Iraqi use of antipersonnel mines condemned

News and Press Release
Originally published
The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) today condemned Iraq for using antipersonnel landmines at the outset of the conflict with the United States. Reuters reported on Thursday that Iraqi troops were laying mines near the Kuwaiti border when they were intercepted by U.S. Marines. There have been other reports that Iraqi forces were laying mines around Kirkuk in the north and elsewhere in the country.
"There is no justification for using this appalling weapon," said Jody Williams, ICBL Ambassador and co-winner with the ICBL of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. "Like chemical and biological weapons, any use of antipersonnel mines for any purpose is both illegal and repugnant to the civilized world," said Williams. Former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and others have referred to antipersonnel mines as "weapons of mass destruction in slow motion."

Neither Iraq nor the United States is among the 146 governments that have joined the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which prohibits use, production, transfer and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines. But the ICBL believes that any use of antipersonnel mines is prohibited by customary international humanitarian law, because they are inherently indiscriminate weapons whose limited military benefits are far outweighed by the long-term cost to civilian populations.

Iraq has been a significant producer and exporter of antipersonnel mines in the past, and has been notable for its complete lack of involvement in global efforts to eradicate the weapon. Current U.S. policy is to join the Mine Ban Treaty in 2006 if suitable military alternatives have been found. However, the United States has deployed at least 90,000 antipersonnel mines to the region and incorporated them into war plans.

Iraq already suffers greatly from landmines laid in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the Iraq-Iran War and previous conflicts. Landmines have been killing and maiming hundreds of Iraqi civilians every year, and new minefields will only add to these woes. The United Nations has suspended its major mine clearance program in northern Iraq. Once there is peace, landmines will greatly complicate the task of reconstructing Iraq, and will pose dangers to returning refugees and to the provision of humanitarian assistance and deployment of peacekeepers.