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Nation's Leading Health Professionals Ask President to Join Landmine Ban

For Immediate Release

In a letter sent to the White House today, the presidents of the American Medical Association, American College of Physicians, American Nurses Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and more than a dozen other leading health associations asked President Obama to join the Landmine Ban Treaty.

The 19 health associations that sent today's letter represent more than 700,000 physicians, dentists, nurses and public health experts. They are among many medical, humanitarian, religious and veterans groups pushing for the US to join the treaty, which bans the use, trade and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines. Eighty percent of the world's nations and nearly all US allies have now banned the weapon.

"As health professionals see first-hand, landmines kill, amputate and blind men, women and children," they wrote in their letter. Antipersonnel mines "propel shrapnel, vegetation and contaminated soil and debris into soft tissue and bone, often producing severe infection," they continued. "We urge you to support a US ban on these inherently indiscriminate weapons."

"Imagine your child stepping on a landmine on the way to school, losing a limb and facing this trauma without access to basic medical care. It's a horrific scenario, yet that is the reality for many landmine victims around the world today," said American Medical Association President Cecil Wilson, MD. "As physicians who care for landmine victims can attest, the damage is devastating and preventable, which is why we support the US joining the ban on these weapons."

Today's letter was organized by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). As a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, PHR shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. "I have seen the impact of landmines on communities in Kosovo," said Dr. Robert Lawrence, Chairman of the Board of Physicians for Human Rights. "Long after the fighting stops, landmines continue to terrorize and maim innocent bystanders. This treaty is a vaccination against the scourge of landmines, and it's time for the US to join the international community in rejecting this indiscriminate weapon."

Thousands of people, most of them civilians, are injured or killed by antipersonnel landmines each year. Those living in mined areas are often afraid to travel or tend their crops, kept prisoner by the hidden dangers of nearby landmines.

In 1991, PHR exposed the overwhelming threat of landmines by working with Human Rights Watch to release Coward's War: Landmines in Cambodia. The report was the first to call for a comprehensive ban on the weapon and helped galvanize international attention to the devastating effects of antipersonnel landmines on civilians, particularly children. In 1997, the majority of the world's nations signed the Mine Ban Treaty, and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Obama Administration is currently conducting a formal review of US landmine policy. The US last used the weapon in the 1991 during the first Gulf War. President Clinton did not sign the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, though he instructed the Pentagon to find alternatives to the weapon, and he set a 2006 treaty objective. President George W. Bush, who also declined to join the treaty, removed the 2006 goal, but also banned certain types of mines from the US arsenal. In May 2010, 68 US Senators, including 10 Republicans, sent a letter to President Obama urging him to work toward ratification of the landmine convention, an indication that the Senate may be in favor of ratifying the treaty.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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