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Landmines and cluster munitions: a safer future within reach

03-04-2009 News Release 70/09

Geneva (ICRC) – As the world marks the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action on 4 April, millions of civilians in more than 70 countries live their lives in fear of weapons that keep on killing long after conflicts have ended, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said today.

" Anti-personnel mines, cluster munitions and explosive remnants of war claim thousands of lives and limbs each year and hinder post-conflict reconstruction and development in communities all over the world, " said Peter Herby, head of the ICRC's Arms Unit.

The International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action takes place at an important juncture in international efforts to end the suffering caused by these abhorrent weapons. The 156 States party to the Convention prohibiting anti-personnel mines (Mine Ban Convention) are preparing for the second major review of the treaty's implementation. There will be much to celebrate when they meet in Cartagena, Colombia, from 30 November to 4 December. Tens of millions of mines have already been destroyed, vast areas of land have been returned to communities for productive use and the number of new victims has fallen sharply.

However, 10 years after its entry into force, the first mine clearance deadlines under the treaty expire this year and a number of States Parties are struggling to clean mined areas and destruct stockpiles on time. Moreover, for most victims of anti-personnel mines, the treaty's promises of adequate care and assistance are still far from being fulfilled. At the Second Review Conference, States must therefore renew their commitment to completing clearance of mined areas as soon as possible and to ensuring the rights of disabled mine survivors to live full and dignified lives.

In addition to what it has achieved on its own, the Ottawa Convention has inspired another recent initiative to protect civilians from explosive munitions that pose a serious threat: in 20 08, more than 90 States signed a new Convention on Cluster Munitions. In addition to banning the production, use and transfer of cluster munitions, the treaty requires the destruction of existing stockpiles and the clearance of contaminated areas. It also contains the most far-reaching victim assistance obligations ever included in a treaty of international humanitarian law. The period ahead will be crucial to encourage States to ratify the new convention so that it becomes binding international humanitarian law and implementation can get under way.

The treaties prohibiting anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions provide a comprehensive response to the humanitarian consequences of these weapons and the promise of a future where affected communities can one day live without the threat of these weapons.

 
For more information, please contact:
  Camilla Waszink, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 3109
  Simon Schorno, ICRC Geneva, +41 79 251 9302