09.24.14

NEWS BACKGROUNDER from the Office of Senator Leahy On New Changes In U.S. Landmines Policy --

The United States now:

  • will not use APL outside the Korean Peninsula;
  • will not assist, encourage, or induce anyone outside the Korean Peninsula to engage in activity prohibited by the Ottawa Convention; and
  • will undertake to destroy APL stockpiles not required for the defense of the Republic of Korea.

This change to U.S. policy builds on the announcement in June that the U.S. will not produce or otherwise acquire any anti-personnel munitions that are not compliant with Ottawa, including to replace such munitions as they expire in the coming years.  It also follows previous steps the U.S. has taken to end the use of all non-detectable mines and all persistent (dumb) mines, which can remain active for years after the end of a conflict.

The White House says “we will continue our diligent efforts to pursue material and operational solutions that would be compliant with and ultimately allow us to accede to the Ottawa Convention while ensuring our ability to meet our alliance commitments to the Republic of Korea.”

Since the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program was established in 1993, the United States has provided more than $2.3 billion in aid in more than 90 countries for conventional weapons destruction programs.  Through this assistance, the United States has:

  • Helped 15 countries to become free from the humanitarian impact of landmines;
  • Provided emergency assistance to support the removal or mitigation of conventional weapons including landmines and other unexploded ordnance in more than 18 countries; and
  • Provided assistive devices and other rehabilitation services to over 250,000 people in 35 countries through the Leahy War Victims Fund.

Leahy started what became the Leahy War Victims Fund back in 1989 after he saw what landmines do to civilians.  He’s noted that the people he saw who had lost legs and arms were the lucky ones; many die from their injuries.  Under appropriations that Leahy includes annually in the State Department’s budget bill, the Fund has provided artificial limbs and wheelchairs for landmine victims all over the world.

In 1994 it was President Clinton who at the United Nations called for the eventual elimination of anti-personnel landmines.  

The United States was the first country to ban exports of anti-personnel mines.  That was Leahy’s legislation, and many countries, led by Canada, and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, took up the mantle.

More than 160 countries have now joined the international treaty.  Leahy has personally met with President Clinton, President Bush and President Obama, urging that the United States join the treaty. 

President Obama and Leahy have discussed this many times.  Leahy has observed that President Obama understands why we should do away with these inherently indiscriminate weapons.  They are triggered by the unsuspecting victim, unlike a soldier who aims and pulls a trigger, and too often the victim is an innocent civilian.

The President this week took a crucial step by banning U.S. use of anti-personnel mines outside Korea, and beginning the destruction of our stockpile of mines outside Korea. 

In 1997 Leahy wrote legislation, cosponsored by 57 senators, to do that.  The primary Republican cosponsor at the time was Senator Chuck Hagel.  Another was John Kerry.  Senators John McCain and Mitch McConnell were also cosponsors. 

Leahy then didn’t have enough votes in the House to get it passed, but now President Obama has done what that earlier legislation would have accomplished. 

These new steps are only a step but an important one, bringing the United States closer to joining the treaty, which U.S. NATO allies joined many years ago.

Next Steps --

The Korean problem needs to be resolved, and Leahy has discussed this with the President and his top advisors.  He believes it can be done and he intends to do whatever he can to help get it done.

What about Russia, China, Bashar Assad, and groups like ISIS?  The purpose of the treaty is to stigmatize landmines so those who use them are treated as war criminals and international pariahs.  That is what has happened with chemical weapons.  Some, like the Taliban, will continue to use landmines and IEDs, but the more universal the treaty, the higher the price for using them.     

When the U.S. is a participant in the treaty, others cannot use the United States – with the world’s most powerful military – as an excuse for not banning landmines themselves.

Reaction Of Senator Patrick Leahy
To The White House Announcement
Of Changes To U.S. Landmine Policy

September 23, 2014

“This is a crucial step that makes official what has been de facto U.S. practice for a decade and a half. The White House has recognized what our NATO allies declared long ago: These inherently indiscriminate weapons that disproportionately harm civilians have no place in the 21st Century, and those who use them should be condemned. I commend President Obama for taking this step, which brings U.S. policy closer to the international landmine ban treaty. It mirrors my legislation in 1997 cosponsored by 57 U.S. senators, including key Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate today.”

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