+   *    +     +     
About Us 
The Issues 
Our Research Products 
Order Publications 
Press Room 
Resources for Monitor Researchers 
Table of Contents
Country Reports
SRI LANKA, Landmine Monitor Report 2000
LM Report 2000 Full Report   Executive Summary   Key Findings   Key Developments   Translated Country Reports


Key developments since March 1999: Both sides are using antipersonnel mines in the escalated fighting. The UN Mine Action Project began in July 1999 and was expanded in early 2000, but had to be suspended in April 2000 due to the conflict. A total of 214,541 square meters of land had been cleared. It appears there were at least several hundred civilian mine casualties in 1999.


The Sri Lankan government has been engaged in an armed conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) since 1983. The LTTE and the government have used antipersonnel landmines extensively over the years, and the northern and eastern provinces are heavily contaminated with landmines. In April 2000, the fighting escalated greatly as the LTTE made significant inroads into areas that were under governmental control. At the time of this writing, heavy fighting between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan forces continues in the Jaffna peninsula.

Mine Ban Policy

Sri Lanka has not signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, citing security considerations due to the ongoing conflict with the LTTE. Sri Lanka was one of twelve non-signatories that participated as an observer in the First Meeting of State Parties in Maputo, Mozambique in May 1999. Its official statement said, “Sri Lanka is not yet a signatory to the Ottawa Convention on antipersonnel mines. However, Sri Lanka shares the views of the other member countries on this issue.... If not for the current security situation...Sri Lanka would have been among the first group of member countries who have ratified the convention.... Sri Lanka, in principle, welcomes a comprehensive ban on antipersonnel mines on humanitarian grounds. However, such a ban should encompass the use of antipersonnel mines both by the security forces as well as by the terrorist groups.” Sri Lanka also called on other nations to help “to bring LTTE atrocities to an end so that Sri Lanka will be able to participate in future meetings on the convention not as an observer but as an active signatory.”[1]

On 1 March 2000, the Deputy Foreign Minister told Parliament that Sri Lanka could not accede to the Mine Ban Treaty because of: (1) the indiscriminate and unfettered use of mines by the LTTE; (2) the need to deploy antipersonnel landmines for defensive purposes; and (3) the need to find alternatives before giving up the use of antipersonnel landmines.[2]

Sri Lanka has voted in favor of the UN General Assembly resolutions supporting a comprehensive ban since 1996, including the pro-Mine Ban Treaty resolution in December 1999, indicating it voted in favor because of the humanitarian objectives.[3]

Sri Lanka has not signed the Convention on Conventional Weapons, and did not attend the First Annual Conference of States Parties to Amended Protocol II (Landmines) in December 1999. Although a member of the Conference on Disarmament, its position on negotiating a ban on mine transfers at that forum is unclear.

The LTTE has not made any statements regarding a ban on antipersonnel mines. An effort made in 1998 by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to obtain a commitment from the LTTE to refrain from using antipersonnel landmines was not successful.[4]

Non-governmental organizations--local, national, and international--are engaged in advocating for a ban. The Sri Lanka Campaign to Ban Landmines has been urging the Sri Lankan government as well as the LTTE to discontinue the use of antipersonnel landmines, and has also been appealing to the government to become a party to the Mine Ban Treaty.

In August 1999, the International Committee of the Red Cross organized in Sri Lanka a South Asian Regional Seminar on Landmines to which the governments of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka sent representatives.

The Australian Campaign to Ban Antipersonnel Landmines in Sri Lanka[5] launched a photo exhibition and petition campaign on 3 March 2000 urging a ban on the use of antipersonnel landmines in Sri Lanka.[6]


It is clear that both sides are continuing to use antipersonnel mines in the current round of conflict that has escalated greatly since April 2000.[7]

The Sri Lanka government’s position is that it uses antipersonnel landmines purely as a defensive weapon.[8] The government maintains that “we have taken all possible action to minimize the threat of antipersonnel mines to civilian life. Land mines are not used by the security forces as an offensive weapon. In the context of the current situation the security forces have been compelled to use land mines to defend security establishments.”[9]

The UN, which has a mine action project in the Jaffna peninsula (presently suspended), has indicated that it has found three main types of antipersonnel mines likely used by the government forces: Chinese Type 72a, Pakistani P4, and Italian VS-50. Evidence of command-detonated Claymore directional fragmentation mines has also surfaced.[10]

According to the UN, the Sri Lankan security forces have laid barrier minefields to prevent the LTTE from reoccupying Jaffna; these are large mined areas laid to a specific pattern and usually marked. Security forces have also laid minefields to defend specific points; again laid to a pattern and normally marked.[11]

The LTTE regard antipersonnel landmines and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) as an essential and effective part of their arsenal. The LTTE are considered among the most skilled in the world in the use of improvised explosives. The IEDs have devastating effect; a common one is a buried explosives-laden petrol can with a tripwire.

The most frequently used mine is the “Jony” mine locally produced by the LTTE. The UN reports that LTTE defensive minefields have been laid with a rudimentary pattern and not marked. The LTTE have also laid nuisance minefields to prevent access to facilities, shelter, wells, and food. These mines have been laid in small numbers and have never been marked. All nuisance mines discovered have been laid by the LTTE and it is this type of landmine use that has created the greatest threat to returning displaced people.[12]

The UN Development Program reported in February 1999 that both sides to the conflict agreed not to lay mines in land cleared by the Mine Action project in the Jaffna peninsula.[13] It is uncertain at best that this has occurred.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling

Sri Lanka is not known to have produced antipersonnel mines. It is believed that Sri Lankan security forces have imported all of their antipersonnel landmines. As noted above, most mines appear to be of Pakistani, Chinese, and Italian origin or design. The fact that virtually no country today is exporting antipersonnel mines could lead to the commencement of domestic production by Sri Lanka, but there is no evidence that this is happening at present. Sri Lanka will not reveal any details about the number or types of antipersonnel mines it has stockpiled.

In addition to making IEDs, the LTTE produce in significant numbers the Jony mine, a small wooden box with 3-400 grams of TNT or C4 that explodes from pressure. The LTTE also make a Claymore-type mine.[14]

Landmine Problem

Antipersonnel landmines are largely confined to the northern and eastern regions of Sri Lanka, which are seriously affected. The UN Mine Action Project in Jaffna states that there is an extremely high level of contamination both in urban and rural areas of the Jaffna peninsula.[15] The UN Development Program has also said, “The greater proportion of mines in Jaffna are the antipersonnel type and they can be found virtually anywhere from marked minefields, to agricultural land, to houses and gardens.... It is estimated that there are around 50 to 75 square kilometres of suspect or contaminated land.”[16] Accurate figures will be available only upon the conclusion of the community (Level 1) survey being conducted by the UN Mine Action Project, which is presently suspended. Affected areas include urban areas, roads, water sources and fertile agricultural land.

Numbers of mines are difficult to calculate due to the continual use of mines in the ongoing conflict. The U.S. State Department estimated in 1998 that about 25,000 landmines were deployed,[17] and the Sri Lankan government cited an estimate of 20,000 to 25,000 in May 1999.[18] But the figure could be higher today due to the escalation of the conflict since the latter part of 1999.

Mine Clearance

The UN Mine Action Project which began in July 1999 in the areas controlled by the Sri Lankan security forces in the Jaffna peninsula was expanded at the beginning of 2000. However, due to the escalation of the conflict in the Jaffna peninsula, this project was suspended and the staff started to leave the area on 28 April 2000.[19]

The expanded project consisted of a mine awareness program, Level 1 survey (identifying suspected areas), Level 2 survey (marking areas), emergency clearance of priority areas, explosive ordnance disposal, and compilation of a mine action database. The project was developed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). Funding was provided by UNDP and the governments of Australia and the Netherlands. The project was expected to cost around $3.5 million over two years.[20] Funding up to the time the project was suspended totaled about $1.8 million.[21]

The Level 1 survey was approximately 35-40 percent complete; over 300 individual minefields had been identified.[22] Total area identified as suspect at the end of April 2000 was 20,242,485 square meters.[23] Eleven surveyors recruited from the local community were involved in the Level 1 survey. The Level 2 survey and the mine clearing operation were contracted to the Zimbabwean company Minetech. Twenty-six Minetech personnel were involved, including three survey/clearance teams. There were also four mine detection dogs.[24]

By the end of April 2000, they had cleared 214,541 square meters of land and destroyed over 1,023 antipersonnel landmines.[25] A manual deminer could clear up to 200 square meters per day depending on vegetation and soil conditions.[26]

In addition to mine clearance, unexploded munitions were also destroyed when they were perceived as a danger to the public. A special team had been created to deal with this situation. It was estimated that 5-10% of all fired munitions had failed to explode. The end of 1999 had destroyed at least forty-two UXO items.

At the time of suspension of the Mine Action Project, one deminer had been involved in an accident, which resulted in minor injuries. A medical support team provided emergency medical cover to mine clearance, UXO disposal, and Level 2 survey teams.

Mine Awareness

UNICEF had begun a mine awareness program in Jaffna in 1998. When the UN project became operational in July 1999, UNICEF handed over its mine awareness activities in Jaffna. This program has also been suspended. UNICEF now supports awareness programs outside Jaffna including locations under the control of the LTTE.[27]

The UN Mine Action Program used existing structures in sectors such as health, education, and agricultural to make presentations tailored to specific audiences taking into account the local cultural attitudes. School children were a major focus group. Ninety-three schools across the peninsula participated in a training program for teachers through which 27,770 school children were reached. Further, twenty-three schools from six divisions participated in a drama competition.[28]

In the health sector, public health inspectors and midwives in certain areas provided information about mines and UXOs. In the agricultural sector, thirty persons working in agricultural instruction and at Agricultural Productive Centers were trained to educate farming communities about the dangers of mines.[29]

Making use of the media, a mine awareness page appeared monthly in a local newspaper, The Sanjeewa. In addition, 60-second radio spots giving preventive steps were broadcast over the local Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation station beginning in December 1999.[30] These too will be affected by the suspension of the mine awareness program.

Community-focused programs included “market mornings” where dancers who are mine victims themselves, and a “talking mine,” provided an animated forum through which information was conveyed. Other educational material included the distribution of 1,500 wall-size calendars and 5,000 pocket calendars in the year 2000.[31]

Staff attached to CARE International, Action Contre la Faim, UNHCR and Save the Children Fund UK, received support from the awareness program.[32]

The Sri Lankan government has stated that it is implementing awareness programs in affected regions, and that in areas outside the Jaffna Peninsula, service personnel and police conduct these programs.[33]

Landmine Casualties

The Sri Lanka Campaign to Ban Landmines estimates a total civilian casualty figure of at least 2,000, based on hospital records and information provided by the Jaipur Foot Program, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations. The UN Mine Action Project gave the total number of landmine and UXO victims in Jaffna in 1999 as thirty-four.[34] However, the Sri Lanka Jaipur Foot Program, with headquarters in Colombo and branches in other parts of the country including Jaffna, provided the following information regarding landmine victims for the year 1999: 163 civilians in Jaffna (Northern Province); 48 civilians in Batticaloa (Eastern Province); and, 386 war-related in Colombo, the majority of which are mine victims, both civilian and military.[35]

The government stated in June 1999 that approximately 4,000 members of the armed forces had suffered mine injuries.[36] The government also said in May 1999 that over the last two years a monthly average of thirty security personnel and fifteen civilians were killed or injured by antipersonnel mines, and “almost all of these are by mines laid by the LTTE.”[37] That totals 540 mine casualties per year for the last two years.

The LTTE provide no information on landmine casualties. Humanitarian workers have indicated that over 1,500 landmine victims are presently awaiting prostheses in the areas outside government control, and a substantial number of these could well be LTTE cadres.

Survivor Assistance

The UNDP notes that hospitals are poorly equipped and unable to acquire basic drugs such as anesthetics. Because of the conflict, there is no reliable road or air link between Jaffna and the main city of Colombo. There is the possibility of air evacuations by military aircraft, but it cannot be counted on. “The alternative is to enhance local capacity by importing expertise and providing dedicated drug supplies to enable casualties to be treated in Jaffna. The professional competence of local medics is reasonably high, but there are serious shortcomings in management practices.”[38]

Medical assistance to victims is primarily provided by the government through the University Hospital Centers and other hospitals. Foreign organizations also help in the medical and rehabilitation process. Medecins Sans Frontieres (France) is involved with the University Hospital center in Jaffna, and three other government hospitals in the northern and eastern regions. Medecins Sans Frontieres (Holland) helps a government hospital in an area controlled by the LTTE.

The Jaipur Foot Centre, which is the best known organization providing prostheses, states that all victims who come to them are provided with prostheses. It is reported that an NGO that is operating in the areas controlled by the LTTE is involved in producing prostheses for landmine victims, and that it is encountering problems sourcing material.

There are no social and economic integration programs specifically targeted at antipersonnel mine victims. There are, however, various general rehabilitation projects underway in the country, including in Jaffna, implemented by a variety of organizations both local and foreign. The Jaipur Foot Center states that it provides interest-free loans of up to SLR5000 (about U.S.$70) to victims of antipersonnel mines (though not confined to this category) who are able to show a feasible self-employment project. They state that they are able to fund only two to three applications per month due to financial constraints.[39] The now suspended UNDP Jaffna Rehabilitation and Resettlement Program was involved in self-employment and skills development projects, and implemented a micro-credit project.

The government has a general program for the disabled, which provides a small monthly allowance. There are no specific disability laws available to landmine victims. However, disabled persons of the government forces including landmine victims receive special assistance and pension benefits.


[1] Statement of Sri Lanka, to the First Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, undated, but 4 May 1999.
[2] Hansard (Official parliamentary record), 1 March 2000, Vol.128, No.3, col. 457, 458.
[3] “UN General Assembly would convene 2001 conference on illicit arms trade,” M2 Presswire, 9 November 1999, citing comment of Sri Lanka on the resolution during First Committee consideration.
[4] Press Release, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, SRSG-CAC/PR/5, 12 May 1998.
[5] This campaign includes Sinhalese and Tamil communities living in Australia; the Australian Council for Overseas Aid; and the Victorian section of the Australian Network of the ICBL.
[6] “News Fax,” Australian Council for Overseas Aid, 3 March 2000.
[7] One recent report stated, “Ground troops had to negotiate a very large number of anti-personnel mines planted by the LTTE which resulted in troops having to spend a considerable time before assaulting the bunker line,” Daily Mirror, 11 July 2000, p. 1.
[8] Hansard (Official parliamentary record), 1 March 2000, Vol.128, No.3, col. 458.
[9] Statement to the First Meeting of States Parties, 4 May 1999.
[10] Edward Chalmers, Mine Action Coordinator, UNDP/UNOPS Mine Action Project, Jaffna, e-mail communication to Landmine Monitor researcher for Sri Lanka, 31 March 2000. See also, UNDP, “Mine Action Pilot Project Jaffna,” undated, but February 1999.
[11] Chalmers, UNDP/UNOPS, email, 31 March 2000.
[12] Ibid.
[13] UNDP, “Mine Action Pilot Project Jaffna,” undated, but February 1999, p. 1.
[14] Ibid., pp. 4-5.
[15] Chalmers, 31 March 2000.
[16] UNDP, “Mine Action Pilot Project Jaffna,” undated, but February 1999, p. 4. One subsequent press account reported, “The UNDP said although initial information indicated 10 to 12 percent of the 1,068 square kilometer Jaffna peninsula was mined, the actual mined area was about two percent.” “Dogs sniff for mines in UN project in Sri Lanka,” Reuters, Colombo, 5 August 1999.
[17] U.S. Department of State, Hidden Killers, September 1998, p. A-2.
[18] Statement of Sri Lankan Representative to the First Meeting of States Parties, 4 May 1999.
[19] United Nations Office of the Resident Co-ordinator, Colombo, Sri Lanka, Press Release, 28 April 2000.
[20] Landmine Monitor Report 1999, p. 511, cites several press accounts.
[21] This figure was provided by UNDP. One press account stated, “UNDP officials said the cost of the project has risen to almost $4 million against initial expectations of $2 million.” “Dogs sniff for mines in UN project in Sri Lanka,” Reuters, Colombo, 5 August 1999.
[22] Chalmers, 31 March 2000.
[23] Matthew Todd, IT/Database Specialist, JRRP, UNDP/UNOPS, email to Landmine Monitor researcher for Sri Lanka, 7 July 2000.
[24] Chalmers, 31 March 2000.
[25] Matthew Todd, UNDP/UNOPS, email to Landmine Monitor researcher for Sri Lanka, 7 July 2000.
[26] Chalmers 31 March 2000.
[27] Minutes of the Technical Meeting on Landmines held on 30 March 2000 at the UNHCR office, Colombo.
[28] Chalmers, 31 March 2000.
[29] Ibid.
[30] Ibid.
[31] Ibid.
[32] Ibid.
[33] Letter from Sri Lanka High Commission in Australia to the ACFOA, Sri Lanka Peace Project, Deakin, Australia, dated 16 June 1999.
[34] Chalmers, 31 March 2000.
[35] Telephone interview with Mr. Cyril Siriwardene, Secretary, Jaipur Foot Center, Colombo Head Office, 25 January 2000.
[36] Letter from Sri Lanka High Commission in Australia to the ACFOA, dated 16 June 1999.
[37] Statement to the First Meeting of States Parties, 4 May 1999.
[38] UNDP, “Mine Action Pilot Project Jaffna,” undated, but February 1999, pp. 4.
[39] Telephone interview with Mr. Cyril Siriwardene, Secretary, Jaipur Foot Centre, Colombo Head Office, 25 January 2000.