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Table of Contents
Country Reports
Nagorno-Karabakh, Landmine Monitor Report 2003

Nagorno-Karabakh

Key developments since May 2002: In 2002, 380,386 square meters of land was cleared of mines and 3,683,900 square meters of land was surveyed.

Mine Ban Policy

Nagorno-Karabakh is an autonomous region in the South Caucasus. In 1988, it voted to secede from Azerbaijan and join Armenia, which resulted in armed conflict from 1988-1994. The region declared independence as the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) on 2 September 1991. Since the end of conflict in 1994, NKR has presented itself as an autonomous republic linked to Armenia. NKR has not been recognized by the United Nations.

NKR political and military leaders have stated their support for a landmine ban, but indicate NKR would not join the Mine Ban Treaty even if eligible to do so. NKR Minister of Foreign Affairs Naira Melkoumian said Nagorno-Karabakh would be “able to join only after the establishment of a peace treaty with Azerbaijan.”[1]

Nagorno-Karabakh has never produced or exported mines, and has not purchased new mines since 1995.[2] Nagorno-Karabakh’s antipersonnel mine stockpile consists of mines left over from the former Soviet Union (PMN-2, POMZ-3, and OZM-72 mines). There were no reports of new mine use in Nagorno-Karabakh during the reporting period.

Landmine Problem and Mine Action

The war between Armenian forces and Azerbaijan, in which battle lines were constantly shifting and always loosely defined, left Nagorno-Karabakh contaminated with landmines. The NKR Ministry of Agriculture has estimated that 37 million square meters of arable land and 35 million square meters of pasture are affected, and 80,000 square meters of vineyards are unusable.[3]

Several nongovernmental organizations provide humanitarian assistance in Nagorno-Karabakh, despite a lack of official governmental recognition. The HALO Trust, a British demining NGO, conducts mine clearance, surveying and training of local deminers. The Engineering Service of the Army and the Department of Emergency Situations also carries out some basic mine clearance. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) carries out mine risk education. The government’s Special Commission on Mine Issues and its Working Group on Mine Problems (WGMP) is responsible for coordinating this effort. HALO, ICRC, relevant government ministries, and the Nagorno-Karabakh Committee of the ICBL are all members of the WGMP.[4]

Mine Clearance

In 2002, 380,386 square meters of land was cleared and 3,683,900 square meters was surveyed in Nagorno-Karabakh.[5] From 1 to January 2003 to 1 June 2003, 810,743 square meters of land was cleared, and 814,000 square meters was surveyed. HALO reports that 96 deminers and two surveyors were active in 2002.[6] One media source reports that during the first four months of 2003, 192 antipersonnel mines, 165 antivehicle mines, and 12,943 items of UXO were destroyed.[7] It was also reported in the media that the NKR capital city of Stepanakert has been almost completely cleared of UXO in 2003.[8]

In early 2003, HALO increased the speed of its manual mine clearance, from an average of ten square meters per day in 2002 to twenty square meters per day in 2003. This increase was achieved through a combination of the developed skill and experience of the deminers, an increase in the number of hours spent demining each day, and the introduction of Large Loop Detectors (LLD) on antivehicle minefields. HALO estimates that one team of LLD deminers (four members) can clear up 2,500 square meters per day. HALO expects to put ten LLD teams in the field in 2003, twice the number from 2002. These teams will be joined by four manual clearance teams, two mechanical clearance teams, two survey teams, one mine risk education team, and four battle area clearance teams.[9]

In 2002, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) provided funding for two manual mine clearance teams and two LLD teams. The Netherlands is funding two manual mine clearance teams, three LLD teams, two mechanical clearance teams, two survey teams, one mine risk education team, and four battle area clearance teams. In 2003 along with USAID and Netherlands funding, the ITF in cooperation with the Cafesjian Foundation will fund two LLD teams and the ITF and the Cooperative Bank will fund three LLD teams.[10]

HALO carried out a feasibility study in December 2002 on the use of mine detecting dogs in Nagorno-Karabakh and found that the dogs were not ideally suited to the conditions in country or cost effective in comparison to current assets employed.[11]

Mine Risk Education

The ICRC has been working with the Nagorno-Karabakh Mine Awareness Working Group to educate and increase mine risk education among residents of the region. The ICRC conducts three MRE projects: the Mine Awareness School Program, focused on children; the Public Education Campaign (PEC), directed to the population as a whole; and Community Based Mine Awareness (CMBA), targeting specific rural villages in contaminated areas.[12]

The Mine Awareness School Program was launched in 2000, and has introduced mine risk education lessons into schools’ curriculum.[13] In this capacity, ICRC has organized presentations for students, instructed educators, and produced and distributed teaching aides. The ICRC has also introduced “child-to-child” projects, specifically in organizing a program and training children as puppeteers. Some 120 children of Nagorno-Karabakh received the training, and traveled throughout the region presenting their show to local school children and at festivals. These shows, modeled on the earlier ICRC show “Danger Mines!,” educate children on what to do when they encounter mines.[14]

In 2003, the ICRC opened a playground in Khramort, the first as part of the Safe Playgrounds for Children Program to create play spaces for children away from mined areas. That program was to run throughout 2003 and envisioned similar construction in 30 settlements in the Martuni, Askeran, Hadrut, Martakert, and Shushi regions.[15]

Designed to reach the population as a whole, the major effort of the PEC was production of six mine awareness video announcements. From 1999-2001, the announcements were broadcast on NK TV (each was shown once a day for two months) and reached an estimated 50,000-60,000 residents.[16]

The CMBA was designed to “reinforce the information available to local communities on the presence and danger of mines and unexploded ordinance (UXO) in and around their villages.”[17] This goal was accomplished through meetings and consultations with rural communities and the production and distribution of “white-boards.” These signs were to be placed in mine affected regions and display warnings of the danger. Since the program’s inception in mid-2000 and in cooperation with the NK Civil Defense, the ICRC has distributed 95 such white-boards throughout Nagorno-Karabakh.

Landmine Casualties

In 2002, fifteen people, including four children, were injured in mine and UXO incidents.[18] In 2001, four people were killed and fourteen injured in reported landmine and UXO incidents.[19] According to information provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, since the 1994 cease-fire, over 250 landmine casualties have been reported in Nagorno-Karabakh.[20] This number has been steadily deceasing, from 86 in 1995 to less than twenty in each of the last few years.

Survivor Assistance

The health-care system in Nagorno-Karabakh has been seriously affected by the general economic situation, and by a lack of resources and skilled staff. The ICRC implements a primary health-care program in the conflict affected districts of Mardakert/Agdara, Martuni/Khocavend and Hadrut. In 2002, the rehabilitation of 23 health facilities was completed. A total of 66 health facilities have now been rehabilitated. The ICRC provided an emergency stock of drugs and surgical materials and arranged training for three surgeons at a war-surgery seminar in Moscow in October. The ICRC primary health care program ended at the end of 2002, and responsibility for the program has been transferred to local health authorities.[21] All landmine survivors receive free treatment in the medical institutions of Nagorno-Karabakh. Physical rehabilitation, prosthetics, and psychosocial support services are available, but their resources are limited.[22]


[1] Meeting between Nagorno-Karabakh Committee of ICBL and Naira Melkoumian, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Masis Mailian, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1 and 2 February 2002.
[2] Lt. Col. Marsel Pogosian, Deputy Chief, Field Engineer Service, at a meeting of the Working Group on Mine Problems, 21 November 2000.
[3] Onnik Krikorian, “Clearing the Killing Fields” Transitions Online, 20 June 2002.
[4] Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 837-841.
[5] Information provided to Landmine Monitor (NPA) by Matthew Hovell, the HALO Trust, 13 June 2003.
[6] Ibid.
[7] “Large Scale Demining Carried Out in Karabakh in First Four Months of 2003,” Arminfo Business Bulletin (Yerevan), 11 June 2003.
[8] “Karabakh Expert Says Stepanakert ‘Almost Completely Demined,’” Mediamax (Yerevan), 12 June 2003.
[9] Information provided by Matthew Hovell, HALO, 13 June 2003.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] ICRC, “Azerbaijan/Nagorny Karabakh: ICRC community-based mine/unexploded ordnance awareness program,” 31 October 2002.
[13] Since the program’s initiation, the ICRC has distributed mine risk education materials in over 200 schools. ICRC, “Azerbaijan/Nagorny Karabakh program,” 31 October 2002.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Information posted on the NKR Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, at www.nkr.am/eng/news/index.htm, accessed on 19 June 2003.
[16] ICRC, “Azerbaijan/Nagorny Karabakh program,” 31 October 2002.
[17] Ibid.
[18] ICRC, “Annual Report 2002,” Geneva, June 2003, p. 245.
[19] Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 840.
[20] See, Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 840, for year-by-year totals. HALO estimates that mine and UXO incidents have caused more than 900 deaths and injuries since the 1994 cease-fire
[21] ICRC, “2002 Annual Report,” p. 246.
[22] For details see Landmine Monitor Report 2001, pp. 976-977.