Grave Concern Over Allegations of Landmine Use by Turkish Army

For Immediate Release


Amelie Chayer, ICBL Communications Officer (in Paris, GMT+1)

Grave Concern Over Allegations of Landmine Use by Turkish Army

GENEVA - The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) is gravely
concerned by reports of antipersonnel landmine use by members of the
Turkish Army. Turkey is bound by the Mine Ban Treaty, which prohibits
the use of antipersonnel mines in any circumstances.

"The ICBL condemns any use of antipersonnel mines by any actor, and we
are especially concerned when it comes to reports of use by a State
Party to the Mine Ban Treaty," said Sylvie Brigot, Executive Director of
the ICBL.

On 15 April 2010, the Turkish newspaper Taraf published documents
reportedly belonging to the 23rd Gendarmerie Command that appear to
indicate that members of the Turkish armed forces planted M2A4
antipersonnel mines in Turkey's southeastern province of Sirnak on 9
April 2009.

In May 2009, six Turkish soldiers were killed by a mine explosion in the
same area. "The explosion took the lives of six members of the very
army that may have laid the mines. It is another appalling example of
the cruelty and absurdity of these weapons. Using antipersonnel mines
serves no one's interest," said Muteber Ögreten, coordinator of the
Initiative for a Mine-Free Turkey (Mayinsiz Bir Türkiye Girisimi), the
Turkish arm of the ICBL.

Families of two of the soldiers killed requested legal action by the
office of the Chief Prosecutor in Van province, and the trial is now
underway. If the trial confirms antipersonnel mine use, this would
represent a serious violation of the Mine Ban Treaty.

As a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty, Turkey has an obligation to
fully investigate the incident to determine who was responsible for the
mine use, and to report fully on steps that are being taken, including
the status of the legal procedures, the type of mine used, the number of
casualties, and where the mines came from. Turkey must also investigate
if antipersonnel mine use has occurred elsewhere. The ICBL urges States
Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty to request an immediate clarification of
the incident from the Turkish government and measures taken to
investigate it.

In June 2009, the Turkish newspaper Zaman published an apparent
transcript of a conversation between two members of the Turkish Armed
Forces that seemed to indicate the mine-laying was the personal
initiative of an individual commander. Under the Mine Ban Treaty, Turkey
must take every measure to prevent the use of landmines by any actor on
its territory, including ensuring the military are properly trained and
informed about the prohibition on use. Penal sanctions are also
required for any actor that violates this ban.

If the allegations of antipersonnel mine use by members of the Turkish
Armed Forces prove true, another critical question would be the origin
of the landmines used. Were they lifted from the ground and replanted
elsewhere, or taken from mines retained for training deminers?

States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty must destroy their stockpiles of
antipersonnel mines, but may retain a minimal number for research and
training in mine clearance. Turkey has retained a total of 15,125
antipersonnel mines for research and training; this is the highest total
of mines retained by any State Party.

Turkey has already been responsible for a violation of the Mine Ban
Treaty, by failing to meet its 2008 deadline for destroying their
landmine stockpiles. According to informal reports by Turkish officials,
Turkey still had 450,000 antipersonnel mines in stock at the end of
February 2010 (in addition to the 15,125 mines retained for training).
Destruction is ongoing and is expected to be finished in 2010.

Turkey must also comply with the Treaty-mandated deadline to complete
clearance of its mined areas by 1 March 2014. So far it has offered
little information about progress on clearance of these areas.


The International Campaign to Ban Landmines is committed to an international ban on the use, production, stockpiling, and sale, transfer, or export of antipersonnel landmines.  

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