Treaty makes land mines a weapon of past, group says

An estimated 4,000 people a year are still killed or wounded by land mines

In the 15 years since a global treaty prohibiting land mines took effect, the use and production of these weapons has nearly stopped, new casualties have plummeted, and more than two dozen countries once contaminated by land mines buried since old wars have removed them, said the report by the group, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Photograph: Luc Forsyth/Getty Images

In the 15 years since a global treaty prohibiting land mines took effect, the use and production of these weapons has nearly stopped, new casualties have plummeted, and more than two dozen countries once contaminated by land mines buried since old wars have removed them, said the report by the group, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Photograph: Luc Forsyth/Getty Images

Mon, Jun 23, 2014, 08:43

Despite the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, the armed uprising in Ukraine and turmoil in other hot spots in the Middle East and Africa, one of war’s most insidious weapons - anti-personnel land mines - have been largely outlawed and drastically reduced, a monitoring group said in a report released Monday.

In the 15 years since a global treaty prohibiting these weapons took effect, the use and production of the mines has nearly stopped, new casualties have plummeted, and more than two dozen countries once contaminated by land mines buried since old wars have removed them, said the report by the group, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

“The Mine Ban Treaty remains an ongoing success in stigmatizing the use of land mines and mitigating the suffering they cause,” said Jeff Abramson, project manager of Landmine Monitor, the group’s research unit. The group, which won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for its work, released the report to coincide with the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty, which convened Monday in Maputo, Mozambique, where representatives from its 161 signers and other participants will spend five days discussing how to further strengthen enforcement of the agreement.

Anti-personnel mines are hidden explosive devices that are buried in the ground and designed to be detonated when a person steps on or near them, causing indiscriminate death and grievous injury. They can lie dormant for decades, long after a conflict has ended. Many of their victims are children.

The United States, which was among the original countries to call for a treaty banning mines and has done much to help other countries purge them, has not signed the treaty. It is among the 36 countries that have not signed it and is the only NATO member outside the treaty. (Russia and China also have not signed.)

A US delegation is attending the Maputo conference only as observers. Human rights advocates criticize the United States for what they call a conspicuous lapse that may be dissuading other countries from joining the treaty. The Obama administration, which says it has been evaluating the treaty’s provisions since 2009, has issued conflicting signals about its intentions.

“It’s going to be embarrassing for the US to have to explain to the high-level officials at the summit meeting why it has been reviewing its land mine policies for five years without making a decision,” said Stephen Goose, executive director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch and chairman of the US Campaign to Ban Landmines, a coalition of groups that has been pressing the United States to join.