I am preparing to leave for a week to conduct participant-observation research at the The Third Meeting of States Parties (3MSP) to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) in Oslo. As I prepare my remarks for the Youth Meeting, which I understand is supposed to be one of my more inspirational talks, I’ve been looking up old advocacy videos on YouTube and I came across this 2006 landmine campaign ad which I’d never seen before. It was apparently so controversial that it received almost no airtime in the United States.
Even if the original APII was pretty weak (it was amended in 1996 which greatly strengthened it) there is no question that the Soviet Union, who ratified the CCW in 1982, was violating the crap out of it. In particular the “butterfly landmines” it used were particularly horrendous.
However, until the series of reports by the UN Human Rights Committee from 1985-1990, I cannot find any evidence that humanitarian organization spoke out about the landmine issue until the 1990s. I have a couple of guesses as to why this would be the case (one being the fact that the ICRC was kicked out of Afghanistan in 1980, allowed to resume limited operations in 1987 but then kicked out again until the end of the war. This would obviously make it hard to monitor the situation.)
Yet, while speaking out about the sue of these weapons, the Human Rights Committee report does not invoke the 1980 CCW? Did no one else speak up about the treaty (or landlines, or incendiary weapons, etc)?
Edit: There seems to be a certain amount of news coverage of the weapons issue in Afghanistan, but the NGO response still seems underwhelming. MSF held a press conference in 1982, but it isn’t until around 1988 that we start to see NGOs (like the ICRC) really highlighting the problem in the press.) Additionally, it seems that in 1986 a UN official actually tried to cut out some of the criticism in the Human Rights Committee report – allegations of the use of chemical weapons, for example – that made the Soviets look really bad.
According to CNN, administration officials just announced that after a “review” of US landmine policy, they will maintain the policy of previous administrations in refusing to sign the Ottawa treaty. According to State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly:
“We made our policy review and we determined that we would not be able to meet our national defense needs nor our security commitments to our friends and allies if we sign this convention.”
A report this month by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines found that mines remain planted in the earth in more than 70 countries and killed at least 1,266 people and wounded 3,891 last year. More than 2.2 million anti-personnel mines, 250,000 anti-vehicle mines and 17 million other explosives left over from wars have been removed since 1999, the report said.
This is probably just another example of the US refusing to commit while planning to comply. Still, from our “multilateral” President, this strikes me as another disappointment.