The ICRC welcomes the changes to the United States anti-personnel landmine policy and its declared intention to be compliant with and ultimately accede to the Ottawa Convention, which prohibits their use.
This is a positive step for protecting people affected by conflict around the world as anti-personnel landmines continue to kill and maim even when a war is over. The ICRC strongly encourages the United States government to take concrete steps to accede to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention as soon as possible.
Anti-personnel mines are designed to incapacitate, injure or kill any person or persons coming into contact with them or within their proximity. In other words, they cannot distinguish between soldiers and civilians. Anti-personnel landmines leave a long-term legacy of death, injury and suffering, and it is mainly civilians who suffer the horrific consequences. Even non-persistent anti-personnel mines (so-called “smart” mines) indiscriminately endanger civilians while they are activated.
If victims are not killed immediately by a mine, they are left severely injured, facing life-long disability. Long after wars end, landmines can go on killing and maiming, while disrupting access to essential services, putting vast areas of valuable land out of use, compromising food production and destroying livelihoods, sometimes for decades. More than 60 million civilians today still live with the daily fear of landmines and explosive remnants of war.
The ICRC, based on its first-hand experience providing humanitarian assistance to mine victims in mine-affected countries worldwide, has long supported the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines, as established in the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. The ICRC continues to oppose any use of such weapons. Our stance against all types of anti-personnel mines has been a bedrock position of ours since 1994, when we publicly called for a global ban.
The ICRC will continue to focus on and prioritize victim assistance, mine risk education, risk reduction and cooperating with partners specialized in clearance, while strongly encouraging all States not to use these weapons because of their indiscriminate effects, and we will continue to urge those 33 States that are not yet party to the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention, including the U.S., to join this important international treaty.
The ICRC and the Mine Ban Convention
The campaign to ban anti-personnel mines was one of the major humanitarian initiatives of the last three decades. The ICRC, along with governments, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the United Nations, argued for a comprehensive prohibition on their use, stockpiling, production and transfer. States responded by adopting the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, committing States to help the hundreds of thousands of mine victims, set clear targets for mine clearance, and destroy stockpiles.
Today, more than 20 years after the Convention’s adoption, substantial progress has been made but great challenges remain, especially in addressing rising numbers of civilian casualties in recent years due to the continued use of anti-personnel mines in particular those of an improvised nature, removing the mines that remain in the ground and in relieving the suffering of the injured and their families.
To address the ongoing challenges, the Fourth Review Conference of the Convention – held in Oslo, Norway, in November 2019 – adopted the Oslo Action Plan, which sets out a global plan of action to address the threat of anti-personnel mines and assistance to mine victims.