07 October 2009

Regional meeting on landmines opens today in Tirana

Tirana, 7 October 2009 - States of South-Eastern Europe and the Caucasus still have large steps to take on the road to becoming 'mine-free', said the Nobel Peace Laureate International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) today on the opening of a regional meeting on landmines. With stockpile destruction and mine clearance deadlines missed by several countries and survivors left wanting in most states, the ICBL called on states to work twice as hard in the coming years to alleviate the suffering of their mine-affected populations. Most countries in South-Eastern Europe and the Caucasus are contaminated with landmines and explosive remnants of war.

Whereas Albania, Greece and Serbia are almost finished clearing their land of mines, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia still have hundreds of square kilometers of mined areas to clear. Other States Parties granted both another ten years to do so after they missed their 2009 deadline. "Bosnia and Croatia suffer from heavy contamination, but ten years after joining the treaty they still do not know where all the mined areas are," said Tamar Gabelnick, ICBL Treaty Implementation Director.

"With lives depending on the rapid clearance of these areas, there is no time to lose." Throughout the region and especially in Croatia and Serbia, it is extremely difficult for landmine survivors living in remote areas to access services. "This is a matter of human rights. Survivors and other persons with disabilities must be able to access the support available to others in their country on an equal basis," said Jonuz Kola, Head of ALB-AID, an ICBL member in Albania.

The ICBL called on states in the region to increase funding for victim assistance and to enhance cooperation with non-governmental organizations already working on the issue.Greece and Turkey have been in violation of the Mine Ban Treaty since 1 March 2008, when they failed to meet their antipersonnel mine stockpile destruction deadline with millions of antipersonnel mines left in their stocks. These represented the first confirmed serious violations of the Mine Ban Treaty since it entered into force ten years ago.

One and a half years later, neither state can say with certainty when they will finish destruction, though they admit it will not be before the Second Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty that begins on 30 November.All Caucasus states are mine-affected and none of them have joined the Mine Ban Treaty yet.Their populations have experienced first hand the devastation caused by landmines and explosive remnants of war such as cluster munitions.

"We want to see these weapons disappear from the region. We want our governments to care," said Maia Buchukuri, of the ICBL Georgian Committee. "Eighty percent of the world's states have renounced the use of antipersonnel mines forever. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia should be able to do it too."

More information and interviews:

Albanian, English - Ms. Anila Alibali, Illyricum Fund, Mobile: + 355 (0) 68 20 27 813; English - Ms. Tamar Gabelnick, ICBL, Mobile: +41 (0) 79 470 1145


The Tirana Workshop on Achieving a Mine-Free South-Eastern Europe (7-9 October 2009) brings together governments from the region, and focuses on clearance of mined areas, victim assistance, regional cooperation, as well as challenges for joining the Mine Ban Treaty. Donor countries will join the discussions, along with representatives of international and non-governmental organizations.

The workshop is the last in a series of regional meetings convened in the lead-up to the Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World (Mine Ban Treaty's Second Review Conference), which will take in Colombia in the week of 30 November 2009.

The Mine Ban Treaty comprehensively bans use, production, and trade of antipersonnel mines, requires destruction of stockpiled mines within four years, requires destruction of mines already in the ground within ten years, and urges extensive programs to assist the victims of landmines. There are currently 156 States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty. All South-Eastern Europe countries have joined the treaty. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are not party to the treaty. Most countries in South-Eastern Europe and the Caucasus are contaminated with mines and/or explosive remnants of war: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, BiH, Croatia, Georgia, Greece, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey. The areas of Kosovo and Nagorno-Karabakh are also contaminated. The ICBL, 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate, is a global network in over 70 countries, working for a world free of landmines and cluster munitions.

Read more about landmines in South-Eastern Europe and the Caucasus in Landmine Monitor Report 2008: www.the-monitor.org/en-gb/reports/2008/landmine-monitor-2008.aspx