News / Press Releases

December 03, 2022

Anti-Landmine Progress Undermined by Ukraine War with Seven Types of Deadly Mines Used by Russia

25 years since the Ottawa Convention banned antipersonnel landmines, the conflict in Ukraine shows how much more needs to be done to prevent killing and maiming, says Humanity & Inclusion.

  • The Ottawa Convention (Mine Ban Treaty) was adopted on December 3, 1997, and since then 164 States have joined, and 55 million stockpiled mines have been destroyed.
  • Russia is not a signatory and has used 7 different types of mines, several totally new, since the 2022 conflict with Ukraine which Humanity & Inclusion says is ‘abhorrent’.
  • Landmine Monitor global research shows 5,544 people were killed or injured by mines and explosive remnants in 2021; 2022 figures expected to rise due to the war.
  • In addition to the new use of antipersonnel mines, threats such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and explosive remnants of war (ERW) - unexploded mortars, bombs and rockets - now cause more than 50% of deaths and injuries worldwide, according to the Landmine Monitor.
  • Anti-mine funding has been cut by $44 million in 2021. Funding must increase. 

On the 25th anniversary of the historic Ottawa landmine ban treaty, Humanity & Inclusion is warning that Russia is using seven types of deadly mines—some completely new— against civilians in its conflict with Ukraine.

The Ottawa Convention (Mine Ban Treaty) invited signatories on December 3, 1997 to agree never to use or produce antipersonnel landmines, following an international outcry and years of campaigning.

Since then, 164 States have signed or joined the treaty, and 94 States have destroyed more than 55 million mines. Despite this, at least 5,544 people were killed or injured by mines globally in 2021, including 1,696 children.

Significantly, Russia has failed to sign – with devastating impact. Landmines used against Ukraine include seven types of anti-personnel mines, according to Human Rights Watch, including several new mines not seen before, developed as late as 2021.

In response to the crisis, Humanity & Inclusion’s mine action specialists are running emergency risk education sessions for families in Ukraine to prevent further injuries.

Jeff Meer, the U.S. Executive Director for Humanity & Inclusion, an international NGO which campaigns and fundraises for people with disabilities of all types, including those caused by conflict, said it is important to mark today’s anniversary. But he added that around the world, mines and other newer types of weapons are still harming non-combatants including children, who represent 50% of civilian victims.

Jeff Meer, U.S. Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion, said:

“The Ottawa Convention has worked. In the 2000s, we saw a tenfold decrease in landmine casualties as a result of this treaty. Countries such as Mozambique have met their commitments to be mine free. But the terrible injuries caused by landmines in Ukraine are an awful reminder of why the ban was necessary in the first place, and why the international community must do all it can to pressure countries, like Russia, which refuse to join. The fact that states and scientists would still waste research, development, money and time to produce new, more atrocious and barbaric ways of killing people is abhorrent.”

On the 25th anniversary, Humanity & Inclusion is raising awareness of newer kinds of threats not covered by the treaty, such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used as landmines, and explosive remnants of war (ERW) - unexploded mortars, bombs and rockets.

These weapons cause more than 50% of deaths and injuries, according to the 2022 Landmine Monitor. IEDs are used mainly by non-state armed groups (NSAG) and are common in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.

A report by Humanity & Inclusion to mark the anniversary, For A Mine Free World, said the newer improvised ‘devious’ devices can be concealed in soft toys attractive to children, or in tin cans, equipped with sophisticated trigger mechanisms, such as trip wires and motion sensors.

After the treaty was adopted, the Landmine Monitor began auditing deaths and injuries. In 2001 there were 9,169 casualties. The numbers gradually reduced and reached a record low of 3,456 in 2013.

But since 2013, the number of people killed and injured, primarily by IED and explosive remnants, has risen due to intensive conflicts and armed groups changing their practices, reversing the downward trend.

In 2021 at least 5,544 people were killed or injured, including 1,696 children. Humanity & Inclusion said the figures for 2022 are expected to rise sharply due to the Ukraine conflict.

The country with the most civilian casualties in 2021 was Afghanistan (1,073), followed by Syria (760), Yemen (455), Myanmar (344), Nigeria (206), and Iraq (180).

“Thousands of people’s bodies and lives are shattered by these weapons,” Meer notes. "Humanity & Inclusion calls for more support and funding for local-level efforts to find and clear ERW and IEDs and help victims. There also needs to be more information-sharing about different types of IEDs, how they’re being made and where they’re being used–if this information is pooled, it’ll be easier to remove the threat.”

Explosive remnants pose a serious challenge to mine clearance experts as they contaminate vast tracts of land mixed with rubble in urban areas.

Faced with these new challenges, humanitarian anti-mine organizations have developed innovative new technical solutions for clearance. Humanity & Inclusion is leading the way in the use of drones to assist mine clearance operations in northern Chad, Iraq, Senegal and Lebanon in collaboration with partner Mobility Robotics.

Humanity & Inclusion also plans to equip its clearance experts with GoPro cameras to improve team safety and supervision, allowing experts to advise them remotely live on screen.

Efforts like these have been hampered by international funding cuts. In 2021 there was a reduction of 7% or $44.6 million funding for mine action. The U.S. is the world’s single largest donor to the destruction of conventional weapons, with $4.2 billion spent on clearance and victim assistance since 1993. However, the U.S. has yet to join the treaty. 

“Despite this desperate situation, funding globally has decreased,” Meer says. “Governments need to redouble their efforts.”

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Notes

Pictures of Humanity & Inclusion’s mine action operations around the world are available.

For interviews with Jeff Meer, Gary Toombs, Alma Al Osta or Olga Savchenko please contact Mica Bevington on +1 202-290-9264 or [email protected]

Spokespeople available:

  • Jeff Meer, U.S. Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion, and immediate past-Chair of the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines Steering Committee;
  • Gary Toombs, Humanity & Inclusion Explosive Ordnance Disposal expert who has worked in Ukraine and conflict zones around the world;
  • Alma al Osta, Humanity & Inclusion Weapons Advocacy expert;
  • Olga Savchenko, Explosive Ordnance Risk Education specialist, Humanity & Inclusion Ukraine.

About Humanity & Inclusion

  • Founded in 1982 as Handicap International to orthopedically fit thousands of landmine amputees on the Thai-Cambodian border.
  • Working in 60 countries in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster supporting people with disabilities, and those facing extreme vulnerabilities, to help meet their basic needs, improve living conditions and promote respect for dignity and fundamental rights.
  • For the past 30 years, Humanity & Inclusion has campaigned against anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs, with projects including bomb clearance, risk education to teach civilians about the dangers of these weapons, and assistance to people injured in blasts.
  • This led to the signing of the Ottawa Mine Ban Convention (1997). Shortly afterwards, Humanity & Inclusion was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Humanity & Inclusion is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and co-founder of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) and the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW).
  • In 2018 the organization changed its name to Humanity & Inclusion but is still known by its original title (Handicap International) in some countries.
  • For the Humanity & Inclusion report For A Mine Free World: 25 years after the signing of the Landmine Ban Treaty read here.