07 July 2009

Regional workshop on landmines opens on 7 July in Dushanbe

Dushanbe, 7 July 2009 -- Central Asian states should join the vast majority of the world in renouncing antipersonnel landmines once and for all, said the 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) today, at the opening of the Dushanbe Workshop on Achieving a Mine-Free Central Asia.Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have yet to join the Mine Ban Treaty.

All three states hold stockpiles of antipersonnel mines, and Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are mine-affected. Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan are party to the treaty, and each has completed destruction of its stockpile. Afghanistan and Tajikistan are also mine-affected."It's time for the hold-out governments in this region to realize that these are no longer acceptable weapons," said Bakhtiyor Begmuradov, of the non-governmental organization Harmony of the World, the Tajik arm of the ICBL. The reality is that they are most effective in causing humanitarian problems, not protecting borders," he said.

States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty must clear all landmines on their territory "as soon as possible" but no later than ten years after joining the treaty. Tajikistan has determined that it will not be able to meet its 1 April 2010 deadline and has asked for a 10-year extension. The ICBL believes that with enhanced demining productivity and funding, Tajikistan should be able to finish clearance in five years or less.

All treaty members also have an obligation to assist mine survivors, their families and communities. This is a pre-eminent responsibility for Afghanistan, which has one of the world's highest numbers of survivors of mines and explosive remnants of war, with 60,000 survivors identified. "Afghanistan faces immense challenges in meeting the needs of persons with disabilities, who remain among the poorest of the poor. Rural populations and women in particular often do not have access to services. Afghanistan should act urgently to right these wrongs, including through the adoption of the national disability law that has been pending for two years," said Firoz Ali Alizada, ICBL Treaty Implementation Officer.

The Dushanbe Workshop on Achieving a Mine-Free Central Asia (7-8 July 2009) will focus on clearance of mined areas, victim assistance, cooperation in the region, as well as challenges for joining the Mine Ban Treaty. Countries that provide financial and technical support for mine clearance and victim assistance will join the discussions, along with representatives of international and non-governmental organizations. The workshop is the third in a series of regional meetings convened in the lead-up to the Mine Ban Treaty's Second Review Conference, which will take place in Cartagena, Colombia in the week of 30 November 2009. After the workshop ends, government delegates will be briefed on cluster munitions. In Central Asia, Afghanistan is the only country that has signed the new Convention on Cluster Munitions. The ICBL calls on all Central Asian countries to join the convention. In the region, these indiscriminate weapons have been used in Afghanistan and Tajikistan and are stockpiled in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Additional information and interviews (Russian, Tajik, Dari, English): Bakhtiyor Begmuradov, Tajik Campaign to Ban Landmines, mobile: +992 918 784 139, email: tajikistan@icbl.org - Kasia Derlicka, International Campaign to Ban Landmines, mobile: +992 935 086 977, email: kasia@icbl.org

Media advisory: this press release is also available in Russian and in Tajik.

Background Landmines in Central Asia

The Mine Ban Treaty comprehensively bans antipersonnel mines, requires destruction of stockpiled mines within four years, requires destruction of mines already in the ground within 10 years, and urges extensive programs to assist the victims of landmines. There are currently 156 States Parties to the treaty, including Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in Central Asia.

The ICBL, 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate, is a global network in over 70 countries, working for a world free of landmines and cluster munitions.According to Landmine Monitor Report 2008, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are affected by antipersonnel landmines.

Read more about landmines in Central Asia in Landmine Monitor Report 2008: the-monitor.org/en-gb/reports/2008/landmine-monitor-2008.aspx