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Country Reports
SAUDI ARABIA, Landmine Monitor Report 2005

Saudi Arabia

Key developments since May 2004: At the First Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty, Saudi Arabia called upon mine-producing countries to stop production.

Mine Ban Policy

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. The head of Saudi Arabia’s delegation to the First Review Conference stated, “Saudi Arabia has always supported the Antipersonnel Mine Prohibition Convention.... Saudi Arabia observes and respects the spirit of this convention.... The Antipersonnel Mine Ban Convention adds a positive essential element to the humanitarian international law. It is important, on this occasion, to call upon mine producing countries to stop this production.”[1]

The commander of the engineering corps led Saudi Arabia’s delegation to the First Review Conference in Nairobi in November-December 2004. Saudi Arabia did not attend the Mine Ban Treaty intersessional meetings in Geneva in June 2005, the first time it has missed such meetings since December 2000.

The UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) undertook an advocacy mission to Saudi Arabia in October 2004, and met with the Chief of Land Forces in the Ministry of Defense and the Vice Minister/Under Secretary for Political Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, among others.[2] While expressing support for the Mine Ban Treaty, Saudi officials told UNMAS that the country does not want to close its options for the future, in that antipersonnel mines might be required in exceptional circumstances to protect oil installations or isolated defense posts. The officials also cited regional instability as a reason for not joining the treaty.

Saudi Arabia was absent from voting on United Nations General Assembly Resolution 59/84, calling for universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty, on 3 December 2004. It has been absent from the vote on every annual pro-ban UNGA resolution since 1997, after voting in favor in 1996.

Saudi Arabia is not party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons and its Amended Protocol II on landmines.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling and Use

Saudi Arabia told the First Review Conference that it “has never used antipersonnel mines, nor has produced them. Such mines have never been transferred to or from the Kingdom to any destination, be it governmental or otherwise. Saudi law forbids all authorities other than the armed forces from stockpiling mines. Moreover, there are binding laws that forbid anyone from acquiring any type of explosive be it mines, ammunitions or otherwise.”[3] Saudi Arabia has said that none of its citizens are engaged in activities that violate the Mine Ban Treaty, and that it does not help or encourage any activities prohibited by the treaty.[4]

In February 2002, Saudi officials confirmed to Landmine Monitor that the country still maintains a stockpile of antipersonnel mines, but no details were provided.[5] Saudi officials have indicated that their country imported antipersonnel mines in the past from the United Kingdom and the United States. The antipersonnel mines that US forces stockpiled in Saudi Arabia were apparently withdrawn in 2003.[6]

Saudi officials also told UNMAS in October 2004 that Saudi Arabia has never used antipersonnel mines on its borders, does not produce or import antipersonnel mines, and has only a small stockpile.[7]

Landmine/UXO Problem and Casualties

Saudi Arabia is not a mine-affected country, but some parts are affected by unexploded ordnance (UXO). The engineering corps of the Saudi Army has a unit in every region of the kingdom responsible for on-demand clearance of UXO. These units cleared training areas and camps used by allied forces before and during the 1991 Gulf War.

Saudi Arabia has provided technical and financial support in previous years to other mine-affected countries, including Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.[8] In April 2004, Saudi Arabia built a field hospital for war victims in Iraq, and transferred some casualties to the kingdom for further medical care.[9] However, due to the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, the hospital has ceased operations.[10] In 2002, Saudi Arabia made a one-time contribution of US$3 million to Yemen’s mine action program to support activities until the end of 2005. The funds were not earmarked and the National Mine Action Center (NMAC) has used part of the funding for its survivor assistance activities.[11] NMAC has covered 40 percent of the cost of survivor assistance activities with this funding.[12] Landmine Monitor identified no other donations by Saudi Arabia to mine action in 2004.

[1] Statement by Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Bin Mohammed Al Arifi, Ministry of Defense, Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World (First Review Conference), Nairobi, 3 December 2004.

[2] Amb. Satnam Singh, UNMAS consultant, “Mission Report-Saudi Arabia/Kuwait, 22-28 October 2004,” (undated).

[3] Statement by Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Bin Mohammed Al Arifi, Ministry of Defense, First Review Conference, Nairobi, 3 December 2004. Saudi officials first told Landmine Monitor in 2001 that the country has never produced, exported or used antipersonnel mines.

[4] Statement by Saudi Arabia, Fifth Meeting of States Parties, Bangkok, 18 September 2003.

[5] Interview with Brig. Gen. Hamad Alrumaih and Capt. Masfer A. S. Alhusain, Geneva, 1 February 2002.

[6] The US Air Force unit holding antipersonnel mines was deactivated as the US withdrew most of its forces from Saudi Arabia by September 2003. See, “Most of US forces withdrawn from Saudi Arabia,” Associated Press, 28 August 2003. In May 2003, a Saudi Brigadier General confirmed that the United States still stockpiled antipersonnel mines in Saudi territory, but said the US could not use the mines on Saudi soil, according to an existing agreement between the two countries. Interview with Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Bin Mohammed Al Arifi, Ministry of Defense, 14 May 2003. In 1998, the US stockpiled 49,610 CBU-89 Gator antipersonnel mines at US military bases on Saudi territory. Letter and attached fact sheet from US Department of the Air Force, 11th Wing, to Human Rights Watch, 26 May 1998.

[7] Amb. Satnam Singh, UNMAS consultant, “Mission Report-Saudi Arabia/Kuwait, 22-28 October 2004,” (undated).

[8] See Landmine Monitor Report 2004. p. 1108.

[9] Statement by Saudi Arabia, Seminar on Military and Humanitarian Issues Surrounding the Mine Ban Treaty, Amman, Jordan, 20 April 2004.

[10] Interview with Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Bin Mohammed Al Arifi, Ministry of Defense, 22 June 2004.

[11] Email to Landmine Monitor (HI) from Faiz Mohammad, UNDP/UNOPS Operations and Training Officer, UNDP, Sana’a, Yemen, 16 August 2005.

[12] Email to Landmine Monitor (HI) from Mansour Al-Azi, Director, Yemen Executive Mine Action Center, 16 September 2005.