The global casualty toll of landmines doubled in 2018 from a record 2013 low due to conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria and Mali, and mostly due to the increased use of improvised landmines set by armed groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS).
Representatives from the affected nations, non-governmental organisations and donor countries gathered in Oslo this week to discuss how to achieve the stated aim of making the world free of landmines in 2025.
Landmines killed or injured some 6,897 people in 2018, according to a Landmine Monitor report by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Some 71 percent of the casualties were civilians, and of these, more than half were children, it said.
In 2018, most casualties were due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) laid by non-state groups, the report said, with Iraq being the world’s most contaminated country.
This was largely due to devices being laid by the ISIL group to defend territory it once controlled over Iraq and Syria.
The Middle Eastern nation was already heavily contaminated as a result of the 2003 invasion by the US-led coalition, the 1991 Gulf War and the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
A treaty against the use of mines came into effect in 1999, resulting in a steady drop in the annual number of casualties from roughly 10,000 to 3,500 in 2003.
Stephen Goose, head of the arms division at Human Rights Watch and a contributor to the Monitor, pointed out that the treaty “has created a strong stigma against the weapons that affects even those who have not joined”.
The treaty, which currently counts 164 state parties, has helped halt virtually all use of mines by governments, including those that have not signed on.
Myanmar, which is not a party to the treaty, was the only country where government forces used anti-personnel mines over the past year.
“It is fair to say that tens of thousands and likely hundreds of thousands of lives and limbs and livelihoods have been saved by the mine-ban treaty,” Goose told reporters in Geneva earlier this week.
Goose noted that the stigma of mines had also rubbed off on non-state actors as well, with some 70 rebel groups around the world having pledged since 1999 not to use the weapons.
“But clearly, what has happened with a number of the non-state actors in recent years has gone against that trend,” he said, citing, among others, the ISIL, the Taliban group in Afghanistan and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.