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Study shows that landmines remain silent menace in Bosnia-Herzegovina

26-03-1998 News Release 98/12

Geneva/Budapest - A new ICRC/UNHCR-commissioned study on the impact of landmines in Bosnia-Herzegovina shows that although armed hostilities between warring factions officially ended in December 1995, mines continue to have severe human, medical, social and economic consequences.

The study, entitled "The Silent Menace: Landmines in Bosnia and Herzegovina" , reports that every month landmines kill or injure 30-35 people, 80% of them civilians. The presence of these deadly weapons is hindering reconstruction, severely reducing food production and diverting resources needed to rebuild society. It is expected that the number of mine accidents among refugees and displaced persons will increase during 1998, as people return to their homes along the Inter-Entity Boundary Line - the most heavily mined area in the country. So far, only a small percentage of mine-contaminated land has been cleared according to humanitarian standards. Most minefields remain unmarked.

The study also provides an overview of the response to the country's mine problem and offers recommendations as to how the task can be accomplished more effectively. It recommends that mine clearance be guaranteed future funding, that attention be focused on identifying and marking mined areas, and that priority be given for clearance of land most needed for agricultural production and economic recovery. Mine-awareness programmes should be better coordinated and set up in host countries for returning refugees, donors should be firmly urged to commit themselves to improving physical rehabilitation clinics, and greater efforts should be made to address the psycho-social needs of mine victims.

The study was made public today in the Hungarian capital Budapest prior to the opening of a major regional conference on anti-personnel mines. As part of this conference, the ICRC is hosting a seminar on the human costs and military utility of anti-personnel mines for senior defence and foreign affairs officials from 19 central and eastern European countries. The organization hopes that the conference will help promote adherence to the Ottawa treaty, a new instrument of humanitarian law banning the production, transfer, stockpiling and use of anti-personnel mines.