(New York) A marked reduction in the number of governments using antipersonnel landmines in the past year has been offset by widespread use by a few others, most notably India and Pakistan, according to a global report released today by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).
Since late December 2001, both India and Pakistan have emplaced large numbers of antipersonnel mines along their common border in what may be one of the largest-scale mine-laying operations anywhere in the world in decades.
The 922-page report comes during the five-year anniversary of the negotiations of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which comprehensively prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of antipersonnel mines. One hundred and twenty-five countries are party to the treaty and another 18 have signed but not yet ratified. The United States is among those that have not yet joined.
"A few holdout governments are undercutting the progress of all the rest," said Stephen Goose of Human Rights Watch, a founding member of the ICBL, which received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. "Three-quarters of the countries in the world have renounced the antipersonnel mine, and together they need to bring more pressure on the recalcitrant few."
Human Rights Watch is the coordinator and chief editor of the ICBL's Landmine Monitor Report 2002: Toward a Mine-Free World. It finds that in the most recent reporting period (since May 2001), the number of governments using antipersonnel mines dropped to nine, compared to at least 13 the prior year. Moreover, two of those nine--Angola and Sri Lanka--stopped mine use in 2002 and have not resumed.
The report also cites extensive ongoing use of antipersonnel mines by the governments of Myanmar and Russia (in Chechnya), and lesser-scale ongoing use by Nepal and Somalia. In addition, despite a declared use moratorium in place since 1996, Georgian forces apparently laid antipersonnel mines in the Kodori Gorge next to the Abkhazia region in 2001.
Human Rights Watch also condemned the use of antipersonnel mines by armed non-state actors in at least 14 countries in the past year. In Afghanistan, in the fighting following September 11, there were reports of limited use of mines and booby-traps by Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters, as well as the Northern Alliance. There were no instances of use of antipersonnel mines by the United States or coalition forces.
In another disturbing development, Iran, which ostensibly instituted an export moratorium on antipersonnel mines in 1997, has apparently provided mines to combatants in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Mine clearance organizations in Afghanistan are encountering many Iranian-manufactured antipersonnel mines dated 1999 and 2000.
Despite these instances of ongoing use and transfer, overall progress in eradicating antipersonnel mines continues to be impressive. "It is abundantly clear that the Mine Ban Treaty and the ban movement more generally are making tremendous strides in saving lives and limbs in every region of the world," said Goose.
Thirty-four million stockpiled antipersonnel mines have been destroyed by 61 countries, including seven million in the past year. In addition to the reduction in use, the number of antipersonnel mine producers has dropped from 55 to 14, while global trade in the weapon is now limited to a smattering of illicit or covert transactions.
The number of new mine casualties each year, estimated since the early 1990s at more than 26,000 per year, is now thought to be some 15-20,000 per year. Landmine Monitor identified 7,987 new reported casualties in 2001, roughly the same number as in 2000, but many casualties go unreported.
Governments have spent over $1.4 billion on mine clearance and other mine action programs in the past decade, including some $237 million in 2001. This is approximately the same amount as in 2000, marking the first time since 1992 that global mine action funding did not increase by a significant amount. The United States remained the largest donor at $69 million in 2001, but this represented a decrease of $13 million.
Eight countries became States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in the most recent Landmine Monitor reporting period, including three countries that have recently used antipersonnel mines but now reject the weapon--Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Eritrea-as well as regional leaders Nigeria and Chile. More than a dozen other governments have pledged to join in the near future, including Afghanistan, Greece, Indonesia, Turkey and Yugoslavia.
The Landmine Monitor Report 2002 is the fourth annual ICBL report, and contains information related to landmines for every country of the world. On Monday, September 16, the ICBL will present Landmine Monitor Report 2002 to diplomats attending the Fourth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Geneva. An Executive Summary is also available. A total of 115 Landmine Monitor researchers in 90 countries systematically collected and analyzed information from a wide variety of sources for this comprehensive report.
Human Rights Watch is a privately-funded international monitoring group based in New York. It coordinates the Landmine Monitor initiative.