The 2016 Landmine Monitor report, which covers the implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty, reports a sharp rise in casualties from landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in 2015.
These weapons killed or injured at least 6,461 people in 2015, vs. 3,695 in 2014. Civilians bore the brunt of the killings and injuries, accounting for 78% of casualties, of which 38% were children.
“We cannot tolerate brutality, and the Monitor shows us that civilians bore the vast majority of landmine deaths, injuries, maiming, and psychological traumas in 2015,” notes Alma Taslidžan Al-Osta, arms advocacy manager for Handicap International. “We all bear a duty to constantly remind States and armed groups that the use of these weapons is banned, and that international law must be enforced.
The 75% rise in casualties is due to heavy casualty numbers in conflict zones in Afghanistan (1,310), Libya (1,004), Yemen (988), Syria (864), and the Ukraine (589).
Although the number of new casualties and needs increased, mine action funding declined for the third year in a row, to its lowest level since 2005. The Monitor saw mine action funding dip to $471.3 million in 2015, as international funding bodies and countries affected by these weapons invested less. That’s down $139 million, from $610.8 million in 2014.
“The funding decline is a considerable worry,” says Anne Hery, head of advocacy at Handicap International. “NGOs cannot fix our planet’s weapons pollution problems alone. The international community must support demining, risk education, and victim assistance activities.”
The Landmine Monitor recorded the highest number of casualties of improvised mines—explosive devices acting as anti-personnel mines produced by belligerent parties—since the publication of the first annual report in 2000, with 1,331 casualties or 21% of casualties reported in 2015. The actual number of casualties is likely to be higher.
The government forces of North Korea, Myanmar, and Syria continue to use anti-personnel mines. Between October 2015 and October 2016, non-State armed groups used antipersonnel mines or improvised mines in ten countries: Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen.
“War does not justify everything,” Al-Osta adds. “Not everything is permitted. International law exists and the Mine Ban Treaty is part of that. The Mine Ban Convention, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and the Geneva conventions protect us from barbarism. All States have a responsibility to ensure these rules are upheld and enforced.”
To coincide with the Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty–which takes place in Santiago, Chile from December 1 to 28–Handicap International is calling on States to apply International Humanitarian Law and to put pressure on belligerent parties to end the use of these barbaric weapons and to increase funding for the removal of mines and ERW, support risk education, and victim assistance programs.
The Mine Ban Treaty
The Mine Ban Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Treaty, is an international convention that bans the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel mines, and ensures their destruction. Countries choose whether to accede to this Treaty. By joining the Mine Ban Treaty, states commit to respect all the obligations it contains. The Treaty was opened for signature in Ottawa, Canada, in December 1997. Since then, a total of 163 States have signed the treaty; 162 are States Parties to the treaty, representing more than 80% of the world's nations. The United States of America has not joined the Mine Ban Treaty.
Handicap International is an independent international aid organization working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for nearly 35 years. Working alongside people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, we are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since its founding in 1982, Handicap International has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of eight national associations–Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States–works constantly to mobilize resources, jointly manage projects and to increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Handicap International is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, and the winner of the Conrad N. Hilton Award in 2011. Handicap International takes action and campaigns in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task.