ICBL condemns recent mine use by the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia

National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN) guerrillas planted new mines on the road that links the villages of La Plaza and La Guásima, in the area of Micoahumado, in the southern part of the Colombian Department of Bolívar.

The ELN warned villagers about the mines. This information was reported by villagers on 29 May 2007 to the Colombian Campaign Against Landmines (Campaña Colombiana contra Minas, CCCM). The ELN had laid mines in this same area a few years earlier, and then subsequently removed them.

"These actions by the ELN are bad news for the country and a step back in the fight against mines in Colombia," saidCamilo Serna, ICBL's Landmine Monitor researcher for Colombia. The CCCM condemned the re-mining of the road in Micoahumado by the ELN.

On 6 June 2007, the ELN informed villagers that they had removed the mines. However, lack of knowledge in the community about both the deployment and the clearance of the mines by the ELN has led people to avoid using it, and the roadway now stands empty.

"It is completely unacceptable that the ELN lays mines, removes them, then re-mines the same area," said Sylvie Brigot, the Executive Director of the ICBL. "The ELN is not engaged in humanitarian demining. It is more accurate to say that it is harvesting its mines in order to re-use them, putting civilians at further risk," she said.

Colombia is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty. A delegation from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines is due to visit the country at the end of June to view progress in the implementation of the treaty.

The local population reported that the mines laid in May 2007 were manufactured by the ELN, and were powerful enough to damage vehicles, but may also have functioned as antipersonnel mines.

Previously, the ELN in early 2005 cleared mines it had laid along a 28-kilometer section of this same road, which connects Micohaumado with La Plaza, La Caboa and Guásima villages. At that time, the Political Chief of the Luis José Solano Sepúlveda Front of the ELN stated that the commitment to the community was to free the road, so that people could pass through and go about their productive work.