New landmine use denounced

All states are urged to join the Mine Ban Treaty.

The Landmine Monitor is the annual report on the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty, and is produced by several NGOs, including Handicap International. The report was released Wednesday in Bangkok, and found that at least three States not party to the treaty used anti-personnel landmines in 2011. Handicap International condemns the use of these weapons, which continue to injure and kill civilians in countries around the world. The organization was also alarmed by the high number of landmine victims reported in this year's Landmine Monitor.

While the report presents positive conclusions concerning mine clearance and the levels of mine-action funding, it also demonstrates the need to continue campaigning against these weapons, which remain a deadly threat to civilians. Handicap International calls on all countries present at the 11th Meeting of States Parties to be held in Cambodia from November 28 to December 2 to push for the universalization of the treaty and to make firm commitments to ensure that the treaty is fully implemented.

The Landmine Monitor 2011 illustrates the need for States throughout the world to join the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty in order to make it a universal standard. At least three States not party to the treaty used anti-personnel landmines in 2011: Israel, Libya and Myanmar (Burma). There are strong suspicions that Syria also may have used these weapons. Between 2009 and 2010, Myanmar was the only country to have used landmines. Four independent armed groups in Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar and Pakistan also used these weapons from 2010 to 2011.

“These new cases of the use of anti-personnel landmines are unacceptable and extremely worrying,” said Paul Vermeulen, Head of Advocacy and Institutional Relations at Handicap International. “We ask all States Parties to firmly condemn any new use of anti-personnel landmines and to implement all possible measures in order to stop the use of these weapons.”

Another negative finding shows that Belarus, Greece, Turkey and Ukraine have not met the deadline for destroying their stockpiles, in violation of the treaty. “It is unacceptable for States Parties not to implement one of the most important articles of the treaty," Vermeulen said. The Landmine Monitor 2011 also reports that there have been thousands of new victims of anti-personnel landmines. In 2010, 4,191 victims of landmines and unexploded remnants of war were identified.

These findings are disappointing as they taint the positive results concerning mine clearance reported in the Landmine Monitor 2011. Through the efforts of States Parties to the treaty and civil society campaigns against these weapons, decontamination of mined land reached an unprecedented level in 2010: Almost 177 square miles of land were demined and more than 1.6 million unexploded remnants of war were destroyed in just one year. “Each weapon destroyed represents a reduction in new victims and genuine hope for the future for the thousands of civilians living with the threat of these weapons on a day-to-day basis," said Vermeulen.

Mine-action funding also increased significantly in 2010: $637 million was granted by the international community and affected countries, 31 international funding bodies alone provided $480 million, an increase of 7 percent from the previous year. The rapid and systematic elimination of all mine fields requires greater, more determined mobilization by all States Parties,” explained Vermeulen, who added that “79 countries and territories are still contaminated by these weapons.” “We regret, however, that less than 10 percent of funding is allocated to victim assistance; [victims] remain largely forgotten by the treaty.” More than 500,000 survivors of accidents caused by mines or unexploded remnants of war require lifelong assistance, and the $43 million allocated to this provision falls far short of meeting the real needs of victims.

The 11th Meeting of States Parties to the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty will be held from November 28 to December 2 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, one of the most mine-affected countries in the world. This meeting will be crucial in reminding States of their obligations, particularly in terms of victim assistance. The United States, not yet a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty, will attend the conference as an observer. The U.S. has not used landmines since 1991 and has not produced any new landmines since 1997. The Obama administration launched a review of U.S. landmine policy in December 2009; this review – which the international community hopes will culminate in U.S. accession to the Mine Ban Treaty, has not yet concluded.

At the 11th Meeting of States Parties, Handicap International will continue to lobby States to ensure they account for the realities in the field.  Only a long-term commitment with sufficient resources can free communities from the threat posed by these barbaric weapons.

The full Landmine Monitor 2011 is available online: