Sat, 31 May 2003

Countries urged to ratify antilandmines treaty

A'an Suryana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Anti-personal land mines (APLs) activists are calling on countries around the world to ratify the 1996 Ottawa Convention banning the production, stockpiling, use and transfer of land mines to minimize civilian victims.

Canadian Ambassador for Landmines Ross Hynes said here on Thursday that 14 countries were still producing land mines, completely ignoring the fact that the devices kill some 20,000 innocent people worldwide every year.

Even worse, the land mines, popularly called "random death traps", were still in use today, Ross added.

"Nine countries are still active users of land mines," Ross told participants in a discussion on land mines held at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Given the death toll, the international community, spearheaded by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), has for years been campaigning for mitigating the severe impact of land mines on human beings.

"The human tolls cannot be justified. Enough is enough," Ross said. The aggressive campaign, to some extent, has succeeded.

The ICBL was able to reduce the number of countries producing land mines to 14 in 2003, from 55 in 1999, when the anti-land mines treaty came into force.

Ross said some 34 million land mines in 61 countries had also been destroyed so far.

However, the danger was still there, he warned.

The U.S. State Department, in its 2001 report Hidden Killers, said there was a growing international consensus that approximately 60 countries were plagued by 45 to 50 million land mines planted in their territories.

Knowing that land mines remained a clear and present danger for human beings, activists continued anti-land mines campaigns aimed at, among others, forcing countries to sign and ratify the 1996 Ottawa Convention.

Until this year, 134 countries have ratified the convention, while 133 others, including Indonesia, are mere signatories.

Hamzah Thayeb, Director of International Security and Disarmament at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, admitted that Indonesia had not yet ratified the convention due to "procedural matters". He did not go into details.

Meanwhile, Tun Channareth, Cambodian Ambassador for Mines Action and receiver of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of ICBL, called on all countries around the world, including Indonesia, to support the campaign in order to free the world of land mines.

Four members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have not yet signed and ratified the convention, namely Singapore, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos.