Senators and Representatives Support Ban on Landmines: Letters Sent to President Obama
The strong support these letters have received shows that Congress is firmly behind accession to the Mine Ban Treaty" - Zach Hudson, Coordinator, U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines
(WASHINGTON D.C.) May 18 - A letter signed by 68 senators, asking the administration to join the 1997 Landmine Ban Treaty, was delivered to President Obama on Tuesday. The signers include 10 Republicans and two Independents and constitute more than the two-thirds of the Senate needed to ratify a treaty.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT-D) and Sen. George Voinovich (OH-R) circulated the Senate letter, and a similar letter in support of the Senate initiative, circulated by Rep. James McGovern (MA-D) and Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-R) in the House of Representatives, was also delivered to President Obama. The existence of the letters was made public on May 8, but the final versions, with all signatures, was delivered Tuesday.
In describing the use of antipersonnel landmines, Sen. Patrick Leahy said, "The idea that a modern military like ours would be using indiscriminate, victim-activated weapons today is hard to reconcile with our current military objectives, particularly when you consider that the two countries (Iraq and Afghanistan) where our troops are fighting are parties to the treaty and the members of the coalition that we are leading in Afghanistan are also parties to the treaty."
The Administration launched a review of U.S. landmine policy late last year, and in the letters the legislators say that they are "confident that through a thorough, deliberative review the Administration can identify any obstacles to joining the Convention and develop a plan to overcome them as soon as possible."
Rep. James McGovern, who circulated the letter in the House, said, "A thorough review will show that the U.S. can play an even greater role in the world on landmines by formally joining the ban. The Senate letter demonstrates the support is there."
The Congressional letters follow a letter sent to President Obama on March 22 by leaders from 65 national nongovernmental organizations that also urge the U.S. to relinquish antipersonnel landmines and join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty without delay.
"The strong support these letters have received shows that Congress is firmly behind accession to the Mine Ban Treaty," said Zach Hudson, the coordinator of the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines (USCBL). "The U.S. has not used these barbaric weapons in 19 years. With these letters, Congress adds its voice to that of the American people in calling on our government to join our NATO allies-and all of the 158 nations that have joined this treaty-and eliminate the use of landmines once and for all."
The USCBL, currently coordinated by Handicap International, is a coalition of thousands of people and U.S. non-governmental organizations working to: (1) ensure no U.S. use, production, or transfer of antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions; (2) encourage the U.S. to join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions; and (3) secure high levels of U.S. government support for clearance and assistance programs for victims of landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war. The USCBL is the U.S. affiliate of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)-the co-laureate of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize-and is a member of the Cluster Munition Coalition, an international coalition working to protect civilians from the effects of cluster munitions by promoting universal adherence to and full implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.