Interview: Loren Persi, global victim assistance coordinator, Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor
Shreerupa Mitra-Jha | December 3, 2016
How effective is the Mine Ban Treaty since most of the big states are not yet signatories to it?
The Mine Ban Treaty has created a very strong norm on the prohibition of the use of landmines. Actually, 80 percent of the world’s countries [are signatories to] the Ban Treaty and acting on it. Even among those relatively few states that have not yet got on board the treaty, use is extremely rare. As we see in 2015-16 there were only three such states. So I would say that the treaty is enormously effective. In these times of conflict, compared to the 1990 the contrast in terms of both use of mines and casualties is dramatic, and the treaty in purpose and principle can take the credit for effectively preventing greater suffering and catastrophe for civilian populations.
Can you elaborate a bit for our readers from country experiences the long-term dangers of landmines? Reports say some of the IEDs from World War II are still blowing up.
Landmines and other explosive remnants from past conflicts including those in the 1960s and even WWII do remain persistent hazards and require clearance. That’s one reason why landmines had to be banned, because not only are they unable to discriminate between civilians and combatants at any time, they also remain causing death and injuries even long after conflicts have ended.
Your report says that India, along with Pakistan, Russia, China and the US, is among the biggest stockpilers of landmines. There is also a listing of India, Pakistan, Myanmar and South Korea as active producers of landmines. So where are these weapons most frequently used since none of these states are in direct conflict with any other state, except, perhaps, Russia with Ukraine?
So strong is the mine ban norm that most countries not parties to the treaty, the ones that wanted to keep the option to produce anti-personnel mines open, don’t actually do so. And those even fewer states that are most likely producing mines, India, Pakistan, and South Korea, with the exception of Myanmar, are not using them. Those countries with stockpiles of anti-personnel mines would do better to join the treaty and ensure the full destruction of stockpiled mines – the consequences of use are too great and the international stigma against using mines is very strong. In the general public opinion, they are no longer considered a legitimate weapon.
There has been a whopping 75 percent increase in casualties from landmines in 2015 over 2014. Where has the sharpest increase been and by which countries or NSAGs?
The increase in recorded casualties is raising an alarm, a wake-up call really. More action is needed to clear existing minefields and help the victims and to more widely enforce the principles of the ban. The sharpest increases in mine/ERW casualties were recorded in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen in armed conflicts. Many landmine casualties in Syria in 2015 were identified during extensive survey of conflict-injured persons from Syria, including Syrian refugees from the neighbouring countries. The vast majority of casualties in Libya were wounded people registered at hospitals in Tripoli. Databases on mine/ERW casualties do not attribute responsibility to a user or perpetrator, but the seeming increase in use of improvised mines by NSAGs in the most affected countries – and here I am also thinking of Afghanistan – appears to have definitely contributed to the current situation.
Is there an ethical responsibility of state parties involved in conflicts in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Ukraine to help clear up fields after an active conflict is over?
All countries have both moral and normative responsibilities to ensure the protection and safety of affected populations and assist the victims, those involved in conflicts, those with contamination and casualties and the rest of the concerned international community. States parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, including Yemen and Ukraine, also have treaty-based responsibilities to clear mines, help victims and understand the extent of the problem in order to address their demining obligations by meeting completion deadlines.
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