Last Updated: Wed Nov 24, 2010 20:36 pm (KSA) 17:36 pm (GMT)

Major progress seen in landmine ban, worries remain

Concerns persist over landmine use by insurgent groups in six countries (File)
Concerns persist over landmine use by insurgent groups in six countries (File)

Major advances in enforcing an international ban on landmines were made in 2009 as casualties fell sharply and Russia reported it was no longer deploying the weapon, campaigners said on Wednesday.

The Nobel prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) credited the 1997 Ottawa international treaty banning anti-personnel mines for the reduction in usage.

"Although no additional countries joined the Mine Ban Treaty in 2009 or the first half of 2010, the power of the international standard rejecting the weapon continued to be evident," said the group in its annual Landmine Monitor.

 We have stigmatized the weapon to such an extent that we have won the war against the weapon 
Steve Goose

But they told a news conference that concerns remained over continued production by India, Pakistan and Myanmar, the lack of information from North Korea, and landmine use by insurgent groups in six countries -- Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Yemen.

"The record progress made in the past year towards eliminating antipersonnel mines shows that the (1997) Mine Ban Treaty is working," Mark Hiznay, chief editor of the annual report on the effect of the pact, told a news conference.

"We have stigmatized the weapon to such an extent that we have won the war against the weapon," said Steve Goose, another researcher on the report.

The report, "Landmine Monitor 2010", says that 156 countries have signed up to the pact -- which bans production, deployment, stockpiling and transfer of landmines and was negotiated during the 1990s under pressure from the ICBL.

The report criticized Venezuela, saying it was the only signatory not to meet its obligations to dispose of the mines.

"One of our sources of concern is Venezuela, which has not started its demining activities more than 10 years after joining the treaty," said the report.

"After saying for several years that thze conditions were too humid, this year they said they were too dry," said anothe of the report's authors, Stuart Casey-Maslen.

"We are starting to have doubts on Venezuela's good faith in this matter," he said.

Major powers -- the United States, China and Russia -- and 36 others stand aloof from the treaty which was negotiated outside the United Nations' framework. But the report says most of them are in effective compliance with its provisions.

Russia removed

 We are starting to have doubts on Venezuela's good faith in this matter 
Stuart Casey-Maslen

Russia, which in every Monitor issued since 1999 was recorded as a mine user, was removed from the 2010 list after declaring that it had halted deployment, while China was contributing funds to demining programs under the pact.

The United States, where the military are believed to want to retain the option on what campaigners say is an obsolete “Cold War weapon", is reviewing its policies on them and will attend a review meeting on the pact in Geneva next week.

Since World War Two ended in 1945, many tens of thousands of civilians are believed to have been killed or maimed by landmines aimed at military personnel in both regional and local conflicts, almost all in developing countries.

The weapon, usually deployed in rural areas and triggered by contact, survives long after fighting is over and is a common hazard for farmers and their children in countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

Last year, according to the report, 3,956 deaths and maimings of civilians were recorded around the world -- the lowest total since it was first published in 1999 and nearly 30 percent down on the 2008 total.

But the Monitor warns that these figures are approximate and only cover known incidents. Many occurring in remote areas of poor countries go unreported, it says.

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