Sri Lanka joining landmine ban treaty should spur other countries to review their position: HRW

Saturday, 16 December 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

New York: Sri Lanka’s accession to the Ottawa landmine ban treaty has earned the recognition of the global human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch (HRW) which has called on the countries yet to accede to the treaty to review their position.

Sri Lanka on Wednesday became the 163rd country to accede to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, or Ottawa Convention fulfilling the pledge made last year to join the international community in supporting the ongoing landmine clearance program.

The Human Rights Watch said Sri Lanka’s action is especially significant because Sri Lanka used antipersonnel mines in the past and has since undertaken an extensive, ongoing mine clearance effort.

“Sri Lanka’s accession should spur other nations that haven’t joined the landmine treaty to take another look at why they want to be associated with such an obsolete, abhorrent weapon,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch and chair of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines – the group effort behind the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. “This should spur other countries that haven’t joined the treaty to review their position and address any obstacles to joining it.”

Besides ceasing the production and development of anti-personnel mines, a party to the Mine Ban Treaty must destroy its stockpile of anti-personnel mines within four years.

After Sri Lanka’s accession, 33 UN states, including the United States, Russia, China and India are non-signatories to the treaty.

Sri Lanka although participated as an observer in the fast-track diplomatic Ottawa Process, which led to the adoption of the Mine Ban Treaty in September 1997, did not sign the treaty due to the ongoing conflict with the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the northern and eastern parts of the country.

After the end of the war in 2009, Sri Lanka has expressed its support for the humanitarian objectives of the Mine Ban Treaty and voted in favour of every annual UN General Assembly resolution on it. 

In March 2016, the cabinet of ministers approved that Sri Lanka accedes to the convention on the prohibition of the use, stockpile, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines and on their destruction.

Sri Lanka reports that it has never produced or exported antipersonnel mines. Under the treaty, its stockpiled landmines must be destroyed within the next four years. The Sri Lanka army has acknowledged using antipersonnel mines in the past, while the LTTE produced and used them extensively during the armed conflict, which ended in May 2009.

After Sri Lanka’s accession, three South Asian countries have yet to join the Mine Ban Treaty: India, Pakistan, and Nepal, according to the HRW.

“After deliberating for almost two decades, Sri Lanka ultimately decided to get on the right side of history by relinquishing antipersonnel mines,” Goose said. “With every country that joins the treaty, the norm against these weapons only gets stronger.”