(New York) -- Eighteen Eighteen countries destroyed their stockpiles of antipersonnel mines in the past year, according to the annual global report by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), released today in Washington, D.C.

In a year full of encouraging progress in the battle against antipersonnel mines, other highlights included a marked decrease in use of the weapon around the globe, and a sharp increase in funding for mine clearance.

The 826-page Landmine Monitor Report 2003: Toward a Mine-Free World documents compliance with the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, as well as progress and problems in eradicating antipersonnel mines in all countries.

Human Rights Watch gave the United States a mixed review in the Landmine Monitor Report 2003. Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the ICBL, and coordinates the Landmine Monitor initiative as well as contributing the chapter on the United States.

"We're pleased with the degree of progress around the world this year," said Stephen Goose, executive director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch. "But the United States could speed this progress if it showed more leadership on the landmine issue."

A total of 136 nations have ratified the treaty, which comprehensively prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of antipersonnel mines. Another 12 countries have signed but not yet ratified.

In this Landmine Monitor reporting period (since May 2002), at least six governments used antipersonnel mines, all non-signatories to the ban treaty: India, Iraq, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Pakistan, and Russia. This is a decrease from at least nine governments identified in Landmine Monitor Report 2002 and at least 13 governments in Landmine Monitor Report 2001. Armed opposition groups used antipersonnel mines in eleven countries, compared to fourteen the previous year.

In Afghanistan and Iraq, thirty-one U.S. soldiers were killed or injured by landmines and unexploded ordnance in 2002 and the first five months of 2003.

The United States apparently did not use antipersonnel mines in the Iraq conflict, although it deployed more than 90,000 mines to the Persian Gulf region for possible use in Iraq.

While the United States has apparently not laid new mines in the Afghanistan conflict, Human Rights Watch has discovered that U.S. forces are using minefields from the Soviet era as part of their perimeter defense at some locations in Afghanistan.

The United States remained the largest donor to international mine clearance programs, at $76.9 million in its fiscal year 2002. However, this sum represented a decrease of nearly $5 million from the previous year, and nearly $24 million over the last two years. The Bush Administration has yet to conclude the review of U.S. landmine policy begun in June 2001.

"The Bush Administration cannot seem to decide if it wants to play a leadership role in ridding the world of antipersonnel mines, or to reverse the progress of the past decade," said Goose. "U.S. participation in the Mine Ban Treaty would make a significant difference in securing the support of other non-signatories."

Ten countries have joined since the last annual report, including Afghanistan, one of the most mine-affected countries in the world. Belarus, with the world's sixth largest stockpile of antipersonnel mines (4.5 million), joined most recently, on September 3, 2003.

According to the report, more than 52 million stockpiled antipersonnel mines have been destroyed by 69 states, including four million in the past year.

For 2002, Landmine Monitor identified $309 million in mine action funding by more than 23 donors, a 30 percent increase from the previous year. Globally, funding for mine clearance has totaled over $1.7 billion since 1992, including $1.2 billion since the Mine Ban Treaty was opened for signature in 1997.

Among the report's most disturbing findings were:

  • Use of antipersonnel mines by the forces of Saddam Hussein in the lead-up to and during the 2003 conflict in Iraq. This was the only government to be added to the list of mine users compared to the previous year.
  • Greatly expanded use of antipersonnel mines by both government and rebel forces in Nepal, as well as the first admission by the government that it has produced mines. However, both sides stopped using mines following the January 2003 cease-fire.
  • Greatly expanded use of antipersonnel mines by guerrilla and paramilitary forces in Colombia, resulting in a sharp increase in civilian casualties.
  • The decision by Turkmenistan, a party to the Mine Ban Treaty, to keep 69,200 antipersonnel mines for training purposes. This should be considered a violation of the treaty, which permits retention only of "the minimum number absolutely necessary" for training purposes. Most states that have decided to retain training mines are keeping hundreds or a few thousand.

Encouraging developments among those not yet party to the Mine Ban Treaty include:

  • Greece and Turkey completed all the domestic procedures to join the treaty and their foreign ministers affirmed that their countries would submit simultaneously their respective instruments of adherence.
  • The parliament of Serbia and Montenegro passed legislation to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty on 20 June 2003.
  • In Burundi, a draft law for ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty was adopted by the Council of Ministers in March 2003 and by the Senate in June 2003.
  • In Sudan, in May 2003, Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail announced that the Council of Ministers had officially and unanimously endorsed the Mine Ban Treaty and had transmitted it to Parliament for ratification.
  • Russia surprisingly revealed that it destroyed 16.8 million stockpiled antipersonnel mines from 1996-2002. Previously it had only reported destruction of 1 million mines. In November 2002, Russia also stated for the first time that for the past eight years it has not produced or supplied to its troops PMN or PFM type mines, particularly deadly mines which have been responsible for innumerable civilian casualties around the world in recent decades.
  • Ukraine destroyed 405,000 antipersonnel mines between July 2002 and May 2003.
  • A number of countries formally extended or reconfirmed their moratoria on exports of antipersonnel mines, including China, Israel, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Turkey and the United States.
  • Latvia and Poland submitted voluntary transparency reports consistent with Article 7 of the Mine Ban Treaty as an indicator of their commitment to join eventually.
  • China significantly increased its contributions to international mine action programs.

Landmine Monitor Report 2003 is the ICBL's fifth annual report. Human Rights Watch, a privately-funded international monitoring group based in New York, coordinates the Landmine Monitor initiative and serves as chief editor for the annual report. On Monday, September 15, the report will be presented to the Fifth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Bangkok, Thailand. A 95-page Executive Summary, 13-page Key Developments , and 5-page Major Findings are also available at http://www.icbl.org/lm/2003. A total of 110 Landmine Monitor researchers in 90 countries systematically collected and analyzed information from a wide variety of sources for this comprehensive report.