The Mine Ban Treaty: Showing the Way Forward in Efforts to Ban Cluster Munitions

Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone. As the world moves closer to a new treaty to ban cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians, the Mine Ban Treaty provides a solid example of how committed governments can successfully cooperate to eradicate inhumane weapons, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) said today.


01 Mar 2008 22:12:00 GMT
Source: International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Antipersonnel Mines and on their Destruction (Mine Ban Treaty) entered into force on 1 March 1999. Eighty per cent (156) of the world's states have adhered to the Mine Ban Treaty and the stigma attached to the use of antipersonnel mines means that in 2007 only two governments - Burma and Russia - and a handful of non-state armed groups employed these weapons.
The same humanitarian concern that led to a ban on antipersonnel mines is now informing the process to prohibit cluster munitions. Negotiations for a new treaty to ban cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians will take place in Dublin, Ireland, in May 2008.
"We want governments to show the same courage and vision and negotiate a strong and comprehensive treaty where the lives of civilians are not traded in for military or economic interests," said Sylvie Brigot, ICBL Executive Director.
"Like landmines, cluster munitions wreak indiscriminate suffering and devastation to civilians, and just like with the Mine Ban Treaty, states must not to give in to the pressure of those arguing for loopholes, exceptions or reservations," Brigot added, referring to efforts by some governments to weaken the proposed treaty text during the recent Wellington Conference on Cluster Munitions (18-22 February 2008).
Nine years after the Mine Ban Treaty's entry into force, international rejection of antipersonnel mines is all but universal and great strides are being made in the implementation of provisions calling for the clearance of mined areas, the destruction of stockpiled mines and the assistance to victims.
"It is imperative that States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty continue to spare no effort, individually and collectively, to maintain the existing levels of compliance with treaty obligations and allow no slipping of standards," Brigot warned.
While the Mine Ban Treaty remains a healthy mechanism, some areas of concern have recently emerged. The three countries required under the treaty to destroy their stockpiles of antipersonnel mines by 1 March 2008 - Belarus, Greece and Turkey , each of which has stockpiles of over one million - appear set to miss their deadline, as does Sudan, whose deadline is 1 April.
"Missing stockpile destruction deadlines with no reasonable explanation - as appears to be the case for Greece - will set a dangerous precedent and hurt the credibility of the treaty as well as of the states concerned," said Tamar Gabelnick, ICBL Treaty Implementation Director. "The ICBL urges these countries to do everything they can to complete stockpile destruction as close to the treaty-mandated date as possible, and to be completely transparent about the reasons for the delays and the progress toward finishing their obligations."
Compliance with deadlines for mine clearance is also an emerging concern, as a large proportion of countries due to complete this task by 2009 are not expected to meet their obligation and to request a deadline extension.
"The treaty has been a qualified success in promoting mine clearance. The destruction of many millions of mines has saved countless lives and thousands of square kilometres have been returned to productive use," said Stuart Casey-Maslen, Final Editor of the Landmine Monitor, the ICBL's project monitoring compliancy with the Mine Ban Treaty.
"But progress in several States has been disappointing, and in a small number it has been unacceptable," he added, citing the case of Venezuela where clearance operations have not started yet, and justifications put forward by the authorities appear completely unsatisfactory.
An ongoing concern is also the provision of comprehensive assistance to landmine survivors, estimated by Landmine Monitor Report 2007 at 473,000 people worldwide. In all of the most heavily affected countries, from Afghanistan to Cambodia, from Iraq to Angola, victim assistance is still lacking, and is insufficient to have a meaningful and lasting impact on the lives of survivors and their families.
Background The Mine Ban Treaty was opened for signature in Ottawa, Canada, on 3-4 December 1997. Treaty obligations include: Art. 1 - a prohibition to use, produce, stockpile or trade antipersonnel mines, as well as assisting or encouraging anyone involved in these activities; Art. 4 - the destruction of stockpiled antipersonnel mines within four years of the treaty's entry into force for the concerned state; Art. 5 - the destruction of all mines from all mined areas under the state's jurisdiction or control, within 10 years. Art. 6.3 - the provision of assistance for the care and rehabilitation, and social and economic reintegration, of mine victims and for mine awareness programs.
Thirty-nine states have not adhered to the treaty yet. These include two states that signed the treaty in 1997 but have not yet ratified it (Marshall Islands and Poland), three out of five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, Russia, USA) as well as regional powers including India, Iran, Israel and Pakistan.

Von:, 01.03.2008

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