US government urged to sign up to land mines ban

Catholic bishops are calling on the United States government to join an international convention banning the use of land mines.

The head of the US bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, Bishop Richard Pates, called on President Obama to show leadership by signing up to the 1997 Ottawa Convention.

The bishop did this in a February 12 letter to National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

“Our views are grounded in Church teaching that calls for a ban on landmines on moral grounds since they are indiscriminate weapons that kill and maim innocent civilians during and long after hostilities end,” Bishop Pates explained.

His letter calls on the US to ratify the Convention on the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and Their Destruction, also known as the Mine Ban Treaty or the Ottawa Convention.

Currently, 161 countries have signed the convention, including member states of the European Union, Canada, Australia, all of the nations in South America, and most countries in Africa.

The international accord calls for signatory countries to cease the development and production of anti-personnel land mines, destroy its stockpile of land mines within four years, and clear its mined areas within a decade of signing the treaty.

A small number of mines may be retained for the sake of training purposes.

More than 3000 people each year are either killed or maimed by land mines or cluster munitions.

The Vatican is also party to the Ottawa Convention, which it signed in 1997 and ratified soon after.

The US bishops have repeatedly called on the US government to take a similar step.



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