Responding to Violations of the Mine Ban Treaty

In just under four weeks governments, civil society and landmine survivors will gather in Maputo, Mozambique for the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty.  During the Conference, the attendees will review progress in landmine action since the last review conference in 2009 in Cartagena, Colombia and lay out the plan for the next five years.  In the last of four weekly posts, I discuss some of the issues I would like to see addressed in Maputo and beyond.

 

In Ukraine in recent weeks, Russian forces (or local militias allied with Russia) have laid landmines along the Crimean and eastern borders of the country.  Russia has rightly been called out for placing landmines in the territory of a country – Ukraine – which has signed and ratified the Mine Ban Treaty.  What has not been mentioned is the fact that Ukraine has been in violation of the Mine Ban Treaty since 2010 because Ukraine has failed to destroy its stockpile of anti-personnel landmines as required by the Treaty.  Ukraine still has millions of mines that require destruction and while NATO and the European Union have provided assistance to Ukraine to destroy these mines, but the obligation is Ukraine’s (The Monitor). Each year, the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty have requested updates from Ukraine on the status of stockpile destruction and continue to note Ukraine’s ongoing violation of the Treaty, but no further actions have been taken beyond the public shaming.  Within the Treaty itself there is no provision for sanctions against a state party in violation of the Treaty.  The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) will issue press releases about violations when they occur and in conjunction with Meetings of States Parties which reminds all of the violations, but the ICBL has no sanctioning power.  There are, however, provisions for addressing violations of the Treaty by individuals.

All States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty are required to have national legislation which provides for the “imposition of penal sanctions, to prevent and suppress any activity prohibited” (Article 9, AP Mine Ban Treaty).  In Afghanistan, New Zealand soldiers were allegedly instructed to set “booby traps” and “trip wires” which would have violated the Mine Ban Treaty.  The soldiers who were so instructed refused the orders, and while charges were filed against the commanding officer, those charges were dropped due to lack of evidence.  If the charges were true, this would have represented a significant violation of the Mine Ban Treaty by one of the Treaty’s strongest proponents (New Zealand Herald).  In response, the States Parties could activate investigation under Article 8 of the Treaty, but no matter the outcome of the investigation, the States Parties could do little to punish New Zealand.  However, New Zealand has passed the Treaty-mandated national legislation, the 1998 Anti-Personnel Mines Prohibition Act, which may have provisions for punishing individuals who would violate the Mine Ban Treaty.  Thus, the individuals who violate the Treaty may be punished, but States are not subject to any penalty.

The Article 9 “National Implementation Measures” are only effective if they are in fact implemented and punish Treaty violations.  In Turkey, whose existing laws were deemed sufficient to comply with the requirement of national implementation measures, a general who ordered the use of anti-personnel landmines was convicted after seven soldiers were killed by one of the emplaced mines, but “No mention was made of a violation of the ban on antipersonnel mines in the court’s proceedings, findings, or judgment” (The Monitor).  Thus the crime was not landmine use, but negligence on the part of the general; Turkey’s national implementation measures failed to punish the illegal use of mines.

For states and individuals that violate the Mine Ban Treaty, there should be a standard sanction.  The Treaty’s supporters (of which I am certainly one) will point to the stigma against landmine use that has emerged over the last two decades, but a stigma against use has not been enough to end all landmine use.  As long as soldiers (whether part of a nation’s formal armed forces or member of a rebel group) continue to see a military utility in landmines, we can expect to see new use of mines.  Something stronger than the stigma is needed to prevent and deter use.  An official sanction might be to only allow a state in violation to participate in official Treaty meetings as an Observer and not as a full State Party.  This would prevent a state in violation from having any decision-making authority over other States Parties.  It would also highlight the existence of the violation at Meetings.  For individuals that violate the Treaty, the State Party whose citizens had violated the Treaty would be forced to make a formal statement of the violation at a Meeting of States Parties and declare what punishment was meted out.  These sanctions would complement the stigma against landmine use while also increasing transparency about violations.

Michael P. Moore

May 27, 2014

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The Month in Mines, April 2014

The annual observance of the International Day of Mine Action and Awareness on April 4th generates many news stories about the current conditions of mine-affected countries and this year was no different.  The April 4th stories tend to be positive in tone and so there is a striking discord between the stories about demining progress and reports of new mine accidents that occurred in April.  Especially troubling news came out of Mozambique where political tensions have spilled into violence that threatens the impressive gains there; in Tunisia where landmines are being used by insurgents on Mount Chaambi; in South Sudan where false accusations of landmine use were levelled against the United Nations mission; and Somalia where landmine casualties continue to mount.  Additional positive news was seen as Burundi declared itself landmine free (again).

 

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s landmine clearance began soon after the new country emerged from the civil war with the former Rhodesia regime in 1980.  The clearance continues today after suffering numerous fits and starts.  The majority of the more than one million landmines lie along the borders with Zambia and Mozambique and were place by Rhodesian soldiers to prevent liberation fighters from entering the country.  The minefields were mapped by Rhodesian soldiers, but those maps were lost in the transition from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe, a loss that has hampered clearance and caused loss of life and limb.  Best estimates suggest almost 4,000 people have been killed or injured by landmines and over 120,000 cattle have been killed over the last three decades.  Even areas that were thought to be safe from landmines can become contaminated by the frequent flooding in the mine-affected regions which disturb and displace the mines.

Currently, three international NGOs, the HALO Trust, Norwegian People’s Aid and the International Committee of the Red Cross are assisting with the landmine clearance.  Mukumbura, the most mine-affected province in Zimbabwe was described by HALO as “resembling ‘a country in the immediate post-conflict phase,’ with mines found close ‘to houses, schools and clinics’” suggesting how little clearance has actually taken place. “The younger generations in Mukumbura area are victims of a war that ended years before they were born.”  The government of Zimbabwe frequently pleads poverty due to international sanctions (brought about because of Zimbabwe’s illegal farm seizures) and only allocates US $500,000 of the requested $2 million for mine clearance, reflecting the government’s “misplaced priorities.”

Zimbabwe has requested yet another extension, its fourth, of its Mine Ban Treaty-mandated deadline to clear the remaining minefields.  The current deadline in January 1, 2015, which will not be met, and the proposed deadline is January 1, 2018 and yet another extension request will be made once the full extent of landmine contamination is known (Southwest Radio Africa; Sunday Mail).

 

Mozambique

In June Mozambique will host the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty and the country is hoping to show off its best side at that time.  There is a strong push within the country to clear the remaining minefields which are mostly along the border with Zimbabwe.  With some 20,000 landmine survivors across the country, the scale of the landmine problem in Mozambique was once thought nearly insurmountable, but Mozambique and its donors feel that completion of all demining tasks is possible this year.  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) took advantage of the April 4th observances to highlight to role of women deminers in clearing Mozambique’s landmines (All Africa) the director of Mozambique’s national demining institute, Alberto Augusto, highlighted the progress to date: 200,000 mines cleared and a casualty rate of only four persons in 2012.  However, Mr. Augusto also described one of the greatest challenges facing Mozambique’s landmine clearance program may not be the landmines or the terrain, but politics.  Because the opposition party RENAMO has returned to the “bush” and its roots as a rebel organization, violence in Sofala province, one of the few remaining mine-affected provinces, has halted landmine clearance there, especially after two deminers were injured.  Mr. Augusto said that if a ceasefire could not be agreed with RENAMO by May 1, then Mozambique would likely miss its clearance deadline of December 31, 2014 (Voice of America).

 

Western Sahara

The Saharawi Mine Actions Coordination Office (SMACO) hosted a mine risk education workshop in conjunction with the Saharawi Campaign to Ban Landmines, the Saharawi Association of Landmine Victims and Action on Armed Violence.  The workshop informed government and civil society leaders of the landmine risks in Western Sahara arising from the separation wall, the berm, erected by the Moroccan government (All Africa).  The need for such a workshop was unfortunately confirmed later in the month when a 29 year-old Saharawi was killed by a landmine outside of the city of Smara while he was herding camels (All Africa).

 

South Sudan

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was accused by the government of South Sudan of arming the rebels loyal to ousted Vice President Riek Machar with landmines and anti-aircraft weaponry. The accusation arose when South Sudan’s army seized a UNMISS convoy that was carrying weapons for the UN peacekeeping force in the country.  The convoy did have guns and riot suppression gear (tear gas and gas masks) but the accusation of landmines was completely false and reckless as was the accusation that UNMISS was arming the rebels (All Africa).  In fact, the United Nations has one of its largest landmine clearance programs in South Sudan and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has been doing heroic work since the start of the civil war in South Sudan in December 2013.  UNMAS continues to clear mines from routes and has been investigating use of cluster munitions and new use of landmines by some of the rebels.  UNMAS has also provided safe haven for some displaced persons in its compounds (Relief Web).  The government of South Sudan does recognize the threat of landmines and has also been educating school children about the threat and has called on all parties to the current conflict to refrain from landmine use (eNCA).

 

Sudan

While three-quarters of the minefields of Sudan have been cleared so far, much work remains to be done both in terms of clearance and assistance to survivors because “the number of victims is underestimated in Sudan.”  Some 35 million square meters of land, mostly in Sudan’s eastern states, have yet to be cleared and ongoing conflict in Blue Nile and South Kordofan States prevents access to clear minefields there.  Sudan’s current landmine clearance plan places work in those two states on hold until the security situation permits access and instead focuses all efforts on other areas.  That plan, approved by the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty requires additional support from the international community as Sudan estimates the cost of mine action at $10 million per year for each of the next three years (All Africa).

In an interesting comment by Sudan’s vice president, Hassabo Mohamed Adbul Rahman, Sudan reiterated its commitment to the Mine Ban Treaty but called on “signatories to stop landmines manufacturing due to their hazardous effects.”  I’m hoping something was lost in translation or the Vice President was insufficiently briefed before his remarks because banning manufacture of landmines is one of the most basic requirements of the Treaty (Sudan Vision Daily).

 

Tunisia

Tunisia Map

Tunisia has seen a large number of artisanal or home-made landmines being used in the vicinity of Jebel (Mount) Chaambi on the Algerian border.  Islamist rebels have used the mountain as a base and placed landmines to kill or injure Tunisian soldiers who are trying to dislodge them.  At least 16 mines have exploded over the last year including several in April.  On April 10th and 11th, three mines exploded and according to official reports, the first and third mines damaged military vehicles but did not injure the soldiers riding in the vehicle.  The second mine injured a civilian when his tractor struck a mine (All Africa; All Africa).  In addition to the mines on Mount Chaambi, two mines on nearby Mount Alhaanbe injured eight soldiers, two severely on April 11th and the Tunisian army appears to have tried to minimize the coverage of the incident (All Africa).  A week later, a soldier was killed and two more wounded when their vehicle struck a mine on Mount Chaambi (All Africa; Reuters; All Africa).

 

Somalia

In the semi-autonomous region of Somaliland, three people were killed and two other injured by an anti-personnel landmine in Qorilugud.  The mine was attributed to forces loyal to Somalia’s former dictator Siad Barre and dated to the 1980s (Somaliland Sun).

Somalia’s prime minister, Adbiweli Sheikh Ahmed declared the capitol, Mogadishu, free of landmines, saying, “we must have the ability to give our youth a better life towards greater accomplishments. We also have a responsibility to clean up and eliminate destructive items” (All Africa).  Mine clearance is urgently needed in other parts of Somalia.  In Dhobley district in the south of the country, a landmine killed three people and injured others when an AMISOM vehicle struck a mine (Somalia Focus).  In Galgadud, four people were killed and three injured by a mine (Radio Barkulan).

 

Libya

In Ajdabiya, a man was injured by a landmine, losing his leg and damaging his pelvic bone (Libya Herald).  To address the extensive landmine contamination in Libya, civilian volunteers have taken on the dangerous job of minefield clearance.  As one of the volunteers noted, the location of minefields is not known, instead “We discover them when a landmine explodes.”  The volunteers have formed an organization, “No to Landmines and War Debris,” and received some training from mine action operators through observation and assistance.  Now then, I have a very hard time faulting these unbelievably brave men who are doing this work, but they need to be following International Mine Action Standards and accurately documenting their work.  Unfortunately, several of the volunteers have been killed in the line of work, two as recently as March, but they have cleared over 23,000 landmines.  If there are mine action operators who can help these volunteers out, please do so (All Africa).

 

Angola

As part of the April 4th observances, Angola reported that is has cleared over seven billion square meters of landmines since 1996 (All Africa).

 

Burundi

Burundi declared itself free of landmines and will make the formal announcement at the Third Review Conference.  In 2011, Burundi declared itself mine-free but discovered some additional, previously undocumented minefields after that declaration and so, per the Treaty’s requirements, Burundi had to complete its landmine clearance again.  Burundi is the 11th African country to complete its demining obligations (Xperedon).  In addition to clearing mines within its own territory, Burundian soldiers have been trained on landmine clearance in advance of their deployment as part of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia.  With support and expertise from the US African Army Command, Burundian peacekeepers will be prepared to sweep a road suspected of landmines or improvised explosive devices (Defence Web).

 

Mali

A French soldier serving in Operation Serval in northern Mali was slightly injured by a landmine near the town of Tessalit (Mali Web).  Two weeks later, seven Malian soldiers were injured by a mine in the Gao region of northeastern Mali.  The mine was recently laid and blamed upon Islamist fighters who had been ousted by the French forces (AFP).

 

Ethiopia

The United Kingdom used April 4th to highlight their policy paper on landmine clearance, “Clearing a Path to Development,” and described how the UK is helping to clear landmines from Ethiopia.  According to the UK, some 2 million landmines pollute Ethiopia with mines dating back to 1935’s invasion by Italy with the worst contamination along the borders with Eritrea and Somalia (Foreign and Commonwealth Office).

 

Egypt

Also related to the United Kingdom, a lawyer in Egypt has filed a complaint against the UK for refusal “to pay Egypt over 100 billion British pounds in compensation for landmines planted in the Alamein area of the Western Sahara to target German tanks, which ultimately led to the deaths of thousands of Egyptians.”  The landmines in Egypt’s western desert “impede the opportunities of development in the area.”  Any response to the complaint from the British government or the office of British prime minister David Cameron who was named in the complaint was not reported (Cairo Post).

The enormous scale of landmine contamination in Egypt has drawn the attention of NATO which is trying to address issues related to the fact that at least 10% of the mines in Egypt are at least 1.5 meters underground as a result of shifting sands in the desert.  Traditional detection systems, specifically metal detectors and dogs, are not reliable at such depths and many minefields are also full of other metal fragments.  Egyptian and NATO scientists have been experimenting with ground-penetrating radar and dual-sensor technologies to increase the accuracy of mine detection systems.  This will lead to better, safer and faster demining of the mine-affected areas in Egypt (NATO).

 

African Union

As part of the African Union’s observance of April 4th, the AU donated “55 handheld mine detectors, 55 protective aprons and 55 visors to Ethiopia, Mauritania, Sudan and Zimbabwe” is support of the AU’s goal of a landmine-free Africa (Defence Web).

Michael P. Moore

May 23, 2014


The Future of Survivor Assistance, Again.

In just under five weeks governments, civil society and landmine survivors will gather in Maputo, Mozambique for the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty.  During the Conference, the attendees will review progress in landmine action since the last review conference in 2009 in Cartagena, Colombia and lay out the plan for the next five years.  In the third of four weekly posts, I discuss some of the issues I would like to see addressed in Maputo and beyond.

 

The survivor assistance obligation is one of the revolutionary elements of the Mine Ban Treaty and has set a global standard for inclusion of survivor assistance provisions in all succeeding disarmament treaties (the Cluster Munitions Convention, the Arms Trade Treaty and Protocol V to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons).  It is also the most complicated facet of mine action and the one that will endure long after the last mine is cleared from the ground.

In conversations with US government officials, I have heard what amounts to a “rising tide lifts all ships” argument about how development assistance focused on poverty alleviation and health sector reform addresses the needs of landmine survivors.  That is simply wrong.  Mozambique has had years of impressive GDP growth and made astonishing reductions in mortality and morbidity due to preventable causes, but landmine survivors will say that they have not benefited from those national-level improvements.  Measuring progress by GDP growth and mortality and morbidity rates misses out on the needs of the individuals and specific groups (I think it is important to note that many marginalized groups have been excluded from economic and health gains, witness China where hundreds of millions of people have been lifted into a “middle class” but millions remain desperately poor).  To address the needs of landmine survivors, especially in countries where landmine clearance is complete or nearly complete, programs need to target survivors and be outcome-driven.  Unfortunately, these facts have been known and recognized for many years. At the First Review Conference, 2004’s Nairobi Summit for a Mine-Free World, the States Parties recognized that:

[Survivor assistance] does require that a certain priority be accorded to health and rehabilitation systems in areas where landmine victims are prevalent…

Assistance to landmine victims should be viewed as a part of a country’s overall public health and social services systems and human rights frameworks. However, within those general systems, deliberate care must be taken to ensure that landmine victims and other persons with disability receive the same opportunities in life — for health care, social services, a life-sustaining income, education and participation in the community — as every other sector of a society. Health and social services must be open to all sectors of society, including landmine victims and other persons with disabilities. (AP Mine Ban Convention).

And to ensure that survivors receive the assistance they need, “The States Parties have come to recognize the value and necessity of accurate and up-to-date date on the number of new landmine casualties, the total number of survivors and their specific needs, and the extent / lack of and quality of services that exist to address their needs in order to use limited resources most effectively.”

At the Second Review Conference to the Mine Ban Treaty, the 2009 Cartagena Summit for a Mine-Free World, the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty agreed that,

Victim assistance should be integrated into broader national policies, plans and legal frameworks related to disability, health, education, employment, development and poverty reduction, while placing particular emphasis on ensuring that mine victims have access to specialised services when needed and can access on an equal basis services available to the wider population.

And pledged to:

Collect all necessary data, disaggregated by sex and age, in order to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate adequate national policies, plans and legal frameworks including by assessing the needs and priorities of mine victims and the availability and quality of relevant services, make such data available to all relevant stakeholders and ensure that such efforts contribute to national injury surveillance and other relevant data collection systems for use in programme planning (AP Mine Ban Convention).

In preparation for the Third Review Conference, Colombia’s Vice President hosted the “Bridges Between Worlds” conference in April 2014 to highlight the linkages between disability-inclusive development and survivor assistance.  In the Summary report from that conference (AP Mine Ban Convention), the Chairperson called for:

All humanitarian and development efforts, and assistance for these efforts, should be inclusive of, and accessible to, persons with disabilities, including mine and other explosive remnants of war survivors. This means a twin-track approach of integrating disability into development programmes, supporting disability-specific programmes to address targeted needs, and promoting and enabling the active participation and contributions by persons with disabilities in these efforts.

And in my report on victim assistance in Mozambique published last year, I wrote specifically about the data problems that face landmine survivor assistance programming and called on the participants of the Third Review Conference to leverage the “data revolution” proposed by the Post-2015 development agenda:

The delegates to the Review Conference can take the opportunity to describe how survivor assistance specifically and mine action more broadly will support [the Post-2015 development] framework and craft the Maputo Action Plan to align with the framework. An aligned action plan would focus on the outcomes of survivor assistance, namely the escape from poverty and inclusion in society, and the mine action community can assume a monitoring and advising role on the inputs necessary to achieve those outcomes. The sea-change will be the shift from focusing solely on those inputs however, and tracking the outcomes. The mine action community can, through existing and emerging monitoring systems, also track outcomes for survivors and persons with disabilities. In order to track those outcomes however, a comprehensive baseline is needed: who are the survivors and persons with disabilities and what is their current economic position? The mine action community has recognized the need for a comprehensive baseline and the data revolution proposed under the Post-2015 framework creates the opportunity to push states to develop that baseline.

So really when we talk about the future of victim assistance at the Third Review Conference, what we are doing is fulfilling the promise made a decade ago in Nairobi and re-affirmed five years ago in Cartagena: that survivor assistance is part of a broader development program with targeted interventions for landmine survivors and other persons with disability and that these interventions will be tracked with accurate data and monitoring systems. If in 2019 we are still talking about the twin-track interventions and the importance of data, we will have missed an important opportunity to fulfill the pledge made to survivors in 1997.  Again.  The States Parties in Maputo must act on survivor assistance and not merely re-hash past pledges which have already been re-hashed.

Michael P. Moore

May 20, 2014


J’Accuse! Maintaining the Stigma against Landmine Use, Issue # 2 for the Review Conference

In exactly six weeks governments, civil society and landmine survivors will gather in Maputo, Mozambique for the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty.  During the Conference, the attendees will review progress in landmine action since the last review conference in 2009 in Cartagena, Colombia and lay out the plan for the next five years.  In the second of four weekly posts, I discuss some of the issues I would like to see addressed in Maputo and beyond.

 

Opposing sides to a conflict will hurl all kinds of accusations at each other.  In the last few months, I have seen three instances where parties to a conflict have accused their opponents of using landmines in order to gain some kind of leverage or advantage. The highest profile example has been in Ukraine where Russian forces (or at least Ukrainian forces allied with Russia) have placed landmines along the newly established border between the Crimea and Ukraine.  A second example occurred in South Sudan where a United Nations convoy was seized by the government of South Sudan. The convoy was found to be carrying weapons for a Ghanaian peacekeeping force.  The third example was in Mozambique where, in the midst of negotiations between RENAMO and the government of Mozambique, the spokesperson for the head of RENAMO accused the Mozambican army of laying landmines in the Gorongosa mountain range.  In each example, the veracity of the charges mattered less than the vitriol and energy created by the accusations.

The enduring legacy of the Mine Ban Treaty has been the stigma against the use of landmines.  Since the passage of the Treaty, fewer and fewer countries have made, exported or used anti-personnel landmines.  Now, only a handful of pariah states continue their use. The stigma has been effective, but to remain effective, new use and new allegations of use of mines must be responded to in short order.  Also, the limits of the stigma need to be recognized; not everyone cares about their international reputations as we shall see.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines has been monitoring the Crimea situation very closely and recently published this update on allegations of Russian use of landmines (ICBL).  In addition, the New York Times reporter C.J. Chivers has spotted and photographed some hastily posted warning signs of landmines in Ukraine (Instagram).  The ICBL has confirmed that the mines used by Russia (or its allied Ukrainian separatists) are anti-vehicle landmines and not anti-personnel mines.  The distinction is important because the Mine Ban Treaty only bans anti-personnel mines, not anti-vehicle mines so if Russia is using anti-vehicle mines on Ukrainian soil, Russia is not violating the Mine Ban Treaty (although it is probably violating other international laws…).  Also, Russia has not signed or acceded the Mine Ban Treaty so it cannot be in violation of the Mine Ban Treaty.  Russia has ratified Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons which requires all minefields to be marked and according to Ukrainian authorities, the Russian minefields are marked.

In Mozambique, the opposition party RENAMO, angered by perceived electoral biases against it, is trying to negotiate concessions from the government before the next parliamentary and presidential elections.  RENAMO is conducting these negotiations from the literal barrel of a gun after the party’s leadership announced a return to the “bush” and several attacks on government installations and civilian convoys through Sofala province.  RENAMO (the National Resistance Movement) fought the government of Mozambique in a bloody civil war in the 1970s and 1980s during which RENAMO was supported by the government of Rhodesia and the Apartheid government of South Africa.  RENAMO has been led by Afonso Dhlakama since 1979 and Dhlakama has run for Mozambique’s presidency four times and lost every time, to Joaquim Chissano in 1994 and 1999 and to Armando Guebeza in 2004 and 2009.  Dhlakama is widely expected to run (and lose) a fifth time in 2014 and his threats of returning to war may be in anticipation of that loss.

The government of Mozambique has offered concessions to Dhlakama and RENAMO, despite the attacks on civilians and government posts, but RENAMO has refused to demilitarize.  In addition to changes to the electoral laws, RENAMO has demanded several senior positions in a reconstituted Mozambican army, including the head of the armed forces.  In order to put international pressure on Mozambican government, in addition to the internal pressure from violence, RENAMO has accused the government of using “weapons of mass destruction” (All Africa) and landmines (Portuguese Independent News) in an attempt to kill Dhlakama and other RENAMO leaders.

The accusation of landmines is especially poignant in Mozambique as in recent weeks the province of Maputo was declared landmine-free and Mozambique is (or at least was) on track to be completely landmine-free later this year.  With the Third Review Conference being held in Maputo in June, any mention of landmines in Mozambique would have deep resonance among the population, but RENAMO’s accusations are a cheap stunt. Are there landmines in Sofala province and the Gorongosa mountains where Dhlakama is hiding?  Yes, almost certainly, but those minefields are decades-old remnants of the civil war and when civilian deminers tried to clear the landmines, the deminers were shot at by RENAMO members.  Since the shooting, in which two deminers were injured, all landmine clearance in Sofala province has been halted and the head of the National Demining Institute has said that if a ceasefire could not be secured by May 1 (it wasn’t), then Mozambique would be likely to miss its deadline of clearing all landmines in 2014.

On March 7th, soldiers from South Sudan’s army seized a United Nations convoy.  The convoy was carrying weapons for the Ghanaian peacekeeping force in South Sudan in direct violation of UN policy (peacekeepers’ weapons are to be shipped by air, not ground).  The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) did not deny the mistake and the head of the peacekeeping unit accepted responsibility.  Included in the shipment were gas masks and gas mask canisters in case the peacekeepers had to resort to the use of tear gas for crowd control (which Indian peacekeepers in Bor did when their compound was attacked).  The canisters resemble landmines to the untrained eye and immediately within South Sudan and amongst the Dinka diaspora, accusations flew against UNMISS and the United Nations.  On the state television channel, images of the canisters were played again and again with the reporters falsely referring to the canisters as landmines.  The government of South Sudan accused the UN of providing landmines to the rebels and several violent demonstrations against UNMISS erupted in Juba and around the country.

South Sudan is home to one of the United Nations largest demining programs and the UN has invested millions of dollars trying to clear landmines from the country.  Thousands of South Sudanese have been killed or maimed by landmines in the decades of was with Sudan which gave the accusation of new landmine use such resonance in the country.  UNMISS repeatedly denied the charges, but they stuck.  On social media, in traditional media and in the street, South Sudanese loyal to the government believed that the UN was willing to use banned weapons (other accusations against the UN included use of chemical weapons) against the government and in support of the rebels loyal to ousted Vice President Riek Machar.  The damage to the UN’s reputation in South Sudan is substantial and despite efforts to rebuild trust, the government of South Sudan has found the UN to be a useful bogeyman in rallying support so the government has encouraged the accusations.  This, despite the fact that the United Nations will likely be called upon by the government to feed millions of South Sudanese this summer.

So where does that leave us?  Sure, Russia is destabilizing Ukraine, but if Russia is willing to risk international sanctions for annexing the Crimea, why would it worry about accusations of landmine use?  It doesn’t, but the stigma still is important because it bonds together the activist community.  This is not the first time that Russia has been accused of using landmines.  The Russian army has extensively used landmines in its fight against Chechen separatists as well as using cluster munitions in the 2008 conflict against Georgia.  Russia has consistently brushed off these accusations and while Russia has acknowledged the humanitarian impact of landmines, it has also consistently asserted their military utility and retains the right to use anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines (The Monitor).  Therefore, while the stigma against landmine use has failed to sway Russian activity, the stigma keeps Russia and Russian separatists in Ukraine isolated and unites the opposition.  As long as Russia and its allies are willing to use landmines, they will find international support limited.

In Mozambique and South Sudan, the false accusations of landmine use had very different responses.  In Mozambique, the accusation went relatively unnoticed and because of the source and context, was not considered credible.  In South Sudan, the accusations led to violent protests in Juba and Melbourne, Australia and accusations by the government of South Sudan that the United Nations was trying to arm the rebels.  The vitriol and vehemence of the accusations forced UNMISS’s spokesperson to make several statements and press releases, but the initial anger stayed and the United Nations reputation as a neutral party to the conflict in South Sudan was greatly damaged.  In the weeks following the landmine accusations, UN bases in South Sudan came under fire by both government and rebel forces and hundreds of civilians who had sought protection at these bases were killed.

The efforts of the ICBL to document the accusations of landmine use in Ukraine by Russian forces are laudable, but equally important for the sake of maintaining the stigma against landmine use is to call out false accusations.  In Mozambique the false accusations of landmine had little impact, but RENAMO’s obstruction to landmine clearance deserves a strong rebuke. In South Sudan the false accusations of landmine use by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan has had a disastrous impact on the UN’s reputation and hard-earned trust.  Just check out the comments on the UNMISS Facebook page to see the contempt some have for the UN.  When the government of South Sudan made the accusations against the UN, only Norway stood up on behalf of the Mission whose leader is herself a Norwegian citizen (Sudan Tribune).

Repeated false accusations of landmine use will have the effect of the boy who cried wolf unless they are responded to and debunked quickly and authoritatively.  All allegations of landmine use should be investigated and actual use documented and false accusations called out.  Those who make false accusations, like RENAMO and the Government of South Sudan, should be subject to the same naming and shaming as those who use landmines, like Russia.  Falsely accusing an opponent of using landmines to gain leverage in a conflict is reprehensible libelous and RENAMO and the Government of South Sudan need to held to account for their false statements and the false statements of their supporters.

Michael P. Moore

May 12, 2014


Profile of Sudan’s JASMAR Human Security Organization

With nearly a decade and a half of experience, JASMAR Human Security Organization (previously the Sudanese Association for Combating Landmines) has a broad mandate to address Sudan’s extensive landmine contamination.  Even with the partition into Sudan and South Sudan, Sudan is one of the most mine-affected countries in Africa with contamination concentrated in the eastern states of the country.  JASMAR (the Arabic acronym for “Sudanese Association for Combatting Landmines) was founded in November 2001 and currently employs 55 people.  With origins in advocacy and landmine survivor assistance, JASMAR has recently been accredited, along with the Friends of Peace and Development Organization, as the only national organizations capable of demining.  JASMAR joins international operator the Development Initiative (TDI) and Sudanese government units, the National Demining Units (NDU), in landmine clearance.  JASMAR has been assigned clearance tasks in Kassala state for the near term and is expected to assist in the landmine clearance of South Kordofan state once the security situation allows.

 

JASMAR Demining Team

JASMAR has a long experience with demining and mine risk education (MRE) having served as a national partner to both Danish Church Aid (DCA) and Mines Advisory Group (MAG). JASMAR was one of the first Sudanese organizations, along with Operation Save Innocent Lives (OSIL), to participate in demining having been present at DCA’s cross-border demining training in 2002.  With MAG, the collaboration was two-way with MAG providing expertise in manual and mechanical clearance and JASMAR providing expertise in delivery of mine risk education as well as personnel for the manual demining teams.

According to the United Nations Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (see below), JASMAR provides mine risk education in Red Sea, Kassala, Gedaref, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states where its 10 MRE teams have reached over 200,000 beneficiaries between 2012 and 2013.  Plans are in place to add MRE teams in South, West, Central and Eastern Darfur states in the near future.  JASMAR’s manual demining team has cleared over 379,000 square meters of land in just 8 months in 2013 in eastern Sudan with support from the United Nations Mine Action Services.

In addition to its mine risk education and landmine clearance activities, JASMAR is a survivor assistance provider.  JASMAR’s current executive director, Sami Ibrahim, said “The principal problem for [landmine] victims is the social gap and so it is important to develop socio-economic projects for them.”  In the run-up to the second review conference of the Mine Ban Treaty in 2009, JASMAR conducted a nationwide survey of landmine survivors to determine their needs and priorities.  This survey work was informed by advocacy work carried out by JASMAR in Blue Nile state and socio-economic reintegration efforts in Kassala state (JASMAR).

Outside of mine action, JASMAR’s projects include water, sanitation and hygiene programs and work with women and vulnerable children.  JASMAR has ongoing interventions in HIV/AIDS, Gender-Based Violence and community-based health care. From time to time, JASMAR has been called upon by its international partners to assist in emergency relief programs as in August 2013 when United Nations agencies provided emergency funding to JASMAR to respond to severe flooding in the Omdurman area of Khartoum.  In 2012, JASMAR’s work in security sector reform lead to the provision of reintegration support, including economic development activities like agricultural credits and small business start-ups, for thousands of demobilized soldiers in South Kordofan state.

Going forward, JASMAR has recommitted itself to mine action as a component of its human security portfolio, pledging “to continue addressing personal human security programs such as MA [Mine Action], mainstreaming of HIV/AIDs, gender and environment into its Mine Action programs, DDR [Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration], SALW [Small and Light Weapons] control, CCM [Convention on Cluster Munitions] and works towards alleviating poverty and preventing HIV/AIDS spread.”  A complicating factor in mine action in Sudan is the fact that “The number of victims is underestimated in Sudan, due to the lack of accuracy in the collection of data. There are incidents that are never reported.” (Deutche Welle). Also, the continuing insecurity in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states prevents landmine and UXO clearance there while also increasing the risk and contamination from explosive remnants of war.

 

Thanks to Hytham Malik, JASMAR’s Humanitarian Mine Action project Manager, for his contributions to this piece.

For more information about JASMAR, please visit their website at http://www.jasmar.net/

 

Michael P. Moore

May 7, 2014

 


New Mines and Old Mines: Issue # 1 for the 3rd Review Conference

In exactly seven weeks governments, civil society and landmine survivors will gather in Maputo, Mozambique for the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty.  During the Conference, the attendees will review progress in landmine action since the last review conference in 2009 in Cartagena, Colombia and lay out the plan for the next five years.  In the first of four weekly posts, I discuss some of the issues I would like to see addressed in Maputo and beyond.

 

Landmines kill and maim whether they are decades old or only days old.  While I would expect a lot of attention to be paid to reports of new landmine use in Ukraine, Mali and Tunisia during the Third Review Conference, the States Parties must not lose sight of the obligation to clear known and existing minefields. The States Parties should also address the alarming number of countries who have been unable to clear their minefields in what was believed to be a reasonable period of time.

Credible reports of new landmine usage have come out of Africa in the last year, including Mali, Tunisia, Sudan and Somalia, as well as around the world in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Myanmar and Colombia.  Many of these mines are likely “artisanal” or home-made landmines.  Reports of mass manufactured landmines, both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle, have come from Syria and Ukraine (by Russia or paramilitary units allied with Russia) in the last few months and from Sudan, Libya and Yemen in recent years. Casualties from and reports of these new mines generate headlines and attention, but the vast majority of landmine casualties and economic damage from landmine contamination comes from old mines and minefields.  New landmine usage presents a challenge to the Mine Ban Treaty and reinforces the need for universalization of the Treaty, but the old mines are a very real threat to hundreds of thousands of people.

At the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty, the States Parties will review and decide upon Article 5 extension requests from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.  Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty requires all States Parties to clear all known landmines within ten years of the Treaty’s entry into force for that country.  The process for requesting and receiving extensions was established at the Second Review Conference and so these requests are nothing new. In fact, the DRC, Eritrea and Zimbabwe have all requested and received extensions previously; Ethiopia’s request is its first.

The clearance of landmines is one of the most important parts of mine action.  Along with the destruction of stockpiled mines, only the clearance of every mine in every minefield will guarantee no future landmine casualties.  When the Treaty was negotiated, the ten-year deadline to clear all known minefields was recognized as ambitious for those countries with the greatest contamination, e.g., Afghanistan, Angola and Colombia, but well within reach of those with less.  Whether or not the negotiators believed DRC, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe could clear their mines within ten years is not known, but these countries have not helped themselves.  Eritrea and Zimbabwe have become isolated from the international community, Eritrea by choice when it expelled the international mine action operators, Zimbabwe by sanction when the government allowed and encouraged the seizures of farms by “war veterans.”  Ethiopia closed its civilian mine action authority, shifted all operations to the military (and appropriated the mine action authority’s vehicles for high-ranking soldiers in the process) reducing capacity in the country.  DRC’s issues are not necessarily of its own making as the civil wars and extended instability in the DRC have hampered landmine clearance efforts there.

However, in recent months, Zimbabwe and the DRC have both made improved efforts to complete their landmine clearance tasks.  Zimbabwe has been working with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the international demining organizations, Norwegian Peoples Aid and the HALO Trust, to increase the national capacity for demining.  The DRC, with support from the government of Japan, has conducted an assessment of all known minefields to determine, with greater accuracy, the actual scale of contamination in the country.  These efforts are reflective of Zimbabwe’s and the DRC’s recognition of their responsibilities under the Mine Ban Treaty.

Eritrea and Ethiopia (somewhat fitting that I would be able to link these two) both requested additional time to complete their tasks because they failed to prioritize demining in recent years.  Eritrea’s demining teams “participate in other outstanding development programs such as constructions, agricultural works and others” (AP Mine Ban Convention) and the country requests an additional five years, through 2020, just to complete the survey work, after which Eritrea will likely submit yet another extension request.  Ethiopia’s request notes that most of the remaining minefields are along the border with Somalia, in the Ogaden region, and were laid during the wars between Ethiopia and Somalia in the 1970s.  These areas are off-limits to civilians because of continuing unrest among Somali Ethiopians in the Ogaden so only the Ethiopian army is able to access it.  However, area is so unstable that the base camp for the army’s demining teams will be in Addis Ababa, some 500 miles or more away from the Somali border.  (It is worth pointing out that Ethiopian soldiers were recently stationed in the Somalian town of Beledweyne, less than 20 miles from the Ethiopia – Somalia border, as part of a peacekeeping force.)  With both countries, it’s not the scale of contamination that has required them to seek extensions, it’s the fact that neither government has put the appropriate emphasis on the task, just as Zimbabwe did not for many years until the ICRC and others offered to help out.

The problem of old mines is simple: if a country like Zimbabwe can request multiple extensions to its landmine clearance deadline, the most recent of which includes a promise that a future request will be submitted once the scale of landmine contamination is clear, does the landmine clearance obligation actually constitute a time-bound obligation?  With four extensions already granted and a fifth pending, what motivation does Zimbabwe or any other State Party to meet the existing deadline?  If Eritrea can refuse all international support for an extension request that they estimate will cost US $7.2 million, but then only allocate US $250,000 per year, then where is the political commitment to the process?  The extension process needs to be adjusted so that extensions cannot be granted in perpetuity and that they are realistic.  The HALO Trust has suggested that by 2023, landmines could be cleared from the most landmine-contaminated countries with a “slight” increase in current investments for demining.  That would include Cambodia, Afghanistan and Angola and if those countries can be cleared, then there is no reason why countries with fewer landmines, i.e., every other State Party, could not also be landmine-free by then.  So, let 2023 become the new standard.  At the Third Review Conference the States Parties can pledge that all landmines will be cleared from all member states by the Fifth Review Conference (which would, in fact, be held in 2024 giving all parties an extra year).

The problem of new mines is more complex because new landmine usage appears to be associated with new and ongoing conflicts.  Demining in conflict zones is difficult, but not impossible as Afghanistan proves (with the caveat that deminers deserve better protection than they have received at times).  Reports of new mine use allow humanitarian and post-conflict actors to respond rapidly to their presence once conflict subsides.  The attention reports of new mines receive can be used as an education opportunity about the continuing presence of landmines in countries that have been at peace for years.  Reports of new mine use also should be monitored as sometimes what are reported as new landmines may be old mines or not even mines at all.  Any new use of landmines challenges the effectiveness of the Mine Ban Treaty’s stigmatization of use and should be responded to swiftly.  Many, but certainly not all, countries do not want to be associated with indiscriminate and inhumane weapons and the “naming and shaming” of landmine users is often the most effective tool in the advocate’s arsenal.

Michael P. Moore

May 5, 2014