Land-mine deaths and incidents continue to rise

Thousands of landmines still litter Cambodia, left behind by US, Pol Pot, and Vietnamese military forces. Human rights groups say injuries still abound, years after the end of conflicts.

Despite the positive commitments by states at the Eleventh Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty to eradicate landmines, the Jesuit Refugee Service has expressed concerns over worrying setbacks and the rising numbers of casualties in landmine-related incidents.

"In 1997 we won a treaty. But only when everyone in mine affected areas can live in dignity, when no more mines threaten their lives, when no one produces or lays new mines, will we have truly won", said Song Kosal, Cambodian landmine survivor and Youth Ambassador of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).

In Cambodia, where thousands of people live with the daily threat of landmines, the shocking reality of the danger they still pose is all too clear. Just yesterday, six people were injured in Cambodia’s Pursat Province when the truck they were in triggered a landmine. During this conference, three people were killed and six injured in three separate landmine accidents in Bosnia.

These are not isolated incidents – people are killed or injured by landmines all over the world every week. More than 4,000 landmine victims are reported each year, and assistance and services for landmine survivors are insufficient and difficult to access in most affected states.

"This week we heard some heartening news from states on what they are doing to clear contaminated land, destroy stocks of landmines, and provide better assistance to victims. But it was not enough – we need governments to do more to work in partnership with civil society to achieve this mission", said ICBL Director, Kasia Derlicka.

Close to 100 governments, international organisations, civil society and survivors from Cambodia and around the world gathered in Phnom Penh this week at the Eleventh Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty. In addition to the state parties to the convention, 15 other states, including Burma and the US, also participated in the conference.

Progress and set backs

The ICBL welcomed the announcement by Burundi which declared the country is now landmine-free, having cleared all mined land far in advance of the April 2014 deadline, bringing the total number of mine-free countries to 19. In addition, Turkey announced it completed destruction of nearly three million stockpiled landmines in June 2011.

However, as the conference closed, JRS remained concerned with several significant issues, including the continued use of landmines by Burma and Israel and the fact that only a handful of states are on track to meet mine clearance deadlines. Twenty-seven states have been granted extensions to their deadlines to clear contaminated land.

Moreover, new evidence of possible antipersonnel landmine contamination has arisen in Germany, Hungary, Mali and Niger, all states parties whose clearance deadlines have already expired.

Adopted in 1997, the mine ban treaty entered into force on 1 March 1999. The treaty comprehensively bans the use of all antipersonnel landmines; requires destruction of stockpiled landmines within four years; requires destruction of landmines already in the ground within 10 years; and urges extensive programmes to assist the victims of landmines.

For detailed information on the global landmine problem visit the Landmine Monitor www.the-monitor.org

Source: JRS

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