South Asia land mine seminar concludes
[TamilNet, Friday, 20 August 1999, 16:09 GMT]
"Sri Lanka's war zones have the highest number of mines planted in the South Asia" said Lt.General (rtd) Gordon Reay, former commander of the Canadian army addressing a press conference at Wadduwa, south of Colombo today at the conclusion of a three day South Asia regional seminar on landmines organised by the ICRC. He said that alternatives to land mines in war fighting is being researched and developed by some countries such as Canada.
Peter Herby, Co-ordainer of the Mines-arms unit of the ICRC said according to a survey carried out in 1995 in hospitals run by his organisations in conflict zones world wide, about 2000 people are killed and maimed by land mines every month - 800 killed and 1200 wounded.
The former Canadian army commander answering a question said that mines such as the claymore which are remotely triggered by combatants against legitimate enemy targets can be seen as an alternative to mines which maim civilians.
It was pointed out at the conference that the global scourge of anti personnel mines, which kill and injure some 2,000 persons per month including a significant number of civilian victims in certain countries in South Asia, is unacceptable and must be stopped. Because these mines kill and maim long after the conflict is over, it was recognised that addressing the problem should be a priority for the international community and the South Asian region.
Discussions revealed that in South Asia several states are prepared to sign the Ottawa treaty banning the use of land mines in the near future. However only two countries in the South Asian region, the Maldives and Bangladesh, have signed the treaty banning the use of mines at present.
Pakistan and India are not willing to forgo the use of land mines in future conflicts. Both countries favour a gradual approach to ratifying the Ottawa treaty said ICRC's Peter Herby.
Ending the use of anti personnel mines and similar devices by non State actors was seen as an important element in the elimination of landmines from the region. Participants highlighted the existing legal obligations prohibiting the transfer of landmines to non state elements and welcomed the efforts of the NGO's to engage such groups in dialogue on the subject of clearing the land mines which they have planted.
Mr. Gaddam Dharmendra Deputy Secratary , Disarmament and International Security Division , Ministry of external affairs and Brigadier R.K.Raichand, Deputy Director General, Military Operations, Ministry of Defence from India; Lt. Colonel Mohammad Afzal Khan, Strategic Plans Division of the Pakistan Armed Forces; Mr.D.Serasinghe, Director General for Political Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr.S.K.Jinasena, Senior Assistant Secretary (Legal), Ministry of Defence Brigadier G.M.Rockwood of Sri Lankan army , who is now serving in Jaffna Mr.Sumedha Ekanayake, Assistant Director, United Nations Division, Ministry of Foreign affairs took part in the Seminar.