Iraq

Campaign lauds stockpile destruction but warns of Iraq mine threat

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(Washington, DC, 28-Feb-2003) On the fourth anniversary of the international treaty banning antipersonnel landmines, the Nobel Peace Prize winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) is lauding states for successful completion of the treaty's first major compliance deadline: destruction of stockpiles of mines within a four-year period. At least 43 States Parties to the treaty have already completed destruction of their landmine arsenals, destroying a combined total of some 30 million antipersonnel mines.

While heralding this accomplishment and the many other successes of the Mine Ban Treaty, the ICBL voiced alarm at possible use of antipersonnel mines in an Iraq conflict by non-signatories such as the United States and Iraq. The ICBL also expressed concern about the possibility of Mine Ban Treaty States Parties assisting in the use of mines in contravention of the letter or spirit of the treaty.

"The tide has turned against antipersonnel mines and much has been achieved in the last four years," said ICBL ambassador and co-laureate of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, Jody Williams. "However, any new use threatens the progress we've made and may undercut the international norm against mine use," said Williams.

On 1 March 1999, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (or, Mine Ban Treaty) entered into force, thus becoming binding international law more quickly than any multilateral disarmament or humanitarian treaty ever. Today, there are 131 member states, plus a further 15 signatory states who have yet to ratify. Still, 48 nations have failed to sign up to the treaty, including China, Egypt, India, Israel, Iraq, Pakistan, Russia and the USA.

On the anniversary, the campaign reiterated its call on Iraq, the U.S and other parties to a possible war in Iraq to refrain from mine use. "Any new use will multiply the daily devastation caused by Iraq's existing mines," said campaign coordinator, Elizabeth Bernstein. Iraq is a severely mine-affected country, its minefields a legacy of the last Gulf War, the Iran-Iraq War, decades of internal conflict and World War II. The United States last used antipersonnel mines in the 1991 Gulf War, and has deployed about 90,000 landmines to the region already for possible use in Iraq.

The campaign also warned U.S. military allies, the majority of which are States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, to stick to their treaty obligations. The Mine Ban Treaty requires all States Parties to "never under any circumstance... assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention."

Of the 43 States Parties to complete stockpile destruction, the most recent are Japan (8 February), El Salvador (mid-February), Macedonia (20 February), Djibouti (27 February) and Mozambique (28 February). Among those states with a deadline of 1 March 2003, the ICBL is concerned about Turkmenistan, which previously declared a stockpile of 233,529 antipersonnel mines, but has not reported on its destruction program.

In addition to stockpile destruction, achievements since 1 March 1999 include a virtual halt to antipersonnel mine exports, a dramatic drop in mine production, notable decrease in mine use, and clearance of large tracts of mine-infested land. However, antipersonnel mines still claim an estimated 15-20,000 new victims each year in some 70 countries. "We will not fail or deviate from our mission to rid the world of landmines," said Bernstein.

Author/Origin: ICBL (media@icbl.org)

For more information please write to media@icbl.org or contact:

Sue Wixley, ICBL Advocacy and Communications Officer, +44 (0) 20 7820 9577 or +7932688431 (mobile) (London);
Mary Wareham, Landmine Monitor Coordinator, Human Rights Watch, +1-202-612-4356 (Washington DC).