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Ottawa treaty becomes law

01-03-1999 News Release 99/10

Geneva (ICRC/Federation) - On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of mine victims and the millions who live each day in fear of those weapons, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies whole-heartedly welcome the entry into force of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction (the Ottawa treaty).

The treaty, which has become law more quickly than any previous multilateral arms-related agreement, represents a comprehensive response to the landmine crisis on the part of the 134 States that have now signed or acceded to it. The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement congratulates the 65 States that have become bound by the Ottawa treaty and appeals to the other 69 signatory States to do likewise as a matter of urgency. " The treaty represents the standard by which all efforts to deal with this humanitarian tragedy will be judged " , said ICRC Vice-President Eric Roethlisberger at a ceremony held at the United Nations'Geneva headquarters to mark the event. Mr Roethlisberger drew attention to the daunting challenges that lie ahead for States, international agencies and non-governmental organizations in ensuring that the treaty becomes binding worldwide and fully implemented in mine-affected communities. He committed the ICRC to doing its share in this regard.

" The task before us – to ensure rapid universalization and implementation of the Ottawa treaty – is a matter of high priority for National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies " , said MsAstrid N. Heiberg, President of the International Federation. " Th ose Societies continue to play a key role by advising their governments on national legislation needed to ensure swift implementation of the treaty's provisions and by keeping the plight of mine victims in the public eye. "

The ICRC is currently running 25 limb-fitting and rehabilitation programmes in 13 countries (Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia, Iraq, Kenya, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan and Uganda). Twenty-four ICRC projects in 12 other countries have now been handed over to local or international NGO

control, though many continue to receive financial and technical support from the ICRC. In a number of countries, the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, supported by their International Federation, care for mine-injured people through health, rehabilitation and social welfare programmes.

Between 1979 and the end of 1998, the ICRC manufactured over 130,000 artificial limbs, over 175,000 pairs of crutches and close to 9,000 wheelchairs. In 1998 alone, the ICRC manufactured over 11,500 prostheses; of these, more than 6,500 were for mine victims. During the same year it produced over 17,200 pairs of crutches and more than 700 wheelchairs.

In addition, the ICRC and National Societies are conducting mine-awareness programmes in several countries in order to reduce the number of incidents in mine-affected areas .