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In 2000 the intractability of violent conflicts demonstrated the role of weapons transfers in fueling brutal wars-and their tragic humanitarian consequences. The continuation of armed conflicts across the globe was marked by the terrible toll of high civilian casualties, mass displacement, and the widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure. In many cases, armed groups, including both government and rebel forces, routinely targeted civilians in clear violation of human rights and international humanitarian law. In Africa in particular, wars resisted resolution, and associated human rights abuses continued unabated. As the international community increasingly came to realize, unimpeded arms flows were an important part of the problem.

Arms shipments to the Horn of Africa fed an internecine border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, where fighting had already caused massive displacement of civilians and tens of thousands of mostly military casualties before an arms embargo was imposed and a cease-fire was agreed. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) the continuous flow of arms to the war's many participants helped to undermine a 1999 peace agreement and prolong a highly abusive war. Former allies Rwanda and Uganda turned their foreign-supplied guns on each other in DRC, leading to hundreds of civilian deaths and injuries. In Burundi, the lack of so much as a pledge to halt weapons purchases, together with other factors, raised concerns that a shaky, hard-won peace deal would not last, and that as a result civilians would continue to fall victim to abusive armed forces.

In Angola a peace process intended to end a longstanding, brutal war instead brought only disillusionment. Poorly enforced sanctions, including embargoes on arms and diamonds, did little to curb the Angolan rebels' ability to terrorize innocent civilians. In Sierra Leone, a 1999 peace accord crumbled when rebels who were

supposed to have disarmed instead captured hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers, seizing their weapons and holding them hostage for weeks. After May 2000, the rebels who had long targeted civilians also turned their weapons against peacekeepers and pro-government forces. As in Angola, a neglected arms embargo in Sierra Leone (as well as neighboring Liberia) allowed rebels to use diamond revenue to amass weapons and ammunition with which to commit horrific atrocities.

As arms flows fed conflict in Africa and elsewhere, the search for solutions to this grave problem took many forms. Governments, often acting through multilateral organizations, focused on imposing new sanctions or cracking down on illicit arms trafficking by tightening controls on arms brokers. They also acted against the illicit trade in diamonds that, in some cases, facilitated illicit arms sales. Civil society groups, many of them joined in a global campaign to tackle the proliferation of small arms, supported such measures, but also argued for concerted action to further regulate the legal trade in weapons and specifically prevent weapons transfers to areas of violent conflict.

Antipersonnel Landmines

Overall, global progress toward the complete elimination of antipersonnel landmines continued at an impressive pace. Extensive use of mines in the conflicts in Chechnya and Kosovo were disturbing reminders of how far there was to go. Between November 1999 and October 2000, the number of nations ratifying the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Antipersonnel Mines and On Their Destruction (Mine Ban Treaty) grew from eighty-seven to 107. At the time of this writing, a total of 139 countries had signed, ratified, or acceded to the treaty.

The treaty's intersessional work program, established in May 1999, was proven highly successful. The five Standing Committees of Experts met regularly to identify areas of concern and develop plans to ensure swift and effective implementation of the treaty. Their work served to facilitate better coordination and to spur progress globally on the range of mine issues. In September 2000, the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty was held in Geneva. States Parties, in close cooperation with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), developed an extensive action program for the coming year. Human Rights Watch headed the official delegation of the ICBL to this diplomatic conference.

Parties to Amended Protocol II on landmines of the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), which only restricted certain types of use of some antipersonnel mines, held their first annual conference in December 1999. The United States made a number of proposals, primarily related to antivehicle mines. A formal review conference of the CCW was scheduled for late 2001. For the fourth straight year, governments were unsuccessful in placing antipersonnel mines on the agenda of the Conference on Disarmament.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalition of more than 1,400 nongovernmental organizations (NGO)s in more than ninety countries, continued to play its lead role in promoting a comprehensive ban on antipersonnel mines and more resources for mine clearance and victim assistance programs. The ICBL was extensively involved in the intersessional work program, and Human Rights Watch was the primary liaison to the key Standing Committee dealing with General Status and Operation of the treaty, as well as the Standing Committee on Stockpile Destruction. The ICBL continued to develop its Landmine Monitor system-the unprecedented initiative marking the first time that civil society groups monitored a disarmament or humanitarian law treaty in a systematic and coordinated way. The Landmine Monitor network grew to 115 researchers in ninety-five countries. Human Rights Watch was the lead organization in developing, coordinating, and implementing the Landmine Monitor system.

In September 2000, the ICBL released the 1,100-page Landmine Monitor Report 2000, with information on every country of the world with respect to mine use, production, stockpiling, trade, mine clearance, and victim assistance. Human Rights Watch served as the coordinator, editor, and publisher of the report. The report found that since the Mine Ban Treaty entered into force in March 1999, virtually every indicator of progress was positive: decreasing use and production, a near complete halt to trade, more than 22 million stockpiled mines destroyed by at least fifty nations, increased funding for mine clearance, more land returned to communities, and decreasing numbers of mine victims in heavily affected nations. However, Landmine Monitor identified eleven governments that had apparently used antipersonnel mines in this period, including treaty signatories Angola, Burundi, and Sudan (none of which had ratified the treaty), as well as at least thirty rebel groups.

As part of its efforts to get all governments to ratify or accede to the Mine Ban Treaty, and to promote effective implementation of the treaty, the ICBL hosted or co-hosted with governments a number of regional conferences (in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Malaysia, and Slovenia), as well as national seminars and workshops (in India, Iran, Japan, Nepal, Nigeria, and the U.S.). ICBL members also undertook advocacy missions to Kosovo, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates, in addition to meetings at the United Nations in Geneva and New York.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000

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