November 2, 2011

With so many people trying to flee the violence in Syria by crossing the Lebanese border, we fear there could be many civilian casualties from these mines. The Syrian army must stop using antipersonnel mines immediately, and should remove those already planted.

Kasia Derlicka, Director of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines

 The International Campaign to Ban Landmines released the statement below on November 2, 2011. Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the ICBL.

(Geneva) – The Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) is highly disturbed by reports that Syrian government forces have laid antipersonnel mines along the Lebanese border. The ICBL condemns all use of this inhumane weapon

“There is absolutely no justification for the use of these indiscriminate weapons by any country, anywhere, for any reason,” said Kasia Derlicka, Director of ICBL.

The first reports of new mine-laying by Syrian forces surfaced over the weekend. A Syrian official was quoted as saying the mines are meant to prevent arms smuggling. Others have speculated the mines are intended to prevent citizens from fleeing the crackdown on anti-government protests in Syria.

“With so many people trying to flee the violence in Syria by crossing the Lebanese border, we fear there could be many civilian casualties from these mines. The Syrian army must stop using antipersonnel mines immediately, and should remove those already planted,” Derlicka added. One civilian casualty has already been reported.

The mines have reportedly been laid in several locations near the Lebanese border, close to Homs in Syria, site of much of the recent violence during the uprisings.

Syria is the fourth government reported to use antipersonnel mines in 2011, joining Libya (under Muammar Gaddafi), Israel, and Myanmar (Burma). Syria is thought to have last used mines during the 1982 conflict with Israel in Lebanon. Syria is not thought to be a producer or exporter of antipersonnel mines. The size and origin of its mine stockpile is not known.

Syria is not one of the 157 countries that have joined the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which comprehensively bans all use, production, trade, and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines.

“Syria’s disregard for the well-documented dangers that antipersonnel mines pose to civilians is horrifying. We call on the international community to condemn Syria for this activity,” Derlicka said.