Bishops urge White House to sign treaty to ban land mines


WASHINGTON — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace urged the United States to sign and ratify a treaty to ban the use of land mines.

Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, said in a letter Feb. 12 to National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice that signing and ratifying the accord, called the Convention on the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and Their Destruction, would further demonstrate the United States’ commitment to ending the use of mines worldwide.

A copy of his letter was released Feb. 20 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The bishop wrote that the Catholic Church has long called for a ban on land mines on moral grounds because they indiscriminately kill and maim innocent civilians, even after hostilities end.

“There is a legacy of devastation in places such as Iraq, Laos, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Angola, Colombia and Lebanon while land mines appear to have been used in more recent conflicts such as Syria,” Bishop Pates said. “The Holy See has noted the ‘deplorable humanitarian consequences of anti-personnel land mines.’”

Bishop Pates called upon Rice to urge President Barack Obama to sign the treaty, also known as the Ottawa Convention or the Mine Ban Treaty, and seek its ratification in the U.S. Senate.

“Be assured that our conference would affirm this action and work vigorously for ratification of a treaty that rids the world of these weapons which cause long-term, irreparable and indiscriminate harm,” the letter said.