Interview: Mary Wareham, advocacy director, Arms Division, Human Rights Watch
Shreerupa Mitra-Jha | December 3, 2016
How effective is the Mine Ban Treaty since most of the big states like the US, Russia, India, China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are not yet signatories to it?
With 162 state parties, the Mine Ban Treaty encompasses more than 80 percent of the countries in the world. The 35 states that have not banned landmines nonetheless are almost all complying with key provisions of the treaty by not using anti-personnel mines, ceasing production, and destroying stockpiles. The greatest challenge to the treaty comes not from the countries yet to ban these weapons but from non-state armed groups making and using victim-activated improvised explosive devices, which fall under the definition of anti-personnel mines prohibited by the treaty.
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?
US responsibility for clearing landmines and explosive remnants of war from Vietnam has been described as part of a “growing moral obligation” and president Obama affirmed that when he visited Lao PDR in September. There is an expectation that those who produced, exported and used them should contribute funds towards clearance and victim assistance. The US says it seeks to assist all affected countries regardless of where the weapons came from. Its officials say “we support these programs not just because it’s the right thing to do from a humanitarian perspective; we support them because they are in the best interests of the United States.”
The framework provided by the Mine Ban Treaty emphasises national ownership of the problem by countries affected by mines and explosive remnants. Libya and Syria have not joined the Mine Ban Treaty, while Ukraine and Yemen have. We are not aware of state parties using anti-personnel landmines in Libya, Syria, or Ukraine, while Houthi forces in Yemen have laid anti-personnel mines in 2016.
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