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Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
Mine Ban Meeting Focuses on Victims
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January/February 2016

By Jeff Abramson

More than 15 years after bringing the Mine Ban Treaty into force, states-parties to the accord met late last year in Geneva at a gathering that celebrated continued success while recognizing that the goal of a mine-free world has not been reached and highlighting the ongoing needs of victims.

At the Nov. 30-Dec. 4 meeting, the parties also reiterated their condemnation of any use of the indiscriminate weapons.

More than 90 of the 162 parties to the treaty, also known as the Ottawa Convention, attended the meeting, where they welcomed statements from Finland that it had completed destroying its landmine stockpile and from Mozambique that it had finished clearing all known landmine contamination.

They also highlighted commitments to people affected by landmines with a high-level session on victim assistance on the first day of the gathering. Led by Princess Astrid of Belgium, a special envoy of the Mine Ban Treaty, the discussion included statements by survivors of mine accidents in Afghanistan, Colombia, Mozambique, Thailand, and Uganda who have become leading advocates of victim assistance. Throughout the week, many delegates reiterated the need for continued victim support and involvement implicit in a session-framing question that Astrid posed in her remarks. “[M]ore countries will follow the example of Mozambique and will become ‘mine free,’ but will they become ‘victim free’ as well?” she asked.

The treaty requires states able to do so to provide “assistance for the care and rehabilitation, including the social and economic reintegration, of mine victims,” a novel commitment for weapons-related treaties when it was opened for signature in 1997.

Also central to the treaty is its ban on so-called victim-activated landmines, which detonate due to “the presence, proximity or contact of a person.” Certain victim-activated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that have been the cause of many recent casualties, especially in Afghanistan, are considered to fall under the treaty’s definition of antipersonnel landmines. The treaty does not ban landmines detonated by remote control.

Since the treaty entered into force in 1999, very few governments have used landmines banned by the agreement. Forces in Myanmar, North Korea, and Syria—all states not party to the accord—used the weapons between October 2014 and October 2015, according to the annual Landmine Monitor report. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a civil society coalition, released the report just prior to the meeting.

The report also found that nonstate actors had used landmines or IEDs that act as landmines during the same period in 10 countries: Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, Pakistan, Syria, Tunisia, Ukraine, and Yemen. The last time the Landmine Monitor found nonstate groups using landmines in at least 10 countries was in 2006.

Parties addressed new use of landmines in the meeting’s final report, where they “condemned the use of antipersonnel mines by any actor.”

Ten states that are not treaty parties attended the meeting, with Sri Lanka indicating it might be the next country to join the accord. The United States, another nonparty, reiterated its policies, first announced in 2014, that ban the use of landmines outside the Korean peninsula and set a goal of “ultimately” acceding to the treaty. (See ACT, October 2014.)