On July 16th, the US Campaign to Ban Landmines briefed congressional staffers on the new US landmine policy released on January 31. The briefing followed the congressional letter sent on May 6th to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, which has not received a response as of July 30. The briefing provided an overview of the new US policy, why the US Campaign to Ban Landmines is calling for the US to reverse its policy and join the treaty, and updates on next steps that members of Congress can take.
Human Rights Watch’s Mary Wareham provided an overview of the treaty and background on the US’s history with the treaty, including its stated reasoning for not yet joining: that landmines are a vital military capability, despite there being no evidence of US use of landmines since the early 1990s. She noted that the new policy makes no distinction between anti-vehicle mines and antipersonnel landmines, a key distinction made in the Mine Ban Treaty.
Allyson Neville of Save the Children presented on the specific harms of landmines to civilians, noting that the majority of landmine victims are civilians, more than 50% of whom are children. She noted that children are disporportionately affected by landmines; they are more likely to pick them up out of curiosity, they are smaller than adults and therefore the majority of their bodies are closer to the mine itself than is the case when landmines are stepped on by adults, and medical providers don’t always have the necessary experience required to address landmine injuries in children. Additionally, she called attention to the need to address the trauma of the experience itself, particularly in children, as such trauma can have long-lasting effects and is often neglected once any physical injuries are taken care of.
Current coordinator of the US Campaign, Jeff Abramson of the Arms Control Association, provided updates on the international response to the US policy change, highlighting that the official European Union response called the policy change a “backward step.” He also noted that it had been more than sixty days since the Congressional letter was sent to Secretary of Defense Esper, and called for Congress to demand a response to the questions contained in the letter.
For more information or to inquire about a briefing, you can contact the US Campaign to Ban Landmines at firstname.lastname@example.org.