Impressive Gains in Global Ban on Antipersonnel Mines
But Global Mine Action Funding Falls and Reported Mine Casualties Increase
GENEVA - September 13 – There was a decrease in use of antipersonnel mines by both government and rebel forces in 2005 and the first half of 2006, according to a 1,230-page report released today by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). The report details impressive gains in the global ban on antipersonnel landmines, but highlights areas of serious concern as well. “International rejection of antipersonnel mines continues to take hold more and more firmly,” said Steve Goose, director of Human Rights Watch’s Arms Division. “More than three-quarters of the world’s nations have embraced the Mine Ban Treaty, and even most of those who haven’t yet joined are largely obeying it,” he added. The treaty prohibits use, production, and trade of antipersonnel landmines. It requires clearance of mined areas within 10 years and the destruction of stockpiled antipersonnel mines within four years.
Since December 2005, Ukraine, which has the world’s fourth biggest stockpile of antipersonnel mines, and three other countries have ratified the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, bringing the number of states parties to 151. Four countries have completed destruction of their antipersonnel stockpiles: Algeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, and Nigeria. In addition, more than 740 square kilometers, an area the size of New York City, was demined in 2005, a new record. Guatemala and Suriname completed clearance of all their minefields.
However, international funding for mine action fell for the first time in 2005, raising concerns about future efforts to eradicate antipersonnel mines. Donors provided $376 million in 2005, the second highest level ever, but a decrease of $23 million (about 6 percent) from the previous year. Moreover, the number of reported landmine casualties increased to 7,328 in 2005, up about 11 percent, mostly due to expanded conflict in a number of countries. Because many casualties go unreported, Landmine Monitor estimates the true number to be some 15,000-20,000 each year.
Landmine Monitor Report 2006: Toward a Mine-Free World, the eighth in the annual series, documents compliance with the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, as well as efforts to deal with the consequences of antipersonnel mines in all countries. Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the ICBL, which received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, and is one of four ICBL organizations coordinating the Landmine Monitor project. In particular, Human Rights Watch tracks landmine policy, use, production, stockpiling, and trade for Landmine Monitor.
Only three governments are confirmed to have used antipersonnel mines in 2005 and the first half of 2006: Burma (Myanmar), Nepal, and Russia. The most extensive use was in Burma, where the army reportedly planted antipersonnel mines in civilian areas to terrorize the local population. Use in Nepal halted with the May 2006 cease-fire, and both the government and the Maoists agreed to a Code of Conduct that prohibits use of landmines. Russia’s use of antipersonnel mines in Chechnya appeared to be limited. At least four governments used antipersonnel mines in 2004 and 2003, six in 2002, nine in 2001, and 13 in 2000.
Landmine Monitor recorded use of antipersonnel mines, or antipersonnel mine-like improvised explosive devices, by non-state armed groups in at least 10 countries in 2005-2006: Burma, Burundi, Colombia, Guinea-Bissau, India, Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia (Chechnya), and Somalia. In 2004, rebel groups used landmines in at least 13 countries; in 2003 in 16, in 2002 in 11, in 2001 in 14, and in 2000 in 18.
Guinea-Bissau, where Senegalese rebels used mines against the Guinea-Bissau Army in March and April 2006, was added to the list of rebel uses this year, while Georgia, the Philippines, Turkey, and Uganda were removed. The biggest mine users were FARC in Colombia, and the Karen National Liberation Army and a handful of other rebel groups in Burma. Landmine Monitor is investigating allegations that Hezbollah used landmines in Lebanon during the conflict with Israel in July and August 2006, but most reports seem to indicate use of antivehicle mines and command-detonated devices rather than antipersonnel mines.
The number of producers of antipersonnel mines remained at 13, including Burma, China, Cuba, India, Iran, North Korea, South Korea, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. Although Vietnam told a visiting delegation from Canada in November 2005 that it has stopped production, it has not made an official declaration. In some cases, such as the United States and South Korea, the countries have not actually produced antipersonnel mines in a number of years, but reserve the right to do so. In the United States, Congress put on hold the Pentagon’s plans to begin production of a new munition called “Spider” that can function as an antipersonnel mine. At least 38 states have stopped production of antipersonnel mines, including Finland, Israel, Poland, and most recently Egypt and Iraq – none of which have joined the Mine Ban Treaty.
A total of 74 states parties to the Mine Ban Treaty have now destroyed their stockpiled antipersonnel mines, for a combined total of about 39.5 million antipersonnel mines, including about 700,000 in the past year. Only 13 states parties still have stocks to destroy.
There were no confirmed instances of antipersonnel mine transfers in 2005 and 2006. However, in May 2006, the U.N. arms embargo monitoring group on Somalia reported that the government of Eritrea – a member of the Mine Ban Treaty – had delivered 1,000 antipersonnel mines to militant fundamentalists in Somalia. Eritrea, which has officially declared that it no longer possesses any antipersonnel mines, strongly denied the charge. For the past decade, global trade in antipersonnel mines has consisted solely of a low-level of illicit and unacknowledged transfers.
In addition to Ukraine, recent additions to the Mine Ban Treaty are Haiti, the Cook Islands, and Brunei. Three countries have signed but not yet ratified the treaty; of those, Indonesia and Poland have initiated the procedures to ratify in the near future, while the Marshall Islands status is less clear.
Forty countries remain outside the treaty, including China, Russia, and the United States. In one notable indicator of the expanding acceptance of the ban on antipersonnel mines, in December 2005, more of the 40 non-signatories to the treaty supported the annual U.N. General Assembly resolution calling for adherence to the Mine Ban Treaty than abstained on the vote (18 in favor, 17 abstaining, and five absent). Among those voting in favor of the pro-ban resolution for the first time were China and Azerbaijan; others included Armenia, Finland, Georgia, Iraq, Kuwait, Morocco, Nepal, Singapore, Somalia, and Sri Lanka.