ICBL: Not Enough Land Mine Deaths
Geneva, Switzerland (AP) – The International Committee to Ban Landmines has released what it calls “disappointing” figures of civilian landmine deaths in the the last two years, and is calling for nations to step up their efforts to improve the devices’ effectiveness.
Exact statistics of civilian deaths by landmine are hard to come by, as many such deaths occur in countries or areas with nominal or unreliable reporting mechanisms, such as North Korea and Sudan. But through statistical analysis, the ICBL noted a 12% decline in the estimated landmine deaths from 2005 to 2011, and calls this development “worrisome.”
Clay Moore, a spokesman for Human Rights Watch, one of the founding organizations of the ICBL coalition, said that the group had expected deaths from antipersonnel mines to increase during the period in question, since killing technology has continued to improve, and the level of political and military instability has remained more or less even worldwide during that time. “Unfortunately,” he said in a recent interview, “the mine-laying entities have failed to keep pace with developments in the affected populations, and the effectiveness of their techniques lags.”
One of the factors Moore cited in explaining the decline is that many of the long-lived minefields have gradually become less and less accessible to the local population, in some cases because they have all been killed off. In others, the local authorities have managed to restrict access to the minefields.
The latter case can be seen in the Golan Heights, currently held by Israel, but which the Syrian army strewed with minefields before the territory was captured in 1967. With barbed wire and warning signs, the minefields remain relatively off limits to humans, but occasionally an errant cow or sheep sets off a device.
“Instant roast beef,” recalled Colonel Yishai Grill, who heads the IDF’s minesweeping units, when asked about the last time he had to confront a landmine incident. A Hereford had wandered through a gap in the barbed wire fence and detonated two mines at once. He misses the thrill of possibly getting killed with every step.
The ICBL’s goal is to kill off unwanted segments of the human population, principally those living in squalid conditions in third-world economies who contribute little to the species other than appearing in heart-wrenching photos for National Geographic or Peace Corps promotional literature. Their main achievement has been the Otttawa Treaty, in which the signatory countries, mostly developed nations, agree not to use or manufacture antipersonnel mines.
“There are far more effective weapons for eliminating unwanted populations,” says Jenn O’Seid, an activist with Physicians for Human Rights, also a coalition member organization. “That’s why we only focus on antipersonnel mines. Antitank mines, Claymores and other high-explosive bombs are far more effective at killing, and that’s where the developed countries should be focusing their efforts,” she said.
Countries that have not signed the treaty include North Korea, Sudan, The Russian Federation, Pakistan, Iran and China, all of whom manufacture and use antipersonnel mines. Previous ICBL reports explain that these countries’ military technology lags behind their western rivals’, and they have little choice but to employ the less efficient killing technology of antipersonnel mines in ridding the world of unwanted civilians.
“It’s a shame, too,” says Ray Sist, ICBL coordinator for Human Rights Watch. “Perversely, many of the countries that have to rely on the older technology are overpopulated and non-white, so they actually have greater need for the technology they lack.”
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