ALERT – A Treaty against barbaric weapons | March 1, 2016

The first ban on a conventional weapon in the history of disarmament, the Ottawa mine ban treaty entered into force on 1 March 1999. Handicap International for the universalisation of the Mine Ban Treaty Handicap International played a decisive role in this historic advance in international humanitarian law. But the fight against these weapons, of […]

The first ban on a conventional weapon in the history of disarmament, the Ottawa mine ban treaty entered into force on 1 March 1999.

Handicap International for the universalisation of the Mine Ban Treaty

Handicap International played a decisive role in this historic advance in international humanitarian law. But the fight against these weapons, of which 80% of casualties are civilians, goes on.

© J-J. Bernard / Handicap International
A team of Handicap International’s deminers preparing to demine land in Casamance, Senegal © J-J. Bernard / Handicap International

The treaty, which bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines, has been a major success. A total of 162 States have signed the treaty over the past 20 years. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the number of new casualties has fallen fivefold, from 20,000 to under 4,000 in 2014[1]. In the last five years alone, 1,000 square kilometres of land have been demined and almost 1.5 million anti-personnel mines have been destroyed.[2]

But we need to remain vigilant. Thirty-five States, including the United States, China and Russia have not signed the treaty. Around the world, 57 States and four territories are still contaminated by anti-personnel mines[3]. In a recent worrying development, there has been an increase in the use of “homemade” improvised explosive devices as mines by non-State armed groups in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

 Finish the job: the fight against landmines needs to continue

The fight against mines can be won, as shown recently by Mozambique, which declared itself officially mine-free in September 2015. Handicap International played a major role in this achievement by decontaminating 16 million square metres of land between 1998 and 2015.

© Till Mayer / Handicap International
Demining side near the village of Mukuwanyama, Congo. © Till Mayer / Handicap International

Since 1999, a total of 28 States parties to the treaty have declared themselves mine-free. Because casualties continue to need assistance, care and special equipment even after a country has declared itself mine-free, victim assistance will form an important component of mine action in the future.

Handicap International is conducting clearance operations, risk education, victim assistance, or advocacy actions in 43 countries, including in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine. Between 2010 and 2015, the organisation cleared 71 million square metres of land – twice the surface area of Brussels. By conducting surveys to identify and mark hazardous areas, Handicap International helped clear thousands of additional square metres of land.

[1] For 2014, the Landmine Monitor 2015 recorded 3,678 mine/ERW casualties

[2] http://www.the-monitor.org/media/2152583/Landmine-Monitor-2015_finalpdf.pdf

[3] Idem


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