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Country Reports
ALBANIA, Landmine Monitor Report 2000
LM Report 2000 Full Report   Executive Summary   Key Findings   Key Developments   Translated Country Reports


Key developments since March 1999: Albania ratified the Mine Ban Treaty on 29 February 2000. Albania inventoried its stockpiled mines and in May 2000 reported having 1,607,420 mines stored in 120 depots in the country. It estimates it will take up to two years to complete destruction at a cost of approximately $560,000. It has destroyed 8,400 mines. On 8 October 1999 the Albanian Mines Action Committee (AMAC) was founded to coordinate mine action in the country. In June 2000, RONCO began demining operations in two priority areas defined by AMAC. In northern Albania the ICRC and CARE are carrying out mine awareness programs. As a result of the Kosovo crisis, in northern Albania AMAE had recorded eighty-five mine/UXO incidents, resulting in eighteen dead and 118 injured, by early July 2000.

Mine Ban Policy

Albania signed the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT) on 8 September 1998, and deposited the instrument of ratification at the United Nations on 29 February 2000. The treaty enters into force for Albania on 1 August 2000. Ratification was approved unanimously by parliament, and a Foreign Affairs Ministry official has said, “According to the instrument of ratification...the Convention is fully obligatory to Albania without any reservation or declaration.”[1] Domestic legislation to bring into effect the penal sanctions required for implementation is being prepared.

On 25 May 2000 the Council of Ministers announced “Decision No. 269” including the following key elements: all stockpiled antipersonnel mines will be destroyed by 2004; all the areas of the Republic of Albania, infected with mines, must be demined by 2009; the Ministry of Defense is to present to the Council of Ministers the program and finances needed carry out these obligations, three months after this law comes into effect; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other state institutions will seek financial and technological support to meet these MBT obligations, and aid for mine victims as well. The decree enters into force after its publication in the “Official Paper.”[2] The Chief of the Albanian EOD organization confirmed that the Council of Ministers has already prepared projects toward the implementation of the MBT.[3]

The government attended the First Meeting of States Parties (FMSP) to the MBT in May 1999. Government representatives have participated in one meeting each of the Standing Committees of Experts on Stockpile Destruction, Mine Clearance and General Status and Operation of the Convention. Albanian representatives also participated in the second Regional Conference on Landmines in Croatia in June 1999, and in the third regional conference in Slovenia in June 2000.

In December 1999, Albania voted in favor of UN General Assembly Resolution 54/54B urging full implementation of the MBT, as it had with previous pro-ban UNGA resolutions. Landmine Monitor Report 1999 was well-received by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which stated that the report “notes a survey on the history of using and producing the landmines from Albania, the current situation and problems caused by landmines which were [previously not] known....“[4]

NGO activity remains strong in Albania. In 1997 the AntiMining Friends Committee (AMFC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) started an awareness campaign focused on unexploded ordnance (UXO) and ammunition spread across the country. After the Regional Conference in Budapest in March 1998, efforts of the AMFC concentrated on promoting the Mine Ban Treaty with the general public and the authorities.

Albania is not a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), but at the urging of the ICRC, the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs are now considering formal adherence to the CCW and its protocols.


According to official sources AP mines have not been produced in Albania since 1990 or 1991.[5] No funding is available so previous AP mine production facilities scheduled for conversion to civilian production simply remain closed. One facility formerly owned by the Ministry of Defense has been partially privatized and continues to produce explosives for commercial purposes.[6]


Albania received large numbers of mines from the Soviet Union and China prior to 1975.[7] There was no official transfer of AP mines during the Kosovo crisis in early 1999,[8] but there were press reports of some groups of people being killed while transferring ammunition to Kosovo. Russian AP mines and Chinese antitank mines have been found in Kosovo, which may have been transferred from Albania.[9]

Stockpile and Destruction

The Deputy Minister of Defense stated that “after the ratification of the Ottawa Treaty Albania is obliged to destroy the stockpile and to clear the mine fields as well as hot spots contaminated by UXO."[10] A considerable stockpile of AP mines is held by the Albanian Armed Forces. During 1999, a new inventory took place, with results that have been reported on two recent occasions (with slight differences):

Type of AP Mine

Selanik Conference
May 2000[11]
SCE Meeting May 2000[12]
Mine AP Wood
545,270 (type PMD-6)
Mine AP Bakelite

Mine AP Fragmentation
930,050 (type POMZ-2)
Mine AP Fibre
132,100 (type PMN)


A plan for destruction of the stockpile with the assistance of the NATO Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Ammunition Storage and Training Team (EODASTT) has been prepared.[14] This will involve dismantling the PMD-6 and POMZ-2 mines, smelting their metal parts, re-using the explosives for demining, demolition or other commercial purposes, while burying the other materials, and destroying the PMN mines by demolition. It is proposed that this activity will be undertaken at nine regional locations based on selected ammunition storage facilities.

This plan will take up to two years to complete, at an estimated cost of US$ 561,600, which, Deputy Defense Minister Ilir Bocka told the SCE on Stockpile Destruction in May 2000, is not “readily identifiable in our budget. Currently our funds re allocated to safety related issues involving the destruction of life-threatening, dangerous ammunition.... Albania will require considerable support in order to implement its plan.”[15] He stated that Albania had started to destroy its AP mine stockpile—a total of 8,400 thus far. In conclusion, Deputy Minister Bocka informed the SCE in May 2000:

Even in view of Albania’s difficulties, this Committee and the International community should be aware that:

  • Albania places the destruction of its Antipersonnel Mines high on its political agenda.
  • The Albanian Government is confident that it is able to exercise appropriate control to ensure full cooperation of its Armed Forces in the implementation of its plans to carry out demilitarisation of Antipersonnel Mines.
  • Our plans for the demilitarisation of our stockpile have been considered in terms of cost effectiveness, but also in terms of environmental aspects, socioeconomic factors and the expertise and technology currently available to Albania.
  • Finally, Albania welcomes verification of its stockpile and the monitoring of the process and progress of its demilitarisation program by the Nation Members of this Committee and International Community at large.[16]

Use and Landmine Problem

During widespread rioting in early 1997, the population looted an estimated 600,000 antipersonnel mines from stockpiles.[17] How many mines remain today in private hands is not known. Some of these stolen mines have been used for private purposes, for example mine explosive is used for fishing.

When the government signed the MBT on 8 September 1998 the Albanian Armed Forces were ordered not to use AP mines.[18] Despite Serbian incursions into Albania in early 1999 “even during the Kosovo crisis Albania did not mine its borders, acknowledging the problems they would cause in a post conflict situation.”[19]

However, the border was mined and contaminated with UXO, including Albanian territory, by Serb forces. Artillery and ABABEL-50 multiple launch rocket systems contaminated sixteen areas (140 hectares) with unexploded KB-1 bomblets up to 25 kilometers inside Albanian territory. Additionally, the entire Albania-Kosovo 80 km-long border is affected by antipersonnel and antitank mines laid by Serbian forces during border incursions. The total area contaminated is approximately 1,400 hectares, in the districts of Tropoja, Kukes and Has.

The mines are mostly located around approaches to border crossing-points, but nearby agricultural areas, grazing land and villages are also contaminated. The mines identified include PMA-1, PMA-2, PMR and TMA-5 types, which have been found up to 400 meters inside the border.[20]

A villager from Dobruna, a village in the Has district described what happened on one occasion: “We were evacuated from our village. Serbs set fire to our houses and mined the whole area of the border. When we went back home to start our life again 150 meters behind my house I stepped on two landmines and as you can see I lost both legs.”[21]

There are no reports of the border with Montenegro being mined.

These recent events have seriously aggravated what were the already substantial dangers and difficulties existing in much of Albania as a result of the 1997 riots. Explosions in thirty-eight depots, including fifteen major incidents, involving over 6,000 tons of explosives and ammunition of all types killed and injured many people, and contaminated large areas of land with UXO. The fifteen “hot spot” areas of gross contamination covered some 220 hectares of land.[22]

Looting of ammunition depots, abandonment of looted ordnance including AP mines, private use, and the widespread use of AP mines to protect official buildings, added to this problem. Considerable socio-economic problems as well as physical danger have been caused by these successive phases of mine/UXO contamination.[23]

“Weapons in Exchange for Development,” a pilot UNDP program in 1999 in the district of Gramsh, aimed to collect weapons (including mines) and ammunition held by the population since 1997. This was completed at a cost of $1,300,000, considered very successful and there are plans for it to be implemented in other districts.[24]

Mine Action

With respect to the mine problem related to 1997 difficulties, six of the fifteen “hot spot” areas, amounting to some forty hectares of land, have been cleared of hazardous ammunition and related scrap.[25]

With respect to the problem in the north related to Kosovo, the Albanian Armed Forces (AAF) EOD organization conducted a Level 1 survey in August and September 1999, with the assistance of CARE International, to identify mine-contaminated areas. Some 1,400 hectares of land were assessed as potentially mined.[26] The AAF EOD team marked minefields along 120 kilometers of the northern border in August-September 1999 using 5,000 markers contributed by UNICEF. Due to theft of minefield markers and the damage caused by a hard winter, the AAF repeated this process in April and May 2000.[27]

Since March 1999 the AAF EOD has maintained a constant operation to clear the hot spots with guidance provided by NATO-employed advisory staff. Protection equipment, detectors and some other relevant materials have been provided by NATO countries, principally Italy, Switzerland, UK and US.[28]

Sixteen areas affected by KB-1 bomblets were cleared by the AAF EOD except where coincidental with mine contamination; approximately 140 hectares of land has been cleared and 2,700 bomblets destroyed.[29]

On the 8 October 1999 the Albanian Mines Action Committee (AMAC) was founded, under the chairmanship of the Deputy Minister of Defense. The Committee is made up of representatives of the UN Development Program, UNICEF, the Emergency Management group and the Ministry for Local Government. The overall aims of AMAC are to obtain funding for humanitarian mine action and mine clearance, to carry out mine/UXO clearance and supervise these operations in order to optimize their impact.

To implement AMAC policy, the Albanian Mine Action Executive (AMAE) was formed and effectively functions as the national Mine Action Center. Albanian authorities continue to make potential donor-countries aware of the extent and nature of the landmine/UXO problem in the country and seek financial and materiel support. AMAC has requested the Albanian EOD organization to prepare further demining projects in anticipation of interest by a funding organization.

All the information gathered regarding minefields, minefield marking, mine victims, mine awareness, and fundraising is centralized at the AMAE. Maps of minefields, marking signs and information about mine victims are accessible on a computer database (system provide by the United States). For the AMAE office until March 2000 contributions totaling $7,670 have been made by the UNDP ($4,445), Royal Norwegian Embassy ($725) and CARE International ($2,500). The government of Canada will meet the administrative costs of the AMAE from July 2000 through March 2001, after which the Swiss government has pledged support until March 2005.[30]

RONCO, a U.S. demining company arrived in Albania in early May to carry out an assessment, and has identified one contaminated area at Qafe Prushe, a border crossing point in Has District where clearance operations commenced in June, supported by a grant of $2 million from the US Department of Defense through Slovenia’s International Trust Fund. On 8 June the AMAE announced “the commencement of demining in Albania.” RONCO has been contracted “to work in Qafe Prush (Has) and Qafe Morine (Tropoja) which are two priority areas defined by AMAC and AMAE.... The company has two demining teams and mine detective dogs that have been based in the town of Kruma.... The Albanian Mines Action Executive is responsible to supervise the demining operations. The company will continue demining next year too. It is worth mentioning that local inhabitants welcomed the company hoping that the number of casualties will drop. One day before the company commenced demining two incidents occurred. Two men crossing the Albanian border got injured. One lost his leg and the other was injured in his face.”[31] In July Germany announced a grant of DM 1.2 million to the German NGO HELP for demining in Albania.[32]

It is very important to start the mine clearance in the border regions because in many areas, for the local population the nearest villages are in Kosovo which can be reached only by illegal crossings, as using the official crossing points takes much longer. To re-open these unofficial paths, local Albanians have preferred to demine the routes themselves. Also, in the summer of 1999 there were rumors about landmines being collected by villagers for resale, with articles about this in the local media. The actual practice seems to have been very small-scale, but the publicity itself served to encourage a very dangerous activity.

Mine Awareness

In northern Albania the AMAE is coordinating the ICRC and CARE mine awareness programs. The CARE program includes training of teachers in three northern districts to implement mine awareness programs in schools, as well as training of committees in villages to increase mine awareness. The CARE budget ended in January 2000 but UNICEF sponsored the work in February and March, and UNDP in April and May. Two teams of three instructors are based in Kukes and Has districts, and two instructors may be located in Tropoja who will be supervised from Kukes.

The ICRC has a community-based approach to mine awareness, which relies on the network of Albanian Red Cross volunteers. Volunteers coming from the problem areas are trained as instructors, who then teach mine awareness to the general public, including children, and combine this with the distribution of food in the war affected border-villages because this increases the impact of the mine awareness activities. There are three teams of five instructors, who also try to identify new mine victims. Three instructors in other towns where children are more exposed to ammunition and UXO have also made presentations relevant to those circumstances. This program, in which the Albanian Red Cross takes a leading role, started in October 1999. UNICEF supported some public events as lead-agency and trained teachers from all over Albania and representatives from the Youth Council in mine awareness. CARE and the ICRC provided trainers for these courses. The Balkan Sun Flowers organization is also involved in a mine/UXO awareness program, with UNICEF support.

Survivor Assistance

A record of mine victims is maintained by AMAE and is publicly available. Seven military personnel have been injured while marking fields or on border patrol or other duties.[33] After the Kosovo crisis the number of civilian mine victims increased significantly. By early July 2000 AMAE had recorded eighty-five incidents, resulting in eighteen dead and 118 injured.[34] In addition to the two recent casualties mentioned by AMAE when announcing the RONCO contract, several children in the eastern town of Peshkopi in the district of Dibra were severely injured and one child was killed.[35]

In general, most of the casualties were teenagers curious about what might be in prohibited areas. Many people were injured while attending grazing animals or crossing the borders illegally; some were killed or injured trying to rescue other people injured by mines. Illegal border-crossing is especially common in the Tropoja district where many people have no identification papers; because KFOR troops cannot allow them to cross the border without identification papers, the villagers use other routes through mined areas. The ICRC has raised this issue with the AMAE for the authorities’ urgent attention.

State facilities provide immediate medical aid and treatment to mine victims. A one-year pension is available to people injured in the performance of their duties, such as border policeman or soldiers marking minefields, and approximately $80 per month (equivalent to monthly salary in the public sector) to disabled people, including mine victims. There is no statutory obligation to provide prostheses to amputees.

Albania’s Prosthesis Center (located in the Military Hospital) collaborates closely with the ICRC, which along with the Swiss Red Cross, provides raw materials for the production of artificial limbs. There is an agreement between the Center’s Director and the ICRC to give priority to mine survivors. Mine awareness instructors identify lower and upper leg amputees, then a medical specialist determines which of the survivors is ready for measurement. The ICRC then transports them to Tirana, accompanied by a relative, for the first phase of the fitting process, and then three weeks later for the final phase. The ICRC covers all costs, including accommodation and a per diem during the period needed for fitting. When the process is finished the ICRC returns the survivors to their villages. The Albanian government granted the Center $40,000 for 1999; any grant for 2000 is not known at present.

From April 1999 until the end of the year, Handicap International had an operation in Durres to provide psychological support to the victims of war for the Kosovar refugees. In Shkoder, HI distributed thousands pairs of shoes, orthopaedic devices, crutches and wheelchairs.

<Europe/Central Asia | ANDORRA>

[1] Interview with Armand Skapi, UN Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tirana, 1 March 2000.
[2] Decision dated 25.05.2000-06-17 [sic] on Prohibition Of The Use, Storage, Production And Transfer Of Antipersonnel Mines And Their Destruction, signed by Prime Minister Ilir Meta and Defense Minister Luan Hajdaraga (unofficial translation).
[3] Interviews with Ismet Miftari, Chief of Albanian EOD, Tirana, 6 April, 15 May, 16 June 2000; Draft Project of Republic of Albania-Ottawa Treaty related Ammunition Demilitarization, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Activities.
[4] Interview with Armand Skapi, UN Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tirana, 1 March 2000.
[5] Ibid; Report of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Albania to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), 23 November 1999, p. 3; for details of Albania’s production of AP mines before 1990, see: International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Landmine Monitor Report 1999: Toward a Mine-Free World,(New York: Human Rights Watch, 1999), p. 699.
[6] Interviews with Ismet Miftari, Chief of Albanian EOD, Tirana, 6 April, 15 May 2000. Also, Email to LM/HRW by William Hunt, Senior Consultant, NATO Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Ammunition Storage Training Team (NATO EODASTT), 16 July 2000.
[7] See Landmine Monitor Report 1999, pp. 699-700, for details.
[8] Interviews with Ismet Miftari, Chief of Albanian EOD, Tirana, 6 April, 15 May 2000.
[9] UNMACC Threat / Factsheet No. 1, 27 October 1999.
[10] Interview with Ilir Boçka, Chairman of AMAC and Deputy Minister of Defense, Tirana, 22 March 1999.
[11] Presentation by Ismet Miftari, Chief of Albanian EOD, at conference Action Against APMs, Selanik, 3-4 May 2000.
[12] Briefing Notes, Deputy Minister of Defense and Chairman of AMAC Ilir Bocka, presentation to the Standing Committee of Experts on Stockpile Destruction, Geneva, 22-23 May 2000. (Paper distributed as “Ottawa Treaty and Related Ammunition Demilitarisation, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Activities.”)
[13] Presentation by Ismet Miftari, Selanik, 3-4 May 2000.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Briefing Notes, Deputy Defense Minister Ilir Bocka, SCE on Stockpile Destruction, Geneva, 22-23 May 2000.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Interviews with Ismet Miftari, Chief of Albanian EOD, Tirana, 6 April, 15 May 2000.
[18] For past instances of AP mines used by Albania and by others on Albanian territory, see Landmine Monitor Report 1999, p. 701.
[19] Briefing Notes, Ilir Bocka, SCE, Geneva, 22-23 May 2000; interviews with Ismet Miftari, April and 15 May 2000.
[20] Ibid; Presentation by Ismet Miftari, Selanik, 3-4 May 2000.
[21] Interview with a mine survivor, Dobruna, Has District, 3 December 1999.
[22] Briefing Notes, SCE, Geneva, 22-23 May 2000.
[23] Ibid.; Landmine Monitor Report 1999, pp. 701-702.
[24] It has already been replicated in the Peshkopi and Elbasan districts. Email to LM/HRW by William Hunt, Senior Consultant, NATO EODASTT, 16 July 2000.
[25] Briefing Notes, SCE, Geneva, 22-23 May 2000.
[26] Ibid.
[27] Email to Landmine Monitor/Human Rights Watch by William Hunt, Senior Consultant, NATO EODASTT, 16 July 2000.
[28] Interview with Major Besim Canga, Chief of the field EOD Team, Gjeroven, Berat, 5 May 2000. Also, Email to LM/HRW by William Hunt, Senior Consultant, NATO EODASTT, 16 July 2000.
[29] Briefing Notes, SCE, Geneva, 22-23 May 2000.
[30] Email to LM/HRW by William Hunt, Senior Consultant, NATO EODASTT, 16 July 2000.
[31] “Demining Begins in Albania,” AMAE Press Release, 8 June 2000.
[32] Email to LM/HRW by William Hunt, Senior Consultant, NATO EODASTT, 16 July 2000, citing AMAE press conference, July 2000. Mine Awareness Coordination Meeting, Albania, 16 June 2000; email to the ICBL from UNICEF-Albania, 16 June 2000.
[33] Report to the OSCE, 23 November 1999, p. 3.
[34] Email to LM/HRW by William Hunt, Senior Consultant, NATO EODASTT, 16 July 2000. AMAE database on mine/UXO incidents; AMAE Press Release, 8 June 2000.
[35] Mine Awareness Coordination Meeting, Albania, 16 June 2000; email to the ICBL from UNICEF-Albania, 16 June 2000.