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Country Reports
International Committee of the Red Cross, Landmine Monitor Report 2003

International Committee of the Red Cross

The contribution of this paper does not necessarily imply the association of the ICRC with views or statements made in other chapters of Landmine Monitor.

1. Introduction

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is an impartial, neutral and independent organisation whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence and to provide them with assistance. It coordinates the relief activities conducted by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in situations of armed conflict. It also endeavours to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles.

The similar effects of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) on civilian populations call for similar humanitarian responses, including protecting affected communities, raising their awareness of the dangers posed by these devices, providing care and assistance to victims, and facilitating mine and ERW clearance for affected communities. To reduce the devastating humanitarian impact of both landmines and ERW, the ICRC carries out a range of "mine action" activities, in particular:

  • providing or supporting curative care to tens of thousands of war wounded, including mine/ERW victims, in the form of pre-hospital care (including first aid), hospital assistance, and surgical and medical assistance;
  • providing or supporting physical rehabilitation projects benefitting tens of thousands of war-disabled, including mine/ERW victims;
  • in relation to the mines and ERW which remain scattered in present and former battlefields around the world, carrying out or supporting mine/ERW awareness programmes in order to reduce the risks to affected communities;
  • promoting adherence to the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-personnel Mines (referred to in this report as the Ottawa treaty) and working with governments to ensure its full implementation, as well as promoting norms aimed at reducing the risk to civilians posed by landmines other than anti-personnel mines and by ERW.

2. Humanitarian diplomacy: promoting international standards

Throughout 2002, the ICRC continued to play an important role in efforts to put an end to the scourge of anti-personnel landmines by promoting adherence to and full implementation of the Ottawa treaty banning these weapons. The ICRC actively participated in the annual Meeting of States Parties to the Ottawa treaty, held in Geneva in September 2002, and in the biannual meetings of the Standing Committees on victim assistance, mine clearance, stockpile destruction, and the general status and operation of the treaty. In the context of the latter Standing Committee, the ICRC has continued to express its concern on a number of issues relating to the interpretation and application of the treaty, including the problem of anti-vehicle mines with sensitive fuses which could be easily detonated by the presence, proximity or contact of a person. The ICRC considers such systems to be prohibited as anti-personnel mines under the Ottawa treaty.

In relation to the Ottawa treaty's requirements for victim assistance, stockpile destruction and mine clearance, the ICRC has highlighted the need for mine-affected States Parties to develop national programmes and assessments of the resources needed to implement these programmes within the timelines imposed by the treaty, in particular the 10-year mine clearance deadlines which will start falling in 2009. The ICRC has encouraged mine-affected States to be prepared to present their programmes and assessments by the First Review Conference of the Ottawa treaty in 2004. It has also impressed upon donor States the importance of renewing their commitments to mobilise resources for mine action, bearing in mind that the period between the 2004 Review Conference and the mine clearance deadlines of many mine-affected States in 2009 will be crucial in ensuring that the promises of the treaty to affected communities are fulfilled.

In November 2002, the ICRC organised a regional conference in Moscow on landmines and explosive remnants of war. The aim was to raise awareness in Russia and other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) member States of the Ottawa treaty and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and to promote adherence to and implementation of these treaties. The ICRC also hosted a regional conference on International Humanitarian Law in Pretoria, South Africa for government legal experts of the 14 member States of the South African Development Community (SADC). A major theme of this conference was the implementation of the Ottawa treaty.

In September 2002, the Norwegian Red Cross, the Norwegian government, the International Peace Research Institute, and the Norwegian People's Aid co-organised an international conference on the future of humanitarian mine action, in which the ICRC also actively participated.

In addition to ICRC- and Red Cross-organised events, the ICRC participated in the following meetings:

  • regional seminar for North African States on the Ottawa treaty, organised by the governments of Tunisia and Canada (Tunis);
  • regional seminar for East Asian States on landmines, organised by the government of Thaïland, with the support of the governments of Australia, Canada and Japan (Bangkok);
  • national workshop on the ratification and implementation of the Ottawa Convention in the Democratic Republic of Congo, organised by the governments of the DRC and of Canada (Kinshasa);
  • national conference on landmines in Afghanistan organised by the ICBL (Kabul);
  • national conference on banning anti-personnel mines, capacity building and cooperation in the South Caucasus, organised by the governments of Armenia and Canada and the OSCE (Yerevan, Armenia).

In all its efforts, the ICRC also continued to encourage adherence to amended Protocol II of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). Even with the entry into force and widespread adherence to the Ottawa treaty banning anti-personnel mines, amended Protocol II remains an important instrument as it regulates anti-vehicle mines, booby traps and other devices not covered by the Ottawa treaty but which can have just as indiscriminate and devastating effects.

Through its operations in theaters of armed conflict past and present, the ICRC is brought face to face with the severe and long-term consequences of explosive remnants of war (ERW).[1] In the context of the CCW, the ICRC has proposed that a new protocol be adopted to deal with this urgent humanitarian problem. In 2002, the ICRC submitted a number of working papers to the three meetings of the group of governmental experts established by the State Parties to the CCW to examine the ERW problem. In December 2002, the States Parties approved the group of government experts' recommendation that a new instrument on ERW be negotiated. The ICRC hailed this decision as an important first step towards addressing the problem, while continuing to emphasise the need to strengthen the law to deal with this issue.

The ICRC continued to provide legal support and advice to numerous countries around the globe on ratification procedures and the drafting, adoption and amendment of national legislation to implement IHL instruments, including the Ottawa treaty and the CCW. ICRC legal advisers in the field provided support to a number of States in developing national legislation to ensure that their treaty obligations were translated into national law.

With respect in particular to the Ottawa treaty, in 2002 the ICRC developed model legislation for common law States to assist them in developing implementing legislation, as required by article 9 of the treaty. Moreover, the ICRC's Information Kit on the development of national legislation to implement the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-personnel Mines, which it produced in 2001, continued to serve as a useful tool to all States in preparing their national implementing legislation.

Through its dissemination and training programmes in international humanitarian law (IHL) for armed forces and other arms bearers around the world, the ICRC promoted better understanding of the international standards relating to landmines and ERW. In particular, the ICRC continued to encourage reflection on the limited military utility of anti-personnel mines as compared to their high human costs, on the basis of the ICRC-commissioned study Anti-personnel Landmines: Friend or Foe?.

To ensure the success of its efforts and to promote a general understanding of the Ottawa treaty, the ICRC continued in 2002 to make available a wide variety of documentation and videos on the Ottawa treaty. It also published a booklet containing the full text of the CCW, incorporating the latest amendments and Protocols. The ICRC also continued to make available its travelling exhibitions on the Ottawa treaty in English and in Arabic. In 2002, the ICRC and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies organised such exhibitions in Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Russia.

3. Mine Awareness Programmes

The overall goal of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement's mine/ERW awareness programmes is to reduce the number of casualties by changing patterns of behaviour and proposing alternative solutions adapted to each community. By supporting affected communities to develop a "Safer Village" plan, the Movement seeks to focus on the specific needs of the populations at risk, and thus to increase the impact of its mine/ERW awareness activities, with greater emphasis on learning from and sharing of experiences. The ICRC has also produced a video and a brochure to explain the Safer Village concept.

In 2002, the ICRC and national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies were involved in mine/ERW awareness programs in Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the northern Caucasus region of the Russian Federation (including Chechnya and Dagestan), Cambodia, Croatia, Ethiopia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (South Serbia and Kosovo), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iraq, Lebanon, Mozambique, Nicaragua, the Palestinian Occupied and Autonomous Territories, Peru, Tajikistan and the region of Nagorny Karabakh.

In Georgia/Abkhazia, the ICRC has organized training and workshops to support mine/ERW-awareness activities of the HALO Trust. Assessment missions have been conducted in Colombia, Eritrea, Jordan, Kyrgystan, Myanmar, Namibia, Peru, and Syria to support the Red Cross/Red Crescent National Societies in implementing mine/ERW-awareness programmes.

In addition to the Safer Villages video and brochure referred to above, the ICRC is producing other reference documents and supporting tools through a consultative process. This includes the Mine/ERW Awareness Guidelines of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, to be published in 2003, as well as a "How To" manual and a training Handbook.

A country-by-country review of the ICRC's mine awareness activities for 2002 is provided in its Special Report on Mine Action 2002.

4. Mine Victim assistance

Providing aid and assistance to victims of war is one of the primary activities of the ICRC. As all other war wounded, mine/ERW victims benefit from the ICRC's medical assistance and physical rehabilitation programmes.

Assistance to war wounded, including mine/ERW victims, spans a broad range of medical services: people injured by mines require pre-hospital care (evacuation, first aid and transport) and then curative care (hospital assistance, surgical treatment). ICRC also provides training of civilian and military surgeons, including training in how to treat mine/ERW injuries. All these services in favour of mine victims represent some 10 to 15% of the ICRC's field surgical treatment, medical and hospital assistance worldwide.

In 2002, the ICRC provided regular substantial assistance to 67 hospitals treating war-wounded people in 18 countries accross the world, including in mine/ERW affected countries such as Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia/Abkhazia, Iraq, Russia/northern Caucasus, Somalia, Sudan, and southern Caucasus (Nagorny Karabakh). This enabled 14,437 war-wounded, including mines/ERW victims, to be treated during the year.

ICRC surgical teams worked and/or provided training in a dozen countries, including nine affected by landmines: Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Sudan (Kenya).

Physical rehabilitation remains a crucial part of ICRC assistance provided directly to mine/ERW victims. The number of physically disabled persons receiving assistance in 2002 rose in comparison with the previous year. Amputees were fitted with 16,921 prostheses (+1%) and other disabled people were fitted with 13,365 orthoses (+16%). The proportion of mine victims among the amputees fitted remained stable at 60%. Thousands of additional patients received physiotherapy, while 17,052 pairs of crutches and 1,598 wheelchairs were delivered.

Thirteen new physical rehabilitation projects received assistance from the ICRC in 2002. They included projects in North Korea, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Namibia, Russia/norther Caucasus, Sierra Leone, Albania, Yemen and Algeria.

The ICRC continues to assist physical rehabilitation projects formerly operated by it, but which have now been handed over to local organizations, government ministries, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies or non-governmental organizations. Resources for this assistance comes from the ICRC-administered Special Fund for the Disabled (SFD). During 2002, the SFD provided expertise and/or material assistance to 34 physical rehabilitation centres in 16 countries.

A country-by-country review of the ICRC's mine victim assistance activities for 2002 is provided in its Special Report on Mine Action 2002.

[1] This term describes a wide range of explosive munitions (unexploded or abandoned), which remain in area after a conflict is over, including artillery shells, grenades, mortar bombs, cluster bomb and other submunitions, rockets and missiles.