Holding the Government Accountable

Landmines Remain a Threat

by Rachel Stohl

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) has released "Landmine Monitor Report 2002: Toward a Mine Free World." The report, the fourth produced in the annual series, provides a country-by-country analysis of mine use, production, trade, stockpiling, humanitarian demining, and mine survivor assistance. The ICBL initially undertook the Landmine Monitor Initiative in order to "monitor implementation of and compliance with the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, and more generally to assess the efforts of the international community to resolve the landmine crisis." One hundred fifteen researchers in 90 countries compiled the report, which was released to the Fourth Meeting of States parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Geneva Sept. 16.

The Mine Ban Treaty was opened for signature in December 1997. As of September 25, 2002, 129 countries have signed the Mine Ban Treaty, and another 16 have ratified it. While the majority of countries around the world have joined the Mine Ban Treaty, there are some notable exceptions to the community of nations committed to ending the destruction caused by these indiscriminate weapons. Among the noteworthy countries outside the Treaty are China, Russia, Pakistan, India, Israel and the United States. Countries the United States considers "rogue states," including Libya and Iraq, also have not joined the Mine Ban Treaty.

The United States is increasingly alone in its opposition to the Treaty. In fact, Finland is the only European Union country not to have signed or ratified the Treaty and the United States and Cuba are the only countries in the Western Hemisphere to be outside the treaty. The United States and Turkey are the only NATO countries not to have signed the Treaty.

Although much progress has been made with regard to eliminating landmines and their deleterious effects, the report describes suspected continued use of landmines by countries around the world. India and Pakistan have both laid tens of thousands of new mines, according to the report, as tensions between the two countries have increased. Burma and Russia are alleged to have used mines in the past year as they deal with internal insurgencies in their territories. Iran is also accused of having supplied allies in Afghanistan and other countries with mines, and forces in Nepal, Somalia, and Georgia were singled out for mine use in the last year. In Afghanistan, the report details landmine use by Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and Northern Alliance fighters during the war there in 2001. However, Afghanistan has now become the latest country to join the Landmines Treaty.

Mine casualties that in the past have been estimated at 26,000 per year, are now down to between 15,000 and 20,000 a year. The report attributes the decrease in casualties to increased mine-awareness and demining programs. Other significant advances include the destruction of approximately 34 million stockpiled anti-personnel landmines by 61 countries, including seven million in 2001. In addition, $1.4 billion has been spent on demining endeavors over the last ten years. The United States is the largest contributor to demining programs, donating $69 million alone in 2001. However, that total was $13 million less than the amount the United States spent in 2000, according to the Landmine Monitor report. Funding for demining programs in general fell $4 million in 2001. Although in some cases the programs are financially strapped, mine clearance does continue in 74 countries around the world.

The Bush Administration is currently undergoing a review of U.S. landmine policy. It is anticipated that the Bush policy will take a step back from former President Clinton’s commitment to join the Mine Ban Treaty by 2006. It is expected that the results of the landmine review will be released shortly.