20 October 2009

The First [National] Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty in Turkey was held in the city of Diyarbakýr, Southeastern Turkey, on Sunday 18 October 2009. Organised by the Initiative for a Mine-Free Turkey, an ICBL member, in partnership with the Diyarbakýr Bar Association, the Human Rights Association Diyarbakir branch and the local Diyarbakýr Agenda 21, the conference was the first of its kind to be held in mine-affected eastern Turkey.

Speakers at the conference reviewed progress and challenges since the treaty entered into force for Turkey in 2004. Muteber Ogreten, who leads the Initiative for a Mine-Free Turkey, presented the situation in Turkey, and stressed the need to accelerate implementation and address the dire needs of civilian survivors. Sylvie Brigot, ICBL Executive Director, reviewed the achievements and challenges of the Mine Ban Treaty, and presented the expectations of the ICBL for the Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World (Second Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty), to be held in the week of 30 November in Colombia. Firoz Ali Alizada, ICBL Treaty Implementation Officer, and a mine survivor from Afghanistan, called on his fellow survivors to stand up for their rights, and to seize the opportunities provided by the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability, which Turkey just signed.

Other speakers included Fikret Ilkiz and Dr Muhammet Can, who made a telling presentation of his work in affected regions in the East of Turkey, at the border with Iran. Lastly, Nesim Oner, Mehmet Oz, Adem Gülsen, and other survivors shared their personal experiences and explained that some of the difficulties they face include the lack of responsiveness from the government, discrimination at school and by employers, and the very limited services available in remote areas.

Turkey has been in violation of the Mine Ban Treaty since 1 March 2008, when it failed to meet the deadline for the destruction of its antipersonnel mine stockpiles. Speakers proposed that Turkey should announce an expected end-date for the destruction of all remaining antipersonnel landmine stockpiles at the Cartagena Summit. Speakers also concluded that the number of antipersonnel landmines retained for training by Turkey must be significantly reduced. Turkey currently reports 15,125 mines retained for training and research, but only 25 mines were used for those purposes last year.

Solutions on how to clear minefields on the border with Syria and other suspected mined areas affecting communities inland from the border have yet to be identified. Speakers noted that an assessment of the entire mine contamination problem is still needed as well as an announcement of how and when clearance will be done. In addition, conference participants reported that mine risk education has not been available in most mine-affected areas and people living in those areas still need to be adequately warned of the dangers of mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) and the locations of dangerous areas.

Casualty rates remained high and no significant decline in the number of civilian mine and ERW casualties reported annually has been recorded since 2004. Conference participants called on the government to make further efforts to provide civilian mine and ERW survivors with appropriate services and support. Survivors at the conference spoke about their lives since the incident: it was made clear in all statements that currently very few or no opportunities exist for mine survivors to access services in the areas of healthcare, rehabilitation and employment.

In 2010 Turkey will take the lead in driving forward the international work on providing assistance to mine survivors, as co-chair of the treaty's Standing Committee on Victim Assistance and Socio-Economic Reintegration. In its role as co-chair, Turkey should lead by example and use the action plan for victim assistance to be agreed at the Cartagena Summit for strengthening its own national victim assistance activities. Overall, the conference pointed to a number of areas where more must be done to ensure the successful implementation of the treaty and to end the suffering caused by antipersonnel landmines.

The significant civil society participation in the conference included landmine survivors and a wide range of organizations whose work includes landmine issues, together with a strong local media presence. Their active participation demonstrated a strong desire on the part of the people in the region to see the government of Turkey increase its efforts in the areas of victim assistance, mine clearance and stockpile destruction in the lead-up to the Cartagena Summit and beyond.

Read more about Turkey in Landmine Monitor Report 2008