The decision announced by the Trump Administration on Friday the 31st January to rescind its 2014 Presidential Policy regarding anti-personnel landmines is as surprising as it is concerning.
It goes against conventional knowledge and practice, puts civilians in grave danger, threatens the progress made towards a mine free world, and undermines well established international norms.
DanChurchAid is extremely concerned by the impact of such policy change on civilians in conflict affected areas across the world, as we witness these impacts on people every day as we clear explosive remnants of conflict.
For almost thirty years successive US Governments have foregone the use of anti-personnel mines outside of the Korean Peninsula. Although not a signatory, the US has since 1997 complied with the prohibitions of the Ottawa Treaty on the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of these mines. The US is furthermore the largest donor to humanitarian mine action providing alone almost one third of the global support to clearing mines and assisting victims.
The accompanying US announcement that anti-personnel mines “remain a vital tool in conventional warfare” runs counter to both the US own military practices and more importantly to basic humanitarian law provisions and the protection of civilians. The US has not used these weapons since 1991, has not exported them since 1992 and production was discontinued in 1997. There is nothing conventional about using anti-personnel mines, their military value is questionable at best and even so the horrific consequences on lives and livelihoods outweigh any such considerations.
According to the Landmine Monitor, in 2018 almost 7,000 casualties were caused by mines and other explosive remnants of war, including 3000 deaths. In excess of 120,000 people were killed or injured by landmines between 1999-2017. These numbers only capture those casualties that were recorded. Of these civilians make up a staggering 87% of casualties, nearly half the victims are children, rendering the use of these weapons fully incompatible with International Humanitarian Law.
There are simply no justifiable reasons for disregarding the pain and suffering these weapons cause especially on civilians. Indeed, the use of anti-personnel mines is unnecessary and unacceptable no matter where, when, by who or for whatever purposes.
More than 80% of all states, 164 in total, have committed to ban these weapons. The concerning decision to reverse the policy comes as one in a series of foreign policy decisions that sees the Trump Administration gradually withdraw itself from established international norms and a rules-based global order. This sends all the wrong signals to those states who have been hesitant on accession to arms control treaties, not least the Ottawa Treaty, and there is a further risk that this may legitimize similar decisions by other states. This will undermine the immense progress made in the last decades to make the world a safer place.
DanChurchAid is encouraged by the level of concern expressed by the International Community and see this as representing a broad global commitment among states and civil society actors to the ambition for a mine free world.
In light of this DanChurchAid;