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Country Reports
EGYPT, Landmine Monitor Report 2005


Key developments since May 2004: At the First Review Conference in December 2004, Egypt for the first time officially announced a moratorium on the production of antipersonnel mines. Egypt distanced itself from the Common African Position on Landmines adopted in Addis Ababa on 17 September 2004. The National Committee to Develop the North West Coast and Mine Clearance did not meet during the reporting period. No mine risk education activities were reported in Egypt during 2004 and the first half of 2005. At least 10 people were injured in mine/UXO incidents in 2004.

Mine Ban Policy

Egypt has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. At the First Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty in Nairobi in November-December 2004, Egypt’s Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister for International Political Relations, Disarmament and Specialized Agencies emphasized “the sincerity of [Egypt’s] position in support of a comprehensive, effective and balanced ban on anti-personnel mines.” She said that Egypt “unequivocally supports the humanitarian objectives” of the treaty, and spoke of Egypt’s desire “to put an end to the scourge of landmines.”[1 ]

The Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister also reiterated the reasons Egypt has cited for many years on why it has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty: it does not legally commit states that laid mines in another state’s territory to remove them; it does not adequately provide assurances for assistance in mine clearance; it does not take into consideration states’ “legitimate right to self-defense” including “their legitimate right to use landmines;” the lack of accession by the major producers and users of antipersonnel mines. She indicated mines were particularly important to Egypt because of its “expansive borders that would otherwise be difficult to protect, and would render them susceptible to terrorist infiltration, arms and explosive smuggling, banditry, and drug trafficking.”[2 ]

As in previous years, on 3 December 2004, Egypt abstained from voting on UN General Assembly Resolution 59/84, which promoted universalization and full implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty.

In addition to attending the First Review Conference, Egypt participated in the intersessional Standing Committee meetings in Geneva in June 2005.[3 ] The Deputy Foreign Minister made a presentation on Egypt’s mine problem before the European Parliament on 16 June 2005. The Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly met in Cairo on 15 March 2005 and established a “working party to study the problem of landmines laid by European armies in the territory of Egypt and all other countries of the region during the Second World War.”[4 ] The working party met in Brussels in June 2005 and an Egyptian member of parliament was elected as chairman of the working party.[5]

The Egyptian NGO Protection of Armaments and Consequences (Protection) released the Landmine Monitor Report 2004 at an international press conference on 21 November 2004 in Cairo.[6 ] It distributed Arabic language translations of country reports for the Middle East and North Africa. Protection also organized a regional seminar on mine survivors and assistance at the same time. Representatives of the National Council for Human Rights, Arab League, National Demining Committee and Ministry of Health, as well as mine survivors from Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Yemen, and Egyptian actress Fradous Abdelhamed attended both events.

Protection conducted the second phase of its training program on the Mine Ban Treaty for the media in Bahrain on 10-13 April 2005. Eighteen journalists from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates participated.

Egypt signed the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) in 1981, but has not ratified the convention or any of its protocols. It attended CCW meetings in 2004 and 2005, but did not participate in the Sixth Annual Meeting of States Parties to Amended Protocol II in November 2004.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling and Use

At the First Review Conference, the Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister stated that “the Egyptian government has imposed a moratorium on all export and production activities related to anti-personnel mines.”[7 ] This was the first time that Egypt has publicly and officially announced a moratorium on production. Egypt told a UN assessment mission in February 2000 that it ceased export of antipersonnel mines in 1984 and ended production in 1988.[8 ] Egypt had not responded to repeated requests by Landmine Monitor to make that position formal and public, in writing. With this Nairobi statement, Landmine Monitor will remove Egypt from its list of current antipersonnel mine producers. However, Landmine Monitor is still not aware of any official decrees or laws by the government to implement prohibitions on production or export of antipersonnel mines.

Egypt is likely to have a large stockpile of antipersonnel mines, but details on it are considered a national security secret. There have been no reports of new use of antipersonnel mines in Egypt in this reporting period.

Landmine/UXO Problem

A document circulated at the Review Conference stated that Egypt is “one of the most mine-infested countries in the World. Egypt suffers from the presence of approximately 20 million landmines and Unexploded Ordnances (UXOs) on its territory... and it is estimated that their removal will require approximately $20 million. This problem significantly affects locations in the Western Desert region, the Sinai Peninsula, the areas in the vicinity of the Suez Canal and Red Sea coast to the East.”[9 ] Mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) are estimated to be “dispersed in an area of about 287,000 hectares [2,870 square kilometers].” The document refers to the human cost (700 deaths and 7,600 injuries from mines since 1982) and the economic cost, regarding the country’s need for its growing population to expand beyond the narrow strip of land along the river Nile, where almost 97 percent of the population lives. It also refers to the importance of underground water reserves, which are made inaccessible by the presence of mines, and the similar inaccessibility of Egypt’s oil and gas reserves estimated as 4.8 billion barrels and 13.4 trillion cubic feet, respectively.[10 ]

Egypt’s mine/UXO contamination derives from World War II and the Egypt-Israel wars of 1956, 1967 and 1973. Previously, Egyptian sources have estimated that 16.7 million landmines affect 2,480 million square meters in the Western Desert area (from Alexandria to the Libyan border and 30 kilometers deep from the Mediterranean coastline) and 5.1 million landmines affect 200 million square meters in the east of the country (the Sinai peninsula and the Red Sea coast). Other Egyptian officials, however, have observed that only 20 to 25 percent of these devices are actually landmines, the remainder being UXO.[11]

According to a 2002 USAID/RONCO report, 500,000 civilians are affected by mines and UXO in the Western Desert, and some 300,000 civilians are affected in the eastern areas.[12]

Protection reported previously that very few mined areas are marked or mapped, and that Egyptian civilians continue to use mine-affected areas for cultivation, grazing, infrastructure projects and housing.[13 ] Casualties occur on a regular basis; Landmine Monitor recorded at least 70 mine/UXO casualties between 1999 and 2002 (see Landmine/UXO Casualties section).

Mine Action

In September 2004, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that the Egyptian Army cleared three million mines between 1981 and 1991 at an estimated cost of US$27 million. No humanitarian mine clearance operations have been reported, with the possible exception of a few commercially-funded projects in the east.[14]

Following the 2002 USAID/RONCO assessment, the Egyptian government adopted a more development-focused approach to its mine problem. It changed the name of the National Committee to Supervise Mine Clearance, established in April 2000, to the National Committee to Develop the Northwest Coast and Mine Clearance in July 2002.[15 ] Responsibility for the Committee moved from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Ministry of International Cooperation on 21 June 2004. The National Committee adopted a plan in 2003 to develop Egypt’s north coast and clear landmines. It planned a media campaign to start in May 2004 which was re-announced in November 2004 by the Minister of International Cooperation. The campaign aims to raise awareness of Egypt’s landmine problem internationally and especially with the countries who laid landmines on Egyptian territory.[16 ] In 2004 and the first half of 2005, the National Committee did not meet; details of the implementation of the media campaign and the development plan have not been reported.[17 ]

From 1999-2003, Egypt was included in the US humanitarian demining funding program; however, it is not known what funding was disbursed or how it was used.[18 ] In 2004, the German Federal Ministry of Defense provided an in-kind donation of metal detectors at an estimated value of €299,550 ($372,580) to Egypt.[19]

In April 2005, the Head of the National Committee met with the Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Cairo; ICRC shared its experiences with regard to mines and UXO, and advocated in favor of Egypt joining the Mine Ban Treaty.[20 ] A UNDP mine action advisor met with Egyptian authorities in May 2005; further details have not been reported.[21 ]

Egypt distanced itself from the Common African Position on Landmines adopted at the Second Continental Conference of African Experts on Landmines, held in Addis Ababa on 17 September 2004. Egypt argued that the preamble to the Common African Position should refer to only those African Union members who are State Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty.[22 ] This was contested by other African Union (AU) delegations, who noted that “the Conference was not a meeting of the African countries which are Parties to the Convention, but a Conference bringing together all Member States in the context of the objective set in the Kempton Park Plan of Action to eliminate anti-personnel mines in Africa and to establish the continent as an Anti-Personnel Mine-Free Zone.”[23 ] The Conference called for all AU Member States to:

  • implement national programs for mine risk education, the identification and marking of mined areas and mine clearance;
  • continue to build the capacity of national, sub-regional and regional coordinating and strategic planning bodies to carry out this work.[24 ]

No official data on mine clearance in 2004 has been made available. Several commercially-funded projects cleared land to facilitate the development of the petroleum and tourism industries in eastern Egypt.[25 ] An Egyptian Army Engineer Corps mine clearance unit is stationed in El Alamein, but did not conduct any mine clearance in 2004 and during the first half of 2005.[26 ]

On 23 August 2005, the Egyptian Police Forces began clearing a road on Al-Halal Mountain in the Sinai Peninsula to allow forces to pursue suspected criminals. According to media reports, a 30-person mine clearance unit cleared about 10 mines from the area. One media report quoted an anonymous police source who noted that antivehicle mines from previous wars were cleared,[27 ]while another report stated that mines were planted by suspected criminals hiding in the mountains.[28 ]

Canada allocated $22,838 to Protection to carry out a training workshop for 22 journalists from Egypt and Libya to raise awareness of the Mine Ban Treaty in the Middle East and North Africa Region. The seminar was held from 3 to 6 September 2004.[29]

Landmine/UXO Casualties

In 2004, there were at least 10 civilians injured in mine/UXO incidents in Egypt, including five children.  Five known incidents occurred in the Western Desert.  In 2003, seven people were injured in five mine/UXO incidents.[30 ]

Casualties continue to be reported in 2005 with two policemen killed and 12 policemen and one civilian injured in landmine explosions while tracking bombing suspects on Al-Halal Mountain in the Sinai Peninsula.[31 ]

There is no comprehensive data collection mechanism in Egypt and many mine incidents are likely to go unreported, especially among the nomadic Bedouin tribes in the Western Desert.

The total number of landmine casualties in Egypt is not known. In February 1999, it was reported that landmines had claimed 8,313 casualties (696 killed and 7,617 injured); 5,017 were civilians. Landmine Monitor recorded at least 70 new mine/UXO casualties between 1999 and 2002.[32]

On 12 March 2005, an Egyptian was killed in a grenade explosion in a residential area in Kuwait. The Russian-made grenade was part of a stock of 25 grenades and five small arms left by Iraqi forces in an old building.[33]

Survivor Assistance

Health services differ for civilian and military casualties. Civilians have no access to military hospitals, rehabilitation facilities or veterans associations. The Ministry of Health, through emergency departments located in every hospital, handles emergency medical care for civilians. However, emergency services remain inadequate for civilians in the mine-affected areas. In Cairo there are modern facilities, while in the mine-affected areas it is difficult to find modern equipment or trained staff. In the Western Desert, the Matrouh General Hospital and smaller hospitals in Sidi Barani and Al-Saloum, reportedly all have ambulance services but the capacity of the medical staff varies greatly. There are no known NGOs or international organizations with special programs for mine survivors.[34]

The largest rehabilitation center is the Armed Forces Center for physical rehabilitation in Al-Agouza, Cairo. Some governmental hospitals provide rehabilitation services free of charge, and national medical insurance or private medical insurance usually covers other costs, including for assistive devices, for those people with insurance. There are several prosthetic workshops, run by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Affairs, NGOs or commercial operators, but these are mainly located in large cities. However, there are reportedly insufficient physiotherapists and technicians to meet the needs, and the costs of services are rising, while the social and/or financial support available is limited.[35]

In August 2004, the Embassy of Japan provided $39,356 for a rehabilitation center run by the Egyptian Red Crescent Society in Cairo to purchase modern physiotherapy equipment. The center assists about 500 people per month.[36 ]

The Ministry of Social Affairs agreed to provide EGP3000 ($480) in compensation to all police and civilian survivors of the mine incidents at Al-Halal Mountain in the Sinai Peninsula. The Governorate of North Sinai hired some of the survivors as administative staff.[37]

Disability Policy and Practice

Egypt has legislation and pensions to protect the rights and needs of persons with disabilities; however, the benefits for civilian and military casualties differs significantly.[38 ] The government is reportedly working closely with international agencies to design vocational training programs for persons with disabilities, and to increase awareness of the capabilities of persons with disabilities through television, print media and educational material in public schools.[39 ]

In June 2005, the Minister of Social Affairs reportedly stated that the ministry had allocated EGP31 million (about $4.96 million) to fund rehabilitation programs for persons with disabilities over the next five years.[40]

In 2004, the Arab Organization of Disabled People, in collaboration with the Arab League, convened two regional expert meetings on the proposed international convention on disability in Cairo and Beirut, which resulted in the adoption of an Arab draft of the convention.[41]

[1 ]Statement by Amb. Heba Elmarassi, Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister, Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World (First Review Conference), Nairobi, 2 December 2004.

[2 ]Statement by Amb. Heba Elmarassi, First Review Conference, Nairobi, 2 December 2004. A similar statement was made on 21 November 2004 at a regional seminar on victim assistance held in Cairo by the Director of the Cabinet of the Minister of State for International Cooperation.

[3 ]Egypt first attended as an observer at an annual Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in September 2003. It also attended the intersessional meetings in June 2004.

[4 ]Resolution of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, Cairo, Egypt, 15 March 2005, p. 13, item 53.

[5] Al-Wafd (Cairo), 19 June 2005.

[6 ]The release was covered by numerous Egyptian newspapers and news satellite channels, Agence France-Presse, al-Jazeera, and newspapers in Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and United Kingdom (Arabic).

[7 ]Statement by Amb. Heba Elmarassi, First Review Conference, Nairobi, 2 December 2004.

[8 ]For details, see Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 957. Several Egyptian officials over the years had also told Landmine Monitor informally that production and trade had stopped. Egypt reportedly produced two types of low metal content blast antipersonnel mines, several variations of bounding fragmentation mines, and a Claymore-type mine. There is no publicly available evidence that Egypt has produced or exported antipersonnel mines in recent years.

[9 ]“The Problem of Landmines in Egypt,” undated and unattributed document circulated at First Review Conference, Nairobi, 29 November-3 December 2004.

[10 ]“The Problem of Landmines in Egypt,” undated and unattributed document circulated at First Review Conference, Nairobi, 29 November-3 December 2004.

[11] See Landmine Monitor Report 2000, pp. 921-923. For details of mines used in the Western Desert by German and British forces in World War II, see Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 958.

[12] USAID and RONCO, “Arab Republic of Egypt, Mine Action Assessment Report and Proposed Organization,” 3 April 2002, p. 5.

[13 ]See Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 958.

[14] Ministry of Foreign Affairs paper on the Mine Ban Treaty, obtained by the Landmine Monitor researcher, 5 September 2004.

[15 ]See Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 942.

[16 ]Statement by Amb. Marwan Badr, Director, Cabinet of the Minister for International Cooperation, Regional Workshop on Mine Victims, Cairo, 21 November 2004.

[17 ]Information provided to Landmine Monitor by Protection of Armaments and Consequences, 31 July 2005, based on telephone interviews with the administrative secretary of the National Committee in December 2004, March 2005 and May 2005.

[18 ]See Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 959.

[19] Germany’s Article 7 Report, Form J, 15 April 2005. Average exchange rate for 2004: €1 = $1.2438. US Federal Reserve, “List of Exchange Rates (Annual),” 3 January 2005.

[20 ]Telephone interview with Gasser Al-Shahed, ICRC Public Relations Officer, Cairo, 29 May 2005, and ICRC Head of Delegation in Egypt, 26 September 2005.

[21 ]Telephone interview with Mohammad Younus, Program Advisor, Mine Action Team, UNDP, 27 May 2005; email from Hana Ibrahimova, Program Analyst, Mine Action, UNDP, 27 September 2005.

[22 ]African Union, “Report of the Second Continental Conference of African Experts on Landmines, Kempton Park - Seven Years After, the Common African Position on Anti-Personnel Landmines,” Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 15-17 September 2004, p. 3, paragraph 13.

[23 ]AU, Report of African Experts on Landmines, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 15-17 September 2004, p. 3.

[24 ]AU, “Common African Position on Anti-Personnel Landmines,” adopted at the Second Continental Conference of African Experts on Landmines, “Kempton Park - Seven Years After,” Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 15-17 September 2004, p. 4.

[25 ]Interview by Protection with commercial demining companies, 24 March 2005.

[26 ]Information provided to Landmine Monitor by Protection, 31 March and 4 September 2005, based on monitoring visit to South El-Alamein in April 2005.

[27 ]“Police forces arrived at Al-Halal mountain and arrested 36 criminals,” Al-Akhbar, 28 August 2005; “Police forces are dealing with mines in Al-Halal mountain,” Al-Akhbar, 29 August 2005.

[28 ]“Police siege Al-Halal mountain and mine clearance continue,” Al-Wafd, 29 August 2005.

[29] Email from Ayman Sorour, Director, Protection of Armaments and Consequences, 4 August 2005.

[30 ]See Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 959.

[31 ]“Al-Ahram witnesses the attack of mountain caves in Sinai,” Al-Ahram (Cairo), 27 August 2005; “Police forces arrive at Al-Halal mountain and arrest 36 criminals,” Al-Akhbar, 28-30 August 2005; “Police siege Al-Halal mountain and mine clearance continue,” Al-Wafd, 29 August 2005.

[32] The figures were cited in a Ministry of Foreign Affairs paper on the Mine Ban Treaty, obtained 5 September 2004; for more information, see Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 959.

[33] “Detection of UXO in Hawally,” al-Qabes, no.11406, 12 March 2005.

[34] Enquiries conducted by Protection, 2004-2005; for more information see also Landmine Monitor Report 2004, pp. 959-960.

[35] “Rehabilitation Services in Egypt,” presentation by Tarek S. Shafshak, Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University, Alexandria, 2nd World Congress of the International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, February 2003.

[36 ]Embassy of Japan in Egypt, “The Embassy of Japan Extends Grants Worth U.S.$11,236 to Two NGOs,” Press Release 57/2004, Cairo, 18 August 2004.

[37] “Exceptional pension to mine victims at Al-Halal mountain in North Sinai,” Al-Wafd, 5 September 2005. Estimated average exchange rate for 2004: US$1 = EGP6.2436 used throughout this report, www.oanda.com/convert/fxhistory.

[38 ]For more information, see Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 960.

[39 ]US Department of State, “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices-2004: Egypt,” Washington DC, 28 February 2005.

[40] “Amina al-Guindy: 31 million to rehabilitate disabled,” Al-Wafd, 21 June 2005.

[41] Disabled People’s International, “Convention - Yes! Disability Convention News,” Vol. 1 No. 6, April 2004, www.dpi.org/en/resources/publications/documents/cyapr04.doc.