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Since the international treaty to ban antipersonnel mines took effect in 1999, millions of landmines have been destroyed, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines said today in a new five-year survey.

The 1,300-page survey “Landmine Monitor Report 2004: Toward a Mine-Free World,” documents compliance with the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, as well as efforts to eradicate antipersonnel mines in all countries. This year’s report, the sixth in the annual series, is a special edition produced in anticipation of the treaty’s first Five-Year Review Conference (known as the Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World). Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), which received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, and is the lead agency for the Landmine Monitor project.

More than 37 million stockpiled antipersonnel mines have been destroyed. The use and production of antipersonnel mines around the world has plummeted. Legal trade in the weapon has virtually ceased, and more than 1,100 square kilometers of mine-affected land have been cleared. In many of the most heavily mined countries, landmine casualty rates have fallen dramatically.

“The Mine Ban Treaty has already proven to be more than beautiful words on paper. It is making a real difference in saving lives and limbs around the world,” said Mary Wareham, senior advocate in Human Rights Watch’s Arms Division and global coordinator of the Landmine Monitor initiative.

Progress in the past years has been tempered by use of antipersonnel mines by government forces in Burma, Georgia, Nepal and Russia, and by policy decisions by the United States to abandon its goal of joining the Mine Ban Treaty and by Finland to further delay its accession.

There are now 143 states party to the Mine Ban Treaty. An additional nine countries have signed but not yet ratified. Since last year’s Landmine Monitor Report, nine countries have become States Parties, including Burundi and Sudan, which are significantly mine-affected nations where both government and rebel forces have been accused of laying mines in recent years; Greece, Turkey, Belarus and Serbia and Montenegro, mine-affected nations with very large stockpiles of antipersonnel mines (more than 10 million combined); Estonia, Guyana, and, most recently in June, Papua New Guinea. Several other countries have indicated they will join in the near future, including Brunei, Ethiopia, Latvia, Ukraine and Vanuatu.

“The U.S. and other countries that continue to refuse to join the Mine Ban Treaty can only be seen as part of the problem not part of the solution to the landmine crisis,” said Ms. Wareham. Others that have not joined include most of the countries in the Middle East, most of the former Soviet republics, and many Asian states.

In February, the United States abandoned its long-held goal of eventually eliminating all antipersonnel mines and acceding to the Mine Ban Treaty. Instead, following a two and one-half year policy review, it became the first and only nation to assert that it intends to maintain certain types of antipersonnel mines indefinitely.

The power of the mine ban movement is reflected in the fact that many of the governments that are not yet party to the Mine Ban Treaty are in de facto compliance with the treaty, or are taking significant steps consistent with the treaty. Many have formal moratoria or bans on export of antipersonnel mines, and several have stopped production. Some have partially destroyed stockpiles, and many are providing resources to help clear mined land and assist mine survivors.

The total of four governments using antipersonnel mines in the 2003/2004 reporting period compares to 15 governments using antipersonnel mines in the 1998/1999 reporting period. Only Russia and Burma have used antipersonnel mines regularly since 1999. Of the more than 50 countries known to have manufactured antipersonnel mines in the past, all but 15 have officially halted production, and several of the 15 have not produced in a number of years. A de facto global ban on the trade of antipersonnel mines has been established and held firm since the mid-1990s.

“One of the greatest success stories of the Mine Ban Treaty is that 65 countries have completely destroyed their stockpiles, collectively destroying more than 37 million antipersonnel mines,” said Stephen Goose, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Arms Division and chief editor of the Landmine Monitor report.

Compliance by the countries that have ratified the Mine Ban Treaty has been very impressive, but not absolute or uniform,” said Goose.

Only 40 states have adopted national legislation to fully implement the treaty. A small number of states have failed to provide any of the required transparency reports. The ICBL has consistently raised questions about how some states parties interpret and implement certain aspects of Articles 1, 2 and 3. Particular issues of concern here include joint military operations with forces who may use antipersonnel mines, foreign stockpiling and transit of antipersonnel mines, mines with sensitive fuzes and antihandling devices, and the permissible number of mines retained for training or development purposes. The ICBL has pointed out that some states parties have diverged from the predominant legal interpretation and predominant state practice on these matters.

A total of 110 Landmine Monitor researchers in 93 countries systematically collected and analyzed information from a wide variety of sources for this comprehensive report. This unique civil society initiative constitutes the first time that nongovernmental organizations have come together in a sustained, coordinated and systematic way to monitor and report on the implementation of an international disarmament or humanitarian law treaty.

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