Source: United States Senator for Vermont Patrick Leahy
Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy
The Scourge of Landmines in Yemen
June 20, 2019
Mr. LEAHY.I have spent much of my career in the Senate working to eradicate landmines, which kill and maim far more civilians than combatants.These insidious, inherently indiscriminate weapons often remain active for years or even decades after the fighting has ended and the soldiers have left, lying in wait for the unsuspecting footstep of a child on her way to school, or a farmer working in a field.
In 1997, the Yemeni government signed the Mine Ban Treaty which outlaws the production, stockpiling, export, and use of anti-personnel mines.And, with the help of international donors, they made great strides in humanitarian demining, to the point that by 2012 they were on the cusp of declaring the country landmine free.Unfortunately, the civil war between the Houthi rebels supported by Iran, and the Yemeni government supported by the Saudi-led coalition, changed everything.The use of landmines made a resurgence, due to Iranian mines that the Houthis have planted by the thousands throughout the country.More than 9,000 Yemenis have reportedly been killed or injured by landmines, the overwhelming majority of them innocent civilians.
Children are especially vulnerable to mine accidents.They run and play, they explore open fields, they are curious about strange objects.Most children who step on a landmine will die from loss of blood before they can obtain medical attention, and the survivors often do not have access to the specialized care and support they need.Even children who do not become victims are affected by landmines in their communities.They cannot play or go to school without fearing for their lives, and they suffer from malnutrition when militants turn farmland into minefields.
As I have said many times before, the use of landmines is an affront to civilized societies.Regardless of who uses them, they are an illegitimate weapon, triggered by the victim, and are often used to terrorize and brutalize the innocent.They impede development for decades, even generations.In Vietnam today, for example, landmines continue to kill and injure civilians 44 years after the war ended.The Houthis’ use of landmines cannot be justified any more than their use of child soldiers and other violations of the laws of war, and should stop immediately.
Similarly, the United States should stop supporting Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate bombing in Yemen which has caused thousands of civilian casualties.This war will not be won militarily, and the longer it drags on the more innocent people will pay the price, with their limbs, their livelihoods, and their lives.
The Department of State is supporting efforts to help locate and destroy landmines in Yemen, but far more needs to be done. Even though the Yemeni army, the UN Development program, and nongovernmental organizations have cleared more than 300,000 mines in the country, it is estimated that at least one million remain.
The Leahy War Victims Fund, administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development, has provided artificial limbs, wheelchairs, rehabilitation, and vocational assistance to landmine survivors in many countries, and could be used in Yemen.
Yemen was an impoverished country before Iran and Saudi Arabia decided to go to war there, which has caused immense suffering among the Yemeni people.War crimes have been committed by both sides, and by providing weapons to the Saudis we also are implicated.Every effort should be made to pressure the Houthis to stop using landmines and child soldiers, and the Saudis to stop their bombing of civilian areas.The Department of State should increase its support for humanitarian demining in Yemen, and the U.S. Agency for International Development should increase its support for organizations that help mine victims rebuild their lives.