and that of a child. These mines tend to be scattered by air making them difficult to mark and map, posing tremendous challenges and costs for demining teams, and threaten the lives and limbs of innocent civilians and troops working in mined areas.

“While the US has announced that it will increase funding for mine action programmes, overall its policy is a giant step backwards that will do little to reduce the agricultural, economic and psychological impacts for the millions of people who continue to live with landmines.

“The policy sets a dangerous example to the few remaining mine-users, such as Russia, India, and Pakistan, with devastating consequences for civilians. The policy is a significant step backwards for the US, isolating it further from the norms of international law and the international community,” said John Head and Deborah Morris today.


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