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article imageU.S. to finally phase out human landmines

By Ryan Hite     Jun 27, 2014 in Politics
The United States government announced that efforts will be made to eliminate its stockpile of landmines, but some remain concerned about the timing and failure to commit to the Ottawa Convention.
The United States will finally phase out its stockpile and use of landmines designed to specifically target people, moving to join a global ban on a weapon that kills more than 15,000 civilians per year.
U.S. officials made this declaration at an anti-mine conference held recently in Maputo, Mozambique, according to a statement by National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden.
Activists pressured the United States to join the widening international treaty banning the production, stockpiling, and use of these deadly landmines that kill mostly civilians.
Such mines are easily triggered when stepped on because that is what it is designed for.
Thousands of anti-personnel mines were placed during earlier conflicts dating back years, kill more than 15,000 people a year, according to the U.N. Thousands more are injured.
As of last year, 161 nations signed the treaty known as the Ottawa Convention. Major world powers including the United States, China, and Russia have not committed to the treaty, according to the Arms Control Association.
Hayden stated that, "Our delegation in Maputo made clear that we are diligently pursuing solutions that would be compliant with and ultimately allow the United States to accede to the Ottawa Convention."
She said that other aspects of U.S. landmine policy remain under review.
"The message to the international community is clear... the Mine Ban Treaty is the only solution to eliminate the suffering caused by landmines," said the head of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines to the conference attendees.
Some criticized the United States for failing to commit immediately to a ban on its current stockpiles of mines and further expressed anger towards the Obama administration for failing to set a date to sign and join the treaty.
"By not setting a firm date to complete this task, the U.S. runs the risk of allowing its landmine policy review to last beyond President Obama's term in office as president," said Elizabeth MacNairn, director of Handicap International U.S.
More than 100 million mines are believed to be in stockpiles today, with millions already in the ground in about 59 countries.
The Clinton administration made a goal of joining the treaty by 2006 back in 1997, but President George W. Bush reversed this decision back in 2004, according to Human Rights Watch.
In a policy announced back in 2004, the United States stated it would no longer use mines that were designed to be invisible to metal detectors and those that don't self-destruct after a set amount of time.
The United States in 2009 announced a landmine policy review. Anti-landmine activists had been long pressuring the Obama administration to announce results of the review before the conference.
Despite not being part of the actual treaty, the United States is currently the largest donor to combat landmines and to help victims, with over $2 billion spent on that program since 1993.
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