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Syria only state using landmines in 2012: campaigners

November 29, 2012

This file photo shows a sniffer dog and his handler. Teams of handlers and sniffer dogs helped demining teams to remove landmines from Afghanistan. - File Photo

GENEVA: The Syrian regime was the only government in the world to lay new landmines this year, campaigners said on Thursday as they issued an annual report on the use and effect of the devastating weapons.

“Only one government – Syria – has used antipersonnel landmines in 2012”, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) said in a statement, down from four last year and the lowest number since the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty was signed in 1997.

In its 2012 Landmine Monitor report, the ICBL also hailed record high levels of funding for mine clearance and a dramatic reduction in the number of people killed by the explosive devices over the past decade.

These developments are “a testament to the achievements of the Mine Ban Treaty over the past 15 years and that's the good news,” report editor Mark Hiznay said in the statement.

Syria was also among the four countries singled out in last year's report, when the governments of Israel, Libya and Myanmar were also found to have used landmines.

Although only one government laid the lethal mines this year, the explosives were still used by non-state armed groups in six countries – Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand and Yemen – up from four countries last year, the report said.

And while the number of countries laying new landmines might be low, 59 countries and six disputed territories were confirmed to have been affected by old landmines this year, while the presence of the mines was suspected in another 13 countries, it said.

No casualty figures were given for this year, but the ICBL said that last year 4,286 people were killed by landmines worldwide – or nearly 12 deaths a day compared to 32 in 2001.

The organisation, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for its efforts to rid the world of landmines, also hailed that a growing number of governments were signing on to the treaty, with Finland, South Sudan and Somalia onboard since July 2011.

In all, 160 countries are now party to the treaty, the ICBL said, adding that with the addition of South Sudan and Somalia, “all sub-Saharan African countries have joined”.

The ICBL report was issued ahead of a five-day assembly of the signatory countries to the Ottawa Treaty in Geneva next week.