Day One: Landmines Conference

The 12th Conference of the States Parties to the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines opened December 3, at the Palace of Nations in Geneva.

The day also marks the 15th anniversary of the signature of the Ottawa Treaty, which is one of international humanitarian law's biggest achievements. 

In the past 15 years, the treaty has resulted in 80% of the world's countries banning this barbaric weapon, which mostly affects civilians. Millions of landmines have been destructed, and thousands of square kilometers of land have been cleared.

Handicap International is one of the key players in this prohibition. The association has been working for 30 years with victims of landmines and explosive remnants of war and is one of the six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

"It is the story of the obstinacy that paid off that we celebrate today, not only ours but especially the one of hundreds of thousands people around the world who supported the struggle against injustice," Marion Libertucci, head of arms advocacy for Handicap International. Thirty years ago, 20,000 people were victims of these weapons each year. With this Treaty, the number of casualties identified each year has been divided by four, but the current figure remains too high. States no longer have the right to ignore them, they come themselves to speak at the Conference."

Handicap International is looking forward to a statement by the U.S. delegation, which is expected on Thursday, December 6. The United States is not yet a party to the Ottawa Treaty, and the Obama administration began a review of its policy on landmines in 2009, without ever formally announcing the findings.

This conference could be an opportunity for U.S. to provide concrete elements on the issue. The United States has not used antipersonnel mines for more than 20 years. The country no longer produces or exports landmines.

Handicap International believes the only relevant decision is one of accession to the Ottawa treaty. This decision could further marginalize all countries that have not yet acceded to the Ottawa Treaty.