19 February 2014

The Mine Ban Treaty’s Third Review Conference will take place from 23 to 27 June 2014 in Maputo, Mozambique, 15 years after the treaty’s entry into force.The ICBL is calling on the mine ban community to take up the Completion Challenge – to ensure that the work started several years ago is actually completed as soon as possible, and no later than 10 years after the Review Conference. In the lead up to this milestone meeting, ICBL is shining the spotlight on some key countries impacted by the scourge of antipersonnel landmines.In this first spotlight focus, we are presenting Turkey’s landmine problem and efforts to address it to date. This year, 2014, marks ten years since Turkey became a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty and the anniversary offers a special opportunity for Turkey to commit to complete its outstanding obligations.

Commit to Complete!The ICBL is challenging Turkey to commit to:

  • Accelerating its mine clearance operations, and clear all mined areas as soon as possible, and not later than its self-identified target date of 2022;
  • Clearly marking all mined areas without delay and ensuring that civilians do not enter these areas;
  • Establishing a comprehensive Mine Risk Education program;
  • Taking concrete steps in terms of the rehabilitation and reintegration of the mine victims into society, including by increasing access to rehabilitation centers and providing facilities closer to mine contaminated areas;
  • Collecting comprehensive data on mine victims;
  • Destroying all mines retained for training that are not absolutely needed.

The origin and impact of the landmine issue in TurkeyTurkey is a country heavily contaminated by antipersonnel landmine contamination as well as antivehicle mines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and explosive remnants of war. Mines were first laid in Turkey in the 1950s, beginning with minefields planted along the 911-kilometer border with Syria. Mines were also placed, and remain along the borders with Armenia, Iran, and Iraq.**During the fighting that began in the 1980s, and most notably since the early 1990s, landmines were planted in the southeast of the country by government forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, PKK).Mines that were used in inland areas by the military were emplaced around military posts and buildings. In time, some military posts were abandoned and removed, leaving behind the deadly minefields, that have not been cleared or signed and fenced off. While the greatest number of mines to be cleared is along the border areas –– the landmine contamination causing the most immediate danger to civilians is inland in the eastern and southeastern parts of the country. This heavily-contaminated region is close to populated areas, has a high density of mines, and has resulted in the most casualties since 1999. See the chart below based on Turkey’s reporting: areas like Hakkari and Diyarbakir have thousands of mines in a relatively small zone.Turkey and the 1997 Mine Ban TreatyWhile Turkey was present at the 1997 signing ceremony of the Mine Ban Treaty in Ottawa, it did not sign treaty at that time. The production of landmines in Turkey ceased in January 1996 together with adoption of a national moratorium on the sale and transfer of antipersonnel mines. However, some Turkish officials were still referring to the military effectiveness of landmines. Turkish Armed Forces were banned from using antipersonnel landmines in January 1998. The country acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty on 25 September 2003, becoming a State Party on 1 March 2004. At that time Turkey had over three million antipersonnel mines in stockpiles, there was a large area of land requiring clearance, and thousands of landmine and ERW victims, both military personnel and civilians, were in need of assistance....What Turkey has done so farTurkey’s challenges related to the landmine problem in Stats at a glance- Total known mined area: 214 km²- Mines Retained for training: 15,041- Estimated landmine casualties: Over 10,000- All known casualties (including victims in need of assistance): At least 6,360 (1,269 killed; 5,091 injured) in the period 1984 to 2010...Landmine Stockpile DestructionTurkey completed its stockpile destruction in June 2011, seven years after joining the treaty, and three years after its treaty deadline for destruction of all antipersonnel mines. Turkey continues to retain one of the largest number of antipersonnel mines (for the purposes of research and training in demining) of all the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty. On becoming a State Party in 2004, Turkey retained 16,000 antipersonnel mines for the purpose of training in mine detection, clearance and destruction techniques. As a comparison, Angola and Cambodia, that have some of the world’s heaviest landmine contamination and therefore expect to conduct a lot of training, have each kept under 1,500 mines. Demining experts at the ICBL believe that there is no need to retain any live mines as training can be done with inert mines.From the end of 2004 through 2012, Turkey reported using up less than 1,000 mines for research and training in demining. Turkey has often said that it would consider a re-assessment of the number of mines it retains, but it has never done so.

“As States Parties to the Treaty currently do not retain [so many] mines for training purposes - even if they have the right to do so - Turkey must reduce its mines retained for training purposes to an acceptable number such as 1,000 – 1,500.”- Outcome document of Turkey’s first civil society review conference of the Mine Ban Treaty, Diyarbakir, 18 October 2009.

Mine Clearance Under the treaty’s Article 5, Turkey as any other State Party, is obliged to clear its mined areas as soon as possible and not later than ten years after the entry into force of the treaty. As of 2014, the country has made little progress in addressing its mine contamination and has not begun clearance of areas with the greatest impact on local communities inside the country, or areas with militarily strategic significance.In 2013, approaching its 10-year clearance deadline, Turkey requested extension for its clearance (as permitted by the treaty for exceptional cases), asking for an additional eight years up to 2022. It presented for the first time, a detailed overview of most of the remaining mine contamination. However information on inland contamination remains still insufficient. These mines kill and injure dozens of people each year, according to Turkey’s own account.Turkey has announced plans to contribute national funding to future mine clearance, however no budget has been allocated for clearing the mined areas inside the country. It is also disturbing that Turkey does not plan to begin significant clearance activities before 2015. In spite of having been granted an additional eight years to complete its clearance obligations under the treaty, the path to a mine-free Turkey remains elusive.."Other than claiming the lives of people in Turkey, mined areas have prevented access for development in these areas including for infrastructure development as well as for agricultural use and other uses by the civilian population. These mines have also prevented access for academic use such as archaeological work on Turkey’s border.” - Government of Turkey, Mine clearance deadline extension request submitted to States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, 2013....Casualties and Victim AssistanceOmer was injured by a mine from the Syrian border minefield while playing as a child. He was blinded in both eyes and lost part of one hand. He listens to the radio to keep track of local news and world events. He has been increasingly concerned by the delay in mine clearance getting fully underway on the Turkey-Syria border where he was injured.“When you go there and the mine explodes, if you die then that’s just it - and if you don't die then you are disabled forever. I believe that is also something important that the government should be responsible for this issue,” - Omer, speaking on the need for clearance of the border minefields and victim assistance in 2007.The number of casualties in Turkey has decreased somewhat over time since the country joined the Mine Ban Treaty. However the total number of casualties and survivors in need of assistance is yet to be recorded, and that information must be shared with the public institutions that should provide victim assistance. Planning and coordination of victim assistance to improve the well-being of victims remains a key area that has so far been largely neglected. The government ministry responsible for implementing services upholding the rights of persons with disabilities was made aware of Turkey’s victim assistance responsibilities only in 2011. A world-class rehabilitation facility operated by the military was built in the capital Ankara, where there are no landmines. However survivors’ access to affordable and adequate prosthetic and rehabilitation facilities in the mine-affected regions remains very poor.National plans for physical accessibility to services have yet to be put into place in mine-affected regions, halting progress on this front outside of major cities.Mine UseOnce a country joins the treaty, it is prohibited to use, produce or acquire antipersonnel mines. Disturbingly, there have been two serious instances of alleged use of antipersonnel mines by members of the Turkish Armed Forces in 2009. One of the incidents led to an investigation and trial where a Turkish general and another soldier were convicted, though, according to the information provided by Turkey so far, the initial verdict and sentence do not seem to be related to Turkey’s obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty, since there was no mention of the illegal use of antipersonnel mines. It remains unclear what domestic law has been applied so far and how this relates to Turkey’s obligations under the treaty. In regard to the second alleged instance of use, Turkey reported that ‘a detailed investigation’ was undertaken. Turkey is yet to provide additional information such as when the investigation began, who conducted it, what specifically was or is being investigated, and any findings.Domestic LegislationEvery State Party is required under the treaty to adopt national legal and other measures, including penal sanctions, to prevent and punish any activity prohibited under the treaty committed by persons or on territory under its jurisdiction or control. Turkey has indicated that its constitution and its criminal code, as well as directives from Turkey’s Armed Forces General Staff, give legal effect to the treaty’s provisions. However the two serious cases of alleged use of mines or mine-like explosive devices by the armed forces show that the specific issue of the illegality of antipersonnel mine use in Turkey has not been adequately addressed by the existing legislation.What Turkey Should Do NowTurkey’s accession to the Mine Ban Treaty was a positive and welcome step. However, Turkey has been very slow to act in fulfilling its obligations and making a difference on the ground for its affected communities and people. It is time for Turkey to take its obligations more seriously and step up its efforts to implement the treaty in order to prevent further suffering caused by landmines and support landmine survivors and affected communities.Mine Clearance

  • Turkey should push ahead with the administrative and structural processes needed to accelerate mine clearance in the country, and not wait until 2015.
  • Turkey should not leave the clearance of the inland mined areas to the final stages of the clearance program; these contaminated areas have the greatest impact on local populations and should be prioritized for clearance.
  • All mined areas should be clearly signaled and perimeter-marked by fencing or other means, to ensure that civilians do not enter these areas until they are fully cleared.

Victim Assistance

  • Turkey should without further delay begin efforts to collect data on mine victims, and form a data center.
  • Civil society, including landmine victims, should be included in decision-making processes that affect their rights and lives.
  • Turkey should develop and implement a comprehensive program to ensure greater availability of and accessibility to relevant services for all people with disabilities, including mine survivors. It is important that the number of rehabilitation centers close to the mined areas be increased and the existing centers be equipped and maintained. In addition, civilians with disability should have equal access to the military hospital in Ankara.

Mine Use

  • Turkey should provide comprehensive public reports on the findings of investigations of alleged mine use, and on the legal processes used to ensure those accountable for prohibited acts are brought to justice as appropriate..
  • Turkey should ensure all members of the armed forces are fully aware of the Mine Ban Treaty obligations, and respect them.
  • Turkey should destroy all mines retained for research and training that are not being used for these purposes.

Domestic legislation

  • Turkey should clarify what domestic law applies to ban the use of antipersonnel mines. Should such laws not exist or not include penal sanctions, Turkey should adopt sufficient domestic legislation to fill this gap.

********************************************************************************************************************All photos: Copyright The Initiative for a Mine-Free Turkey** Turkey has not addressed the antipersonnel mine contamination in northern Cyprus, as it does not claim either jurisdiction or control over this territory. At the same time, however, Cyprus notes that it does not have control of this area, leaving unresolved the question of which State Party will address contamination. To meet its treaty requirements regarding areas under its jurisdiction or control, Turkey may need to set out and implement plans for clearance of affected areas in northern Cyprus.