19 February 2008

On 8 February 2008, peasant Javier Benavides and his 12-year-old son died in one of the minefields scattered in the rural surroundings of Samaniego, in the southern Colombian department of Nariño. They were but the last two of 29 new landmine casualties – 23 injured, six dead – recorded in Colombia in the first 48 days of 2008.

As reported by the Colombian Campaign to Ban Landmines in a press release dated 18 February, in just over a month and a half, civilians have been involved in 17 separate accidents with landmines and unexploded ordnance. Accidents have been recorded across the country, in the departments of Córdoba, Nariño, Valle del Cauca, Santander, Sur de Bolívar and Caquetá.

In the rural areas of Samaniego municipality, Nariño department, where the two last casualties occurred, 800 families are confined to their homes, unable to move due to the mines planted by non-state armed groups along roads and in the fields. For the same reason, another 60 families were recently displaced to the urban area of Samaniego. ”Landmines and unexploded ordnance are killing and maiming indiscriminately and forcing people from their homes throughout the country,” said Alvaro Jímenez Millán, Coordinator of the Colombian Campaign to Ban Landmines, calling for immediate action in support of affected communities and individuals.

The Colombian CBL also urged non-state armed groups Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) and Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) to immediately cease the use and production of antipersonnel mines on humanitarian grounds. Colombia is a State Party to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.

Landmines and improvised explosive devices are being used on a daily basis by the non-state armed groups engaged in ongoing confrontations with the Colombian military. Due to this situation, Colombia continues to report the highest numbers of landmines/improvised explosive devices/explosive remnants of war victims in the world. Read more about the situation in the country in the Landmine Monitor Report.