Claudia DelGado, of the Halo Trust, helps set up mannequins for an exhibit in the Russell Senate Office Building on May 6, 2013, on ridding the world of land mines.
Claudia DelGado, of the Halo Trust, helps set up mannequins for an exhibit in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington D.C. on May 6, 2013, on ridding the world of land mines. Bill Clark—CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

U.S. Takes Steps Toward Signing Landmine Ban Treaty

Jun 27, 2014

The United States will take steps to join a 15-year-old global treaty banning the use of antipersonnel landmines, the Obama administration said Friday.

The administration has previously said it was merely studying the Ottawa Convention, much to the dismay of human rights advocates for whom Washington’s unwillingness to sign the document has been a stain on the country’s record. While the U.S. still has yet to actually sign the treaty, Friday's announcement signals a shift wherein the country will begin allowing its antipersonnel landmines to expire without then being replaced.

National Security Council Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said in a statement Friday that the U.S. is “diligently pursuing solutions that would be compliant with and that would ultimately allow the United States to accede to the Ottawa Convention.”

The announcement came at the Third Review Conference of the Ottawa Convention in Maputo, Mozambique.

Human rights groups welcomed the policy change with restrained optimism. “The new thing here is the intent to join the treaty,” Stephen Goose, executive director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch, told the New York Times.

The effort to ban the use of antipersonnel landmines has been a major goal of the disarmament movement. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines says about 10 people lose a limb or are killed by a landmine or other similarly-explosive “remnant of war" every day. Landmines litter parts of 60 countries around the world, the group says.

Several world powers besides the U.S., including Russia, China and Iran, still have yet to sign the Ottawa Convention, which took effect in 1999.

Inside a rotating glass container, the rats are exposed to several scented samples to get them used to the smell of TNT on June 20, 2014 in Morogoro, Tanzania. . These exercises are a part of 'operational conditioning.'
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The rats are exposed to several scented samples to get them used to the smell of TNT on June 20, 2014 in Morogoro, Tanzania. These exercises are a part of 'operational conditioning.'Alvaro Laiz and David Rengel—Transterra Media/Polaris
Inside a rotating glass container, the rats are exposed to several scented samples to get them used to the smell of TNT on June 20, 2014 in Morogoro, Tanzania. . These exercises are a part of 'operational conditioning.'
A HeroRAT locates a diffused grenade in training while his trainer keeps his distance on June 20, 2014 in Morogoro, Tanzania.
A coach gives pureed fruit to the rat in a corridor-shaped cage on June 20, 2014 in Morogoro, Tanzania. . The rat is being trained to detect TNT inside the cage. The rat stops walking when it has located the sample that contains TNT and is rewarded with the fruit.
A trainer in a protective suit holds a HeroRAT on a leash as it searches for mines on June 20, 2014 in Morogoro, Tanzania. . The distance created between the trainer and the rat saves human lives and significantly curtails the risks to the human mine clearers.
A poster announcing the danger of mines on the front of a Land Rover on June 20, 2014 in Morogoro, Tanzania.
A HeroRAT sniffs out a mine on June 20, 2014 in Morogoro, Tanzania.
Local trainer Peter Mushi gives one of the rats a piece of banana as a reward A HeroRAT sniffs out a mine on June 20, 2014 in Morogoro, Tanzania. The rats are rewarded with a sweet or fruit when a mine or explosive device is found.
Local trainer Peter Mushi prepares a rat for its daily lesson on June 20, 2014 in Morogoro, Tanzania. Rats make perfect candidates for mine clearing because their sense of smell is excellent, they are natives of Africa and thus immune to many tropical diseases, and, most importantly, their weight is perfect as they weigh less than the 10kg required to detonate a mine.
The rats are exposed to several scented samples to get them used to the smell of TNT on June 20, 2014 in Morogoro, Tanzania. These exercises are a part of 'operational conditioning
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Alvaro Laiz and David Rengel—Transterra Media/Polaris
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