Unacceptable Risk: The deliberate targeting of deminersPosted: March 31, 2014
Article 8.2(b)(iii) of the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court (ICC) identified the act of “Intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a humanitarian assistance or peacekeeping mission in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, as long as they are entitled to the protection given to civilians or civilian objects under the international law of armed conflict” as a war crime for which the ICC would have jurisdiction (Rome Statute, pdf; German Law Journal). On this, the week we observe the annual International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance (United Nations), it is important to recognize the fact that deminers not only face the very real risk of an accident in the line of their work, but deminers have also become a target of those who would wish to prevent peace and development. Too many deminers have been abducted, attacked, injured and killed in the line of duty. This must stop.
Last week, Afghan extremists targeted the guest house of the demining and development organization, Roots of Peace, and with bombs and guns, sought to end their commitment to turn “mines into vines.” In defiance, Roots of Peace “remains resolved to helping Afghan farmers nationwide to improve their incomes and create a stable economy” (Roots of Peace; Washington Post). We should follow the example of Roots of Peace and recommit to landmine clearance and mine risk education and call upon the international community to prosecute those who would hinder this important work.
What follows is a brief and by no means comprehensive list of attacks upon deminers over the last decade:
- 14-Mar-14 Afghanistan 1 adult, 1 child killed in attack on Roots of Peace guesthouse in Kabul.
- 21-Jan-14 Afghanistan 54 deminers from the HALO Trust abducted by Taliban near Herat; freed without injury by “police operation”
- 1-Nov-13 Mozambique Two deminers with Handical International shot by RENAMO members in attack on convoy traveling through Sofala Province.
- 2-Jul-13 Afghanistan Deminer working for Mine Clearance Planning Agency killed in Kandahar by NATO airstrike.
- 19-Jun-13 Somalia Two South Africans from Denel Mechem, contracted to do mine action in Somalia, were killed in an Al Shabaab attach on a United Nations compound in Mogadishu.
- 18-Jun-13 Yemen Six deminers and three soldiers were kidnapped by armed tribesmen in the southern province of Abyan.
- 9-May-13 Afghanistan 11 deminers with Mine Detection Center abducted in Nangarhar, local warlord “Sherwali” accused of crime.
- 3-May-13 Senegal Twelve deminers from South Africa’s Denel were abducted by MFDC rebels from the Cesar Badiate faction. All demining halted for six months. Three women were released after a couple of weeks; the nine men were released after two months.
- 23-Apr-13 Afghanistan In Meiwand, 9 deminers kidnapped by Taliban, held for one week and then released unharmed.
- 28-Apr-12 Sudan Two employees of the United Nations Mine Action Service and two employees of Denel Mechem were arrested by the Sudanese Army and accused of supporting the South Sudanese army. They were released, unharmed, six weeks later after negotiations involving former South African President Thabo Mbeki.
- 2-Apr-12 Afghanistan Three Deminers from HALO Trust kidnapped in Herat.
- 25-Oct-11 Somalia Three employees of the Danish Demining Group, a Dane, an American and a Somali, were abducted by “pirates” in northern Somalia while conducting mine risk education. The Somali was released almost immediately, but the Dane and American were held for three months for ransom. Both were freed by a US Special Forces operation that received White House attention.
- 9-Jul-11 Afghanistan 31 employees of the Demining Agency for Afghanistan abducted from Farah province. 4 deminers were killed (beheaded) before the other 27 were released after four or five days.
- 7-Jun-11 Afghanistan Deminer from the Mine Dog Detection Center killed in Logar province.
- 9-Dec-10 Afghanistan 18 employees from the Mine Detection Centre abducted from Khost province.
- 2-Dec-10 Afghanistan Seven deminers from the Organisation for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation kidnapped from Nangarhar province and taken to Pakistan’s Khyber region.
- 10-Apr-10 Afghanistan Five employees of the Demining Agency for Afghanistan killed and another 13 injured in Kandahar province by a roadside bomb.
- 5-Jul-09 Afghanistan 16 deminers abducted as they traveled between Paktia and Khost provinces
- 19-Aug-08 Afghanistan In Gardez province, 11 demines and two drivers from the Mine Detection Centre abducted; seven released within 48 hours.
- 28-Jun-08 Somalia A Dane, a Swede and a Somali were kidnapped from the International Medical Corps compound in Hodur. The Dane and Swede were conducting a mine action training assignment on the United Nations behalf.
- 24-Mar-08 Afghanistan Five deminers from Afghan Technical Consulting killed, seven others injured in convoy ambush in Jawzjan province.
- 6-Sep-07 Afghanistan Thirteen deminers from Afghan Technical Consultants abducted; all released one week later with no reported casualties.
- 12-Jan-06 Sri Lanka Two deminers from the Danish Demining Group kidnapped by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Jaffna Province.
- 11-Jan-05 Sudan Two deminers from the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action were killed by suspected members of the Lord’s Resistance Army
To absent friends.
Michael P. Moore
March 31, 2014