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Anti-personnel landmines are an insidious weapon of war. They are simple and cheap to produce, costing only about $30.00 U.S. to manufacture. They either maim or kill anyone who steps on one. They remain active for decades. They keep on injuring and killing people long after the war has ended.

They are usually buried underground or left above ground, camouflaged. When tripped, the resultant explosion will often either slice off the victims limbs or cause sufficient injury to require the amputation of one or more limbs.

Some facts about landmines:

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bulletThe U.S. campaign to eliminate landmines estimates that there are up to 70 million landmines scattered throughout 68 countries.
bulletAbout 26,000 people are killed or maimed each year. This is one injury or death every 20 minutes.
bulletChildren under the age of 15 form about 30 to 40% of the casualties.
bulletCountries with significant numbers of uncleared mines include:  Afghanistan, Angola,  Cambodia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras,  Jordan, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe.
bulletHurricane Mitch in late 1998 flooded much of the land in Nicaragua. This has moved landmines left over from the Contra wars in the 1980's from their original locations and scattered them around the countryside. Often, they have become covered with mud and are now very difficult to detect.
bulletChina and Russia are the main manufacturers of landmines.
bulletThe process of de-mining will take many decades.


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Signing of the landmine treaty:

 The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution in 1996 calling for vigorous pursuit of negotiations on a ban treaty "as soon as possible."

The landmine treaty, popularly known as "The Ottawa Treaty" was drawn up in 1997-DEC. It bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines. "The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty...comprehensively bans all antipersonnel mines, requires destruction of stockpiled mines within four years,  requires destruction of mines already in the ground within ten years and urges extensive programs to assist the victims of landmines." 3

By the end of 1999-FEB, 134 nations had signed the treaty. This includes most of the countries of the world, including Canada, France, Germany, Nicaragua, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Vatican City. The few nations that have not signed the treaty include China, Iran, South Korea, Pakistan, Turkey, the United States and Yugoslavia. All of the countries in NATO except for the U.S. and Turkey have signed the treaty. 67 nations had ratified the treaty by 1999-FEB-28.

1998-DEC-30 was chosen to be a national call-in day to persuade President Clinton to sign the treaty. 1 Marissa Vitagliano, is the coordinator of the U.S. Campaign to Ban landmines, a coalition of over 300 groups. He asked that people: "Put calls into the president.  Demonstrate that we haven't forgotten the issue.  Say that we want him to sign now." Although the national call-in day has passed, interested individuals can still call the White House comment line at (202) 456-1111 or send e-mails to president@whitehouse.gov

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Implementation of the landmine treaty:

The Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty came into effect throughout most of the world on 1999-MAR-1. The biggest bell-ringing event in history occurred at noon on that day, as churches around the world ring their bells. 2 Churches in Brazil, France, Italy, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom had agreed to celebrate. The International Campaign to Ban LandMines brought on-line churches from other countries.

Rebecca Larson, secretary for research and development education at the Lutheran World Federation's (LWF) headquarters in Geneva, commented on 1999-FEB-17: "There's a very active campaign in the U.S., and on March 1 there will be pressure on President [Bill] Clinton for the US to sign...Throughout the past five years there has been a significant spiritual element in the campaign, and at the intergovernmental meetings regarding the treaty there has been ecumenical and interfaith prayer for the ban on land-mines, for the de-miners, and for the victims and survivors of land-mines." Over 1,000 non-governmental organizations have formed the International Campaign. More than a third of these are faith groups.

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U.S. reluctance to sign:

landmines currently provide the only feasible way of preventing passage through the buffer zone that separates North and South Korea. President Clinton believes that it would be irresponsible of him to sign the treaty at this time. He has suggested the date of 2006. By that time, alternatice weapon systems should have been developed.

President Clinton's proposed goal of the year 2006 is conditional on the development of a substitute defensive system. In them meantime, the Pentagon is seeking nearly $50 million from Congress in 1999 to develop a new landmine system called RADAM.

Stephen Goose, Program Director for the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch commented: "The goal of 2006 is already unconscionably distant...RADAM is the latest of a growing number of indicators that the Pentagon is not serious about the 2006 deadline, and that it is very unlikely to be met."

On 2001-DEC-3, the fourth anniversary of the opening for signature of the Mine Ban Treaty, Human Rights Watch issued a press release which revealed that "45 percent of the 1.2 million long-lasting "dumb" (non-self-destructing) antipersonnel mines retained for use in Korea are stored at depots in the continental U.S. Another 50 percent are in Korea, but at the onset of conflict will be handed over to South Korean troops for their use. The U.S. earmarks only the remaining 5 percent of the mines for immediate use by U.S. troops in South Korea." 4 Steve Goose, program director of Human Rights Watch's arms division commented: "This new information seriously calls into question the major rationale put forth by the Pentagon for not banning anti-personnel mines. The U.S. has repeatedly said that these mines are needed to stop a massive surprise attack by North Korea. Obviously, they are not needed for that if they are sitting in warehouses in the U.S." 4 Human Rights Watch has issued a Memorandum for U.S. Policymakers o Landmines, dated 2001-NOV. 5

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  1. Alexa Smith, "Call-In Day Set to Push For Landmine Ban," PCUSA NEWS, #98392,1998-NOV-23
  2. Edmund Doogue, "Churches Are Asked to Ring Bells on March 1 for Land-Mine Ban," PCUSA NEWS, #99069, 1999-FEB-17
  3. News release, "Historic Land Mine Ban Treaty Takes Effect: U.S. Plans for New Mine system Criticized," Human Rights Watch, 1999-MAR-1.
  4. News release, "Landmines: Almost Half of Korea Mines in U.S.," Human Rights Watch, 2001-DEC-3
  5. "Memorandum for U.S. Policymakers on Landmines. November 2001. Subject: Issues and Questions for the Landmine Policy Review," Human Rights Watch, at:

Copyright © 1998 to 2001 incl. by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2000-DEC-4
Author: B.A. Robinson

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