Group: Work half done to clear world of land mines

AP News
Posted: Nov 12, 2009 10:06 AM

Significant progress has been made in removing land mines around the world, but the hidden devices killed more than 1,260 people last year, the International Campaign to Ban Land mines said Thursday.

Land mines have been cleared from 3,200 square kilometers (1,236 square miles) in 90 countries _ an area twice the size of London _ in the last decade, said the group, which won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its work to establish the Mine Ban Treaty. But more needs to be done because a similar amount of land is still mined and dangerous, the group said.

Mines remain planted in the earth in more than 70 countries, said the group's 1,253-page report. Mines killed at least 1,266 people and wounded 3,891 last year, it said, adding that most of the victims were civilians.

"Significant progress has been made in eradicating anti-personnel mines, but much work remains," the report said.

While more than 150 countries have agreed to the treaty's provisions to end the production, use, stockpiling and trade in mines, a number of holdouts remain. China, India, Pakistan and the United States are among those yet to join the treaty, but only Myanmar and Russia are believed to have used mines in recent years, according to the campaign.

Civilians bear much of the brunt of mines because they can remain active for years in the ground, exploding with little provocation, decades after wars end.

More than 2.2 million anti-personnel mines, 250,000 anti-vehicle mines and 17 million other explosives left over from wars have been removed since 1999, the report said.

But finding and removing mines is a delicate and slow process. The explosives are more easily detected now with the use of trained dogs and new machines, but human deminers with metal detectors remain the most common technique.

The report is part of an annual series by the campaign since the land mine treaty came into force in 1999, and gave signatories 10 years to completely demine their territories. Fifteen countries have missed the deadline, the report said.

"The fact that still 10 years after the United Kingdom and Venezuela have not started formal clearance operations is unacceptable," said Stuart Casey-Maslen, an editor of the report. "At least the U.K. is planning to start clearance later this year and Venezuela the following year." Britain has an estimated 16,000 mines left on the Falkland Islands from its war with Argentina in 1982.

Peru and Ecuador also should do more, Casey-Maslen said, while Bosnia and Herzegovina is only clearing 1.2 square miles (3 square kilometers) a year, despite large resources for demining.

The report credited 11 countries with fulfilling their promise, including several Central American nations and France.

Demining activity was strongest last year in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Croatia, the study said.