04.04.22

Statement On Landmine Awareness Day

Mr. LEAHY.  Sixteen years ago the United Nations General Assembly designated April 4th as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.  Today I am introducing a Senate Resolution recognizing that designation and reaffirming United States leadership in eliminating landmines and unexploded ordnance.

As we read the reports of withdrawing Russian troops leaving landmines to terrorize, maim, and kill Ukrainian civilians, we are reminded of the necessity to redouble our efforts to ban these insidious weapons once and for all.  The mines in Ukraine will remain a deadly hazard there long after the fighting ends, whenever that time comes.

Landmines and other unexploded ordnance cause death and terrible injuries to people in dozens of countries – mostly places where the ability to provide life-saving medical care and long-term rehabilitation and vocational support is lacking or far from adequate.

The United States continues to provide the largest share of demining assistance, and we spend many millions of dollars annually helping the survivors.  That is something we can be proud of. 

But in some countries, like Laos, the millions of cluster munitions that failed to detonate on contact were manufactured in the United States and dropped by American aircraft.  Fifty years later they continue to destroy innocent lives. 

So while the number of landmine and UXO casualties has fallen significantly since I and others first took on this issue in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we are not where we hoped to be back then.

First, the Biden Administration needs to restore the policy on landmines that was put in place during the Obama Administration.  The White House said they would but it has not happened yet.  There is no excuse for delaying. 

Second, we need to continue to provide the funding for humanitarian demining and survivors assistance.  Fortunately, this is not a partisan issue.  It is simply a matter of continuing to treat it as a priority.

And third, this is my last year in the Senate and while I will do everything I can while I am here, we need others to continue to advocate for the United States to sign the international treaties banning anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions.  It should have happened already, and we have to keep working until it does. 

I have seen first-hand the effects of landmines and other unexploded munitions.  It is horrific, especially when it’s a young child with a leg or an arm missing.  Or a parent blinded and crippled by a landmine, being led around by a child.   

We should be the country that leads the world in ending not only the carnage of landmines and UXO left behind, but the production, export, use and stockpiling of these indiscriminate weapons that don’t belong in the arsenals of civilized nations. 

 

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