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Lithuania: Saving lives and limbs by destroying mines

07-06-2004 News Release

Budapest (ICRC) – Today, 340 anti-personnel mines were blown up when Antanas Valionis, Lithuania’s minister of foreign affairs, pushed a button at a mine-destruction ceremony held at Pabradë military range in Lithuania.

Jacques Forster, vice-president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), was present at the ceremony and congratulated Lithuania on the progress made in meeting its obligations under the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines. The Convention entered into force in Lithuania on 1 November 2003. In the past year, Lithuania has destroyed a total of over 4,000 stockpiled mines.

" In destroying these anti-personnel mines, Lithuania is ensuring that none of these abhorrent weapons will ever make their way into the ground to maim or kill indiscriminately and to inflict horrific suffering " said Mr Forster. " By destroying these mines, you are saving lives and limbs. "

The ceremony opened a two-day seminar in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, on implementation of the Ottawa Convention in northern and eastern Europe. The seminar is organized by the Lithuanian government with support from Canada, Germany and the Netherlands.

The seminar brings together senior government officials from the region, as well as representatives of key inter-governmental organizations (EU, NATO, OSCE, UN), the ICRC and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines to exchange experiences implementing the treaty. The seminar also aims to promote adherence to the treaty among neighbouring States in the run-up to the First Ottawa Convention Review Conference, which will be held in Nairobi later this year.

Following Estonia's accession to the Ottawa Convention on 12 May 2004, five countries in the region remain outside the treaty: Finland, Latvia , Poland, Russia and Ukraine.

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction ( " the Ottawa Convention " ) is part of the international response to the widespread suffering caused by anti-personnel mines. Over 140 States have already become bound by the Convention, which entered into force five years ago.

The ICRC encourages all States party to the Convention to achieve the fullest possible implementation of the treaty before the Review Conference, including the completion of stockpile destruction and the adoption of national legislation.

 

Opening statement to the Vilnius Seminar by Mr Jacques Forster, Vice-President of the ICRC

 For further information, please contact:  

 Patrick Zahnd, ICRC Budapest, tel. ++36 20 919 52 44  

 Robert M. Young, ICRC Budapest (legal issues), tel. ++36 20 249 99 80