28 June 2014

Mozambique: Deadline to End Demining Globally Set for 2025

Maputo — The states that are party to the Ottawa Convention to ban anti-personnel land mines ended their Third Review Conference in Maputo on Friday with a declaration in which they committed themselves to step up efforts to clear mined areas and to assist the victims of land mines.

The target date set for concluding demining operations across the globe is 2025.

The Mozambican government told the conference it would finish mine clearance by the end of this year. The initial deadline for ending demining in Mozambique was 2009 (ten years after the country acceded to the convention), but the task proved quite impossible within that time frame.

Mozambique thus sought, and was granted, a five year extension.

“When the convention was adopted, the clearance of all mined areas in Mozambique was a distant prospect, and perhaps to some unachievable”, said the final press release from the conference. “Now, with the task almost complete, Mozambique has given hope to others that fulfilment of the Convention's time-bound obligations is possible”.

During the conference, Burundi announced that it had completed mine clearance. It thus became the 28th party to the convention to be free of landmines.

But 31 members of the convention are still clearing mined areas. Three African countries were granted extensions of their demining deadlines - the Democratic Republic of Congo until 2021, Eritrea until 2020 and Zimbabwe until 2018. In the Middle East, Yemen was granted an extension until 2020.

The Conference heard that 47.5 million stockpiled anti-personnel mines have been destroyed by the parties to the Ottawa Convention since it came into force in 1999.

Several countries - notably Belarus, Greece and Ukraine - had missed their landmine destruction deadlines, but all claim to be moving ahead. Greece says it will destroy its remaining 700,000 stockpiled mines in 2015, while Belarus “informed delegates that a new landmine destruction facility has opened to eradicate over one million stockpiled landmines”.

The release noted that “Belarus and Ukraine face a particular challenge in needing to destroy millions of the Soviet-era PFM-1 mines, which are extremely hazardous and pose serious technical difficulties”.

The legal trade in anti-personnel land mines has ceased to exist. Even countries not party to the convention no longer sell or buy landmines. The Conference noted that any remaining trade “is limited to a very low level of illicit trafficking”.

Nonetheless land mines are still being used in various conflicts. Since the Second Review Conference, held in Cartagena in 2009, mines were used by four countries not party to the convention - Israel, Libya, Myanmar and Syria. Armed rebel groups continued to use mines in Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Myanmar, Pakistan and Yemen.

There were reports of violations of the treaty by three signatories, Yemen, Sudan and Turkey. Yemen reported that the Military Prosecutor's Office has begun an investigation to identify those responsible, and Sudan announced the formation of an investigation commission to look into the reports. Turkey gave details of investigations into previous allegations of mine use, including a 2009 incident, in which seven soldiers died.

One clear sign of the impact of the Convention is the dramatic decline in the number of victims. In 1999, the number of people killed or maimed by mines or other unexploded ordnance was 26,000. Now the figure has fallen to less than 4,000 reported casualties a year.

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