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Land Mine Activists Seek Cooperation from Rebel Groups - 2002-09-17

Activists working to ban land mines say their campaign not only includes getting governments to sign the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. It also urges rebel groups to commit to stop using land mines.

Activists meeting this week in Geneva to discuss progress of the Mine Ban Treaty say they are concerned about the threat armed groups pose to land mine use. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines says rebels often resort to using land mines because they are a small, easily portable and cheap means of defense.

The campaign's spokesman, Noel Stott, says worldwide some 40 rebel groups, also called non-state actors, are using land mines in their conflicts.

"There has been a decrease in the use of anti-personnel land mines by non-state actors from 18 countries to 14 countries, however much needs to be done," Mr. Stott said. "We are concerned that, for example, three rebel groups in Burma, not previously identified as using mines, were reported using them. Other countries with non-state actors using mines were reported include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Somalia, India, Pakistan, Nepal, the Philippines and Russia."

Mr. Stott says although three-quarters of the countries around the world have signed and adopted the Mine Ban Treaty, rebel groups cannot do so because they are not governments. But now, a legal mechanism has been set up in Geneva where rebel groups can sign a deed of commitment to ban mine use. Elisabeth Reuss-Decrey of Geneva Call explains.

"When a non-state actor signs this deed of commitment it means they will stop using mines, they will destroy their stockpiles, they will allow missions for verification, it's important," she said. "And they will support mine activities, for instance, for de-mining and for victim assistance." Ms. Reuss-Decrey says so far five rebel groups including the Sudan People's Liberation Army, the Moros Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines and Kurdish parties in northern Iraq have committed to stop using land mines.