Wednesday, April 05, 2006

4 April: First International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance

The figures are horrible. It is estimated by the UN that there are between 15,000 and 20,000 new casualties caused by landmines and unexploded ordnance each year. An estimated 110 million landmines are strewn across the world in more than 70 countries.

Yesterday was the first international day for mine awareness and assistance in mine action and there were some good reports on this occasion, highlighting the situation with landmines especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, where mines cause a particularly high death toll and are impeding reconstruction and peace process.

As I found no time for posting yesterday, I would like to now make a short remark on the legal situations concerning landmines, as our contribution to the event.

The Ottawa Convention (1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer or Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction) obliging states no longer to use, produce, stockpile and transfer anti-personal landmines has been ratified by 150 states, and thus binds a majority of states to abstain from all activities aggravating the problem. As many important states, however, have not ratified the treaty, it is more than questionable if customary law has yet evolved. According to the ICRC Study on State Responsibility (Jean-Marie Henckaerts/Louise Doswald-Beck, Customary International Humanitarian Law, Volume I: Rules, Cambridge 2005, p. 282) it has not.
According to that study, states are obliged under customary international law to use landmines with particular care to minimise their indiscriminate effects (p. 281), to record their placement, as far as possible (p. 283), and to remove or otherwise render them harmless to civilians at the end of active hostilities (p. 285).

Some way to go!!