Sen. Patrick Leahy during SATEC Farm to School event 10-10-2019

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D - Vt., speaks at a press conference at the St. Albans Town Educational Center in October.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Vermont’s Congressional delegation has signed off on a letter challenging the Trump administration for lifting Obama-era restrictions on the use of landmines.

Sens. Patrick Leahy, D – Vt., and Bernie Sanders, I – Vt., as well as Rep. Peter Welch, D – Vt., are listed among the more than 80 signatories on a letter questioning the Trump administration’s lifting of restrictions on land mines – concealed explosives typically detonated automatically when pressure is applied.

“U.S. armed forces have been deployed in multiple protracted conflicts and it is our understanding that since 1991 they have not used these victim-activated weapons,” the letter reads. “In the meantime, due in part to U.S. leadership, the use of antipersonnel mines, and the number of mine casualties, have plummeted.

“This decision puts that progress in jeopardy.”

Under an executive order from then-President Barrack Obama, American use of land mines had been limited only to the South Korean border with North Korea, where the U.S. keeps a significant military presence.

President Donald Trump ordered those restrictions be lifted to allow for land mines’ use in “exceptional circumstances,” with the administration arguing limits from the Obama era placed the U.S. military at a “severe disadvantage.”

Land mines have been widely criticized due to their disproportionate effect on civilians.

According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, 71 percent of the almost 7,000 people who were either killed or injured by land mines in 2018 were civilians.

While most nations have signed onto an international treaty banning the use of land mines in conflicts, the U.S. is one of several to have avoided signing onto the treaty despite calls from several former presidents to limit their use.

Nations typically billed as international rivals to the U.S., including China and Russia, have likewise not signed onto the so-called “Mine Ban Treaty.”

In their letter signed Wednesday, members of Congress sent a series of oversight-related questions seeking justification for the Trump administration’s decision to free up certain limitations on the use of land mines.

The questioning presented by the letter was overseen by Leahy, the vice chairman of the U.S. Senate’s appropriations committee and a longtime advocate against the use of land mines, and Rep. Jim McGovern, D – Mass., the chair of the U.S. House of Representatives’ rules committee.

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