"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Author, "African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement"
July 1, 2020
Jeff Abramson

Ukraine Landmine Use Under Scrutiny

March 2023
By Jeff Abramson

The Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Ministry acknowledged a report by Human Rights Watch alleging that Kyiv used banned anti-personnel landmines and said the report would be “duly studied.” But the ministry did not specifically deny or admit any violations of the Mine Ban Treaty.

TM-62 anti-vehicle mines found last year during a mine clearance mission near Bervytsia, a village liberated from Russian forces, in the Kyiv Region of Ukraine. (Photo by Evgen Kotenko/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)Ukraine “took note” of the report, “which will be duly studied by the competent authorities of Ukraine,” the ministry said in a Jan. 31 statement. It insisted that Ukraine “fully implements its international obligations while Russian occupants commit the war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide of the Ukrainian people.”

Ukraine is one of 164 states-parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, which bars the use of “victim-activated” anti-personnel landmines that detonate due to the presence, proximity, or contact of a person, and mandates their destruction from national stockpiles.

The report documented multiple instances of the use of banned rocket-fired anti-personnel PFM mines, also called “butterfly” or “petal” mines, around the city of Izium in 2022. The use occurred while the area was under Russian control and was in delivery range of Ukrainian forces who were seeking to regain the territory.

Human Rights Watch called on Ukraine to investigate the landmine use and noted that, in 2021, Ukraine had reported a stockpile of more than 3 million mines that had yet to be destroyed under its treaty obligations.

The report also flagged earlier findings that Russia used landmines in many locations in Ukraine, but noted that its researchers have not verified any claims of Russia using PFM mines.

Ukraine, in its most recent response and in statements at the treaty’s annual conference last year, reiterated support for the treaty and criticized Russian use of landmines. Russia is not party to the treaty, and its use of landmines in Ukraine has resulted in a spike in annual casualties caused by the weapons. (See ACT, January/February 2023.)

On Feb. 3, the president of the Mine Ban Treaty, Thomas Göbel of Germany, issued a statement that he is engaging with Kyiv and is “confident that we can continue to fully rely on Ukraine’s cooperation in this respect, as announced by Ukraine in its reaction to the report.”

The United States said it welcomed “Ukraine’s announcement it will investigate these allegations, and we appreciate Ukraine reaffirming its commitment to respect its obligations and commitments under international law,” the Voice of America reported on Jan. 31.

The United States, which is not a party to the treaty but has a policy of not exporting banned landmines anywhere other than to the Korean peninsula, has been providing Ukraine with Claymore anti-personnel mines that require an operator to detonate them. Such “command-detonated” mines are not prohibited by the treaty.


The Ukraine Foreign Ministry said it would study a report alleging that Kyiv used banned anti-personnel landmines but did not deny violating the Mine Ban Treaty.

Mine Use Continues as Ban Treaty Marks Anniversary

January/February 2023
By Jeff Abramson

Member states of the Mine Ban Treaty, marking the convention’s 25th anniversary, renewed their condemnation of the weapons, which are still being deployed by some countries despite the prohibition and the great harm inflicted on civilians.

A Ukrainian team worked to clear mines and unexploded ordinance from the side of the main road leading to Kherson City, Ukraine, in November. Kherson was the only regional capital to be captured by Russia following its invasion on Feb. 24.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)According to the Landmine Monitor, Russia has used at least seven types of anti-personnel mines since it invaded Ukraine in February, leading to at least 277 civilian casualties in the first nine months of the year, a nearly fourfold increase in Ukraine over 2021.

The Monitor, in a report Nov. 17, also identified an escalation in landmine use by Myanmar, especially around infrastructure such as energy pipelines and mobile phone towers. The report has listed Myanmar, a nonstate-party to the treaty, as using landmines every year since it first began publishing in 1999.

It also identified new use of landmines by nonstate armed actors in at least five countries, including the Central African Republic, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, and Myanmar.

During the treaty’s annual meeting of states-parties Nov. 21–25 in Geneva, delegates adopted language similar to past years that “condemned the use of anti-personnel mines anywhere, at any time, and by any actor, including by armed non-State actors.”

In an opening statement, Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN undersecretary-general and high representative for disarmament affairs, said that “[t]he use of anti-personnel mines is unacceptable and violates key principles of international humanitarian law.”

At the meeting led by Alvaro Ayala, Colombia’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, landmine clearance extensions were granted to Afghanistan, Argentina, Ecuador, Guinea-Bissau, Serbia, Sudan, Thailand, and Yemen. Under the treaty, countries have 10 years to clear areas contaminated by landmines, but may seek extensions that set new deadlines.

Eritrea again failed to request an extension to its deadline, which had passed on Dec. 31, 2020. Delegates instructed the new president of the treaty, Thomas Göbel, Germany’s ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, to engage with Eritrea to resolve the issue by March 31 or refer it to the UN secretary-general. If that occurs, it would be the first time Article 8.2 of the treaty was exercised, bringing in the secretary-general to resolve compliance concerns.

In its statement to the meeting, Ukraine said Russia had used the mines as “a weapon of terror,” initially to hold captured territories and later “throughout the arable lands, in the houses, gardens etc.” prior to withdrawing from them. It also said Russia had in August “openly blackmailed the whole world, declaring that they laid mines at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plants and are ready to blow it up and turn into a scorched desert.” (See ACT, September 2022.)

More than 30 treaty members still have contaminated areas to clear, with many now having deadlines later than 2025. For those still with deadlines in 2025 or sooner, the Monitor assessed that only two were on track to do so. At the treaty’s 2019 review conference, members set the global goal of completing landmine clearance by 2025.

Despite the challenges of new use by a small number of nonstate actors and contamination remaining in more than 50 countries globally, the treaty is still widely considered a success, with 164 countries, including every NATO member except for the United States, as states-parties. Those parties collectively have destroyed more than 55 million stockpiled landmines.

The treaty was adopted on Sept. 18, 1997, and opened for signature that Dec. 3. Events to celebrate these anniversaries took place in many countries. In a Dec. 2 statement commemorating the treaty, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson drew special attention to retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a long-time treaty champion, saying that “he has helped us all envision a world free from the scourge of these weapons. The Biden-Harris administration is committed to continuing work toward this future.”

In June, the Biden administration reversed a Trump-era policy that permitted potential use of anti-personnel landmines globally, instead limiting them to the Korean peninsula, and indicated it would like to eventually join the treaty. (See ACT, July/August 2022.)

Member states again condemned landmines, which are still being deployed by some countries despite the treaty’s prohibition.

Explosive Weapons Declaration Endorsed

December 2022

More than 80 countries have endorsed a political declaration that aims to reduce the harm to civilians caused by attacking towns and cities with explosive weapons.

The text of the Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians From the Humanitarian Consequences Arising From the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas was finalized in Geneva in June under the leadership of Ireland and adopted at a ceremony in Dublin on Nov. 18.

Irish officials confirmed that 82 countries endorsed the declaration, including the United States and 23 other NATO members. The declaration recognizes the devastating harm to civilians from bombing and shelling in towns and cities and commits signatory states to take action to address harm to civilians. (See ACT, July/August and November 2022.)

Speaking on behalf of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Izumi Nakamitsu, UN high representative for disarmament affairs, said, “This political declaration marks a milestone in collective efforts to better protect civilians.” The secretary-general’s message also stated, “Parties to conflict and states must avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and work to remove conflict from urban areas altogether.”—JEFF ABRAMSON

Explosive Weapons Declaration Endorsed

Mexico Files New Gun Lawsuit in U.S. Court

November 2022

Aiming to curb arms trafficking into its territory, Mexico has filed a new lawsuit in U.S. courts after its 2021 suit was dismissed in late September.

A boy holds a makeshift gun as a community police force in Mexico in 2020 teaches a group of children how to protect themselves from area drug gangs. Mexico is suing to stop the flow of guns from U.S. manufacturers and dealers into Mexico. (Photo by Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images)The new lawsuit, filed Oct. 10 in federal court in Tucson, names five Arizona gun distributors whose guns are among those most frequently recovered in Mexico and states that those dealers knowingly break U.S. law to enable trafficking. In a video message that day, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard explained that his country cooperates with the United States on drug trafficking and other issues and would like assistance in stopping the flow of weapons into Mexico.

The earlier suit, filed in Massachusetts, was dismissed on Sept. 30. (See ACT, September 2022.) In his decision, Judge F. Dennis Saylor mentioned the limitations placed by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which provides gun manufacturers wide immunity. He added that “while the Court has considerable sympathy for the people of Mexico, and none whatsoever for those who traffic guns to Mexican criminal organizations, it is duty-bound to follow the law.” (See ACT, September 2021.)

Mexico promised to appeal the September ruling and drew a distinction between that case against gun manufacturers and the new case against gun dealers. In a press release Oct. 10, the Mexican Foreign Ministry said it was confident both cases would succeed in court and that they “have already contributed to promoting conversations and actions around the world about halting arms trafficking and the dangerous practices of the arms industry.”JEFF ABRAMSON

Mexico Files New Gun Lawsuit in U.S. Court

U.S. Offering More Arms to Taiwan

October 2022
By Jeff Abramson

The Biden administration has notified Congress of its plan to offer more than $1 billion in weapons and military support to Taiwan as leaders in the Senate advanced legislation for even more armaments in the coming years, drawing new expressions of concern from China.

As tensions over Taiwan grew, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022, sponsored by Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), shown in photo, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), to boost foreign military financing funds for the self-governing democracy that China claims as its own. The legislation must next be approved by the full Senate.  (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)The latest potential weapons deals, announced Sept. 2, would provide Taipei with support for its radar surveillance capabilities, as well as 60 anti-ship Harpoon missiles and 100 short-range air-to-air Sidewinder missiles. In total, the administration has proposed more than $2 billion in weapons transfers to Taiwan through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, which includes whole or parts of weapons systems or support services for tanks, combat vehicles, howitzers, ships, and Patriot air defense systems. Congress has 30 days to disapprove the latest sales before the administration can proceed, but no serious effort is being made to block them.

Thus far, the Biden administration has not proposed new sales of weapons with a higher international profile, such as F-16 fighter aircraft, or longer-range capabilities, such as the Army Tactical Missile Systems and Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response, all of which were among more than $18 billion in FMS program notifications during the Trump administration. Such weapons give Taiwan more capabilities to attack the Chinese mainland, approximately 110 miles away.

The Biden administration appears to be following what some are calling the “porcupine” strategy, whereby Taiwan is so well provisioned with weapons that any attempt by China to invade and occupy the country would prove extremely difficult and costly.

Less than two weeks after the arms sale notification, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022. A vote of the full Senate has not been scheduled.. Authored by committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the committee added an additional year and $2 billion in foreign military financing funds to the original bill, raising it to $6.5 billion through fiscal year 2027.

The legislation also directs the State and Defense departments and contractors to expedite FMS program requests from Taiwan.

Menendez welcomed the committee’s vote on Sept. 14, saying that “we are carefully and strategically lowering the existential threats facing Taiwan by raising the cost of taking the island by force so that it becomes too high a risk and unachievable.” In an op-ed in The New York Times in August, he wrote, “We saw the warning signs for Ukraine in 2014 and failed to take action that might have deterred further Russian aggression. We cannot afford to repeat that mistake with Taiwan.”

In recent months especially after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan on Aug. 2–3, security concerns around Taiwan have increased, with China and the United States conducting military exercises. China reacted negatively to the latest potential arms sales and legislation, including by sanctioning directors of U.S. weapons manufacturers Raytheon and Boeing.

China claims that Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, is part of China and has vowed to reunite it with the mainland by force if necessary. U.S. President Joe Biden recently suggested that the United States would directly intervene militarily if needed on behalf of Taiwan in the event of a conflict with China. Interpreted by some experts as a change in the long-standing U.S. “One China” policy, such comments have been walked back by U.S. officials, but still have contributed to mounting tensions.

The latest U.S. offer is valued at $1 billion, as Taiwan seeks to build its defenses amid rising tensions with China.


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