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First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction - Maputo, Mozambique 3-7 May 1999

04-05-1999 Statement

Statement by Mr Eric Roethlisberger, vice-president International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Maputo, 4 May 1999

It is most fitting that the international community has come to Mozambique for this - the first meeting of States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction. Mozambique is a particularly appropriate setting because this country and this region know all too well the horrific consequences of anti-personnel mines. Southern Africa has long been regarded as one of the world's most heavily mined regions. Here in Mozambique, demining teams are at work in the countryside; mine awareness is being taught in the classrooms and rehabilitation clinics are producing and fitting artificial limbs. While much remains to be done before this country is free from the curse of these horrific weapons, coming here reminds us of both our accomplishments and of the daunting challenge of doing away once and for all with anti-personnel mines. 

It was only two months ago that the international community marked the entry into force of the Ottawa treaty. This instrument, which became international law more rapidly than any previous multilateral arms related convention, is a remarkable achievement. The Ottawa treaty represents the comprehensive framework for ending the man-made epidemic of landmine injuries. Its universal acceptance and full implementation are imperative if that goal is to be achieved.

We now move into a new phase of the Ottawa process : that of implementing the convention. This a formidable task and will demand much of all of us. Even in the best of circumstances, ending the scourge of anti-personnel mines will be a slow and difficult process. Given the need for effectiv e coordination, the ICRC firmly supports the proposal to establish an intersessional process, within the framework of the convention, through which issues of mine action will be addressed at working level.

Since the signing of the Ottawa treaty in December 1997, the ICRC has tried to do its part to encourage universalization and implementation while continuing its field work to alleviate the suffering of those in mine-affected countries. The ICRC has promoted the Ottawa treaty by hosting and providing substantial support for regional conferences such as those held last year in Budapest, Moscow, Dhaka, Mexico City and Beirut. Later this year, the ICRC will be organizing a meeting on anti-personnel mines for States of south Asia which will be hosted by the Government of Sri Lanka. To promote greater understanding of the Ottawa treaty, the ICRC has produced a travelling exhibition explaining its provisions which is available in English, Spanish and Arabic. We are happy to invite you to view the English version which is currently on display in the tent at the Polana Hotel. We have also produced a short video outlining the treaty's scope and obligations for military personnel, demining experts, parliamentarians and others involved in the Convention's implementation.

In the field, the ICRC continues to carry out mine awareness programmes and provide assistance to mine victims and other victims of war. It currently conducts mine awareness in Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Georgia and in the region of Nagorni Karabach. Surgical assistance and physical rehabilitation programs are being provided or supported by the ICRC in 22 mine affected countries. Two new rehabilitation centres have opened in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 1998 the ICRC provided and fitted prothesis to over 7,000 mine victims. The ICRC has also been cooperating with the World Health Organization to develop an integrated public health approach to the treatment of mine victims.    

The ICRC would like to take this opportunity to draw the attention of States Parties to a potential threat to the purpose of this Convention. As States prohibit the use of anti-personnel mines by their armed forces, many are likely to employ anti-vehicle mines with anti-handling devices as an alternative. The ICRC is concerned that increased use of certain anti-handling devices will endanger civilian populations. Of specific concern are devices which will trigger the mine's detonation through the innocent passage of a person over or near the mine or through inadvertent or accidental contact with the mine itself. This threat is particularly serious with regard to remotely delivered mines which lie on the ground. In such cases the anti-handling device can cause the anti-vehicle mine to function as an anti-personnel mine. A range of experts consulted by the ICRC believe that anti-handling devices can be designed in such a manner so as to limit the danger to innocent civilians. The ICRC calls upon all States to examine the technical characteristics of existing and proposed anti-handling devices and to ensure that they are designed so as to minimize the risks of detonation through inadvertent or accidental contact. 

Finally, the ICRC would like to voice concern about the reports of new use of landmines in some countries. There is clearly a need for a collective response from States Parties on this issue. This concern is particularly acute when such use involves a signatory State. The ICRC urges the conference to send a clear message that anti-personnel mines are no longer an acceptable weapon of warfare and remind any signatory State using them that such use is contrary to the spirit and purpose of the Ottawa treaty.

During the sessions of this conference being held later this week, the ICRC wi ll actively contribute and provide practical materials on victim assistance and national legislation. These papers are intended to assist States with their implementation efforts. The ICRC will also be distributing an informal paper on the issue of anti-handling devices. This paper will explain in further detail our concerns about the increased use of such devices and identify some of the systems which States should consider examining.

With the entry into force of the Ottawa treaty the focus now turns to the practical work of eliminating anti-personnel mines. The results of this meeting will lay the ground for the treaty's implementation in the years to come. It was the plight of mine victims and people living in mine-affected communities which led most of the world to reject anti-personnel mines as a weapon of war. But in communities throughout the world people await tangible results in the form of cleared fields, unhindered travel, physical rehabilitation and socio-economic re-integration. Progress in achieving their goals and preventing the laying of new mines will be the scale against which the success of our actions will be measured.

 Ref. LG-1999-065-ENG