Friday, December 6, 2013
- The Mine Ban Treaty is being successfully applied throughout much of the world, although activists are concerned about the mining of the India-Pakistan border.
The number of victims of anti-personnel landmines worldwide has dropped from 25,000 a year in the mid-1990s to between 15,000 and 20,000 today, Stephen Goose, director of the disarmament division of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said Wednesday.
“The general state of the Mine Ban Treaty is very good,” he underlined.
However, he expressed concern that India and Pakistan “appear to be engaged in one of the largest landmine operations ever, certainly the most significant one since the Ban Treaty.”
At a press conference in Geneva, Goose discussed the results of an assessment by the International Committee to Ban Landmines (ICBL) of the treaty’s success and the threat along the frontier separating India and Pakistan.
The ICBL, an umbrella of around 1,400 groups from 90 countries, works at a local, national and international level for the eradication of landmines.
The ICBL was a key player in the global movement that successfully pressured dozens of countries to sign the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, better known as the Mine Ban Treaty, in 1997 in Ottawa.
The treaty, which entered into effect in September 1998, has so far been signed by 143 nations and ratified by 123. A total of 52 countries have not signed, including China, Egypt, Finland, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
The Mine Ban Treaty is considered the only successful outcome of multilateral disarmament negotiations in the past few years.
“At a time when so many international treaties and agreements seem to be under attack, we find that the Mine Ban Treaty continues to have great success, continues to make a very real difference on the ground, continues indeed on a daily basis to save the lives and limbs of civilians,” said Goose.
“As a result of the Mine Ban Treaty and the more general movement to eradicate anti-personnel landmines, we see that far fewer mines are going into the ground,” he added.
In addition, trade in landmines has significantly declined, both among countries that are party to the treaty and those which are not, he said.
Tens of millions of stockpiled landmines are being destroyed, which means they will never be planted in the ground “to kill and injure,” said Goose.
The states party to the treaty have already destroyed 25.5 million stockpiled landmines.
Production of landmines has also dropped significantly. In the mid-1990s, prior to the signing of the treaty, 55 countries manufactured the weapons.
Today, only 14 countries produce landmines, and several of those have not manufactured any for several years, although they “still maintain the option to produce them,” said Goose.
Another of the positive developments cited by the activist was an increase in funds available for mine clearance programmes, and for “the coordination of these activities, which is quite important in terms of enhancing efficency and effectiveness.”
Goose stressed that the annual number of victims remained an “appalling” figure, despite the “very meaningful decrease” seen since the mid-1990s, which reflects the success of “the ban movement and the Mine Ban Treaty, effective mine clearance programmes, effective mine risks education programmes, and fewer mines going into the ground, resulting in fewer victims.”
He also underscored that there are still hundreds of thousands of landmine victims around the world in need of assistance.
“But the trend is in the right direction,” he stated.
With respect to the India-Pakistan crisis, Goose admitted that the nuclear threat of the conflict between the neighbouring countries, both of which have nuclear weapons, must not be dowplayed.
But activists are also concerned about the mining of the border. There have been civilian casualties on both sides of the frontier, throwing into question the measures allegedly taken by India and Pakistan to protect their citizens from landmines, said Goose.
The fact that neither of the two countries has signed the Mine Ban Treaty does not justify their abuse of the international convention, he argued.
“India has acknowledged an effort to landmine almost the entire border,” and while Pakistan has relied less heavily on the weapons, landmines could be planted all along the 2,897-km border, in minefields up to 4.8-kms wide.
Mines have even been sowed on farmland after crops were planted and peasants were forcibly evicted, said Human Rights Watch.