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Anti-Personnel Landmines: One year later: ICRC renews call for ratification and implementation of Ottawa treaty

03-12-1998 News Release 98/48

It has now been a year since the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction was signed by 123 States in Ottawa, Canada. The number of ratifications (40) needed to bring the treaty into force was reached on 16 September 1998, in record time for an arms-related treaty. Yet landmines will continue to cause untold suffering until the treaty becomes universal and is implemented on the ground.

The ICRC once again calls on all States which have not yet done so to sign and/or ratify the treaty without delay. It also urges States which have not yet done so to adhere to amended Protocol II to the 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. This protocol restricts the use of anti-personnel mines for States that continue to employ them, as well as that of anti-vehicle mines, booby traps and other explosive devices which are not covered by the Ottawa treaty and have a severe impact on civilians. Amended Protocol II, to which 27 States are now party, enters into force on 3 December.

While welcoming the speed at which the Ottawa treaty has been ratified, ICRC President Cornelio Sommaruga stressed that " landmines pay no attention to treaties " . " It is only when States fulfil their obligation to clear mines, destroy stockpiles and assist victims that the treaty will begin to save lives " , said Mr Sommaruga, who pointed out that the real challenge was to mobilize the resources needed to implement the Ottawa treaty at national and international levels. " The tragic lesson to be drawn from the recent floods in Central America is that mines can go on maiming years after they have been laid " , sai d the ICRC President. " They can also travel to areas many kilometres away. Every day counts. "

A total of 131 States have now signed the treaty and 55 have ratified it. The treaty will enter into force on 1 March 1999 for the 40 States that ratified it by 16 September and six months after ratification for other States. Once the treaty has entered into force, States will have four years to destroy existing stockpiles, which 11 States have already done, and 10 years to clear all mines from the ground. The first meeting of States Parties is to be held in May 1999, in Maputo, Mozambique.

Having set up three new prosthetic/orthotic centres in mine-infested countries in 1998, the ICRC now operates 22 such facilities in 11 countries - Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia, Iraq, Kenya, Rwanda, Tajikistan and Uganda. The ICRC also conducts mine-awareness programmes in Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, teaching people living near mined areas how to avoid life-shattering accidents.