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Israel Should Clear All Minefields, Join the Mine Ban Treaty
GENEVA - March 16 - The landmine hazard in Israel will remain until all mined areas are cleared and the government bans any new use of mines, said the Nobel Peace Prize laureate International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) today. The Knesset adopted on 14 March 2011 legislation that plans for Israel's "non-operational" mined areas to be cleared, while "operational" mined areas will be kept. The ICBL welcomes this legislation as a first step, but notes that any landmine is a potential threat for civilians, be it in an operational minefield or not.
"By allowing for the vast majority of Israel's mined areas to be cleared, the new legislation is a step in the right direction. But it falls short of the international norm that fully rejects any antipersonnel mine use and calls for all mined areas to be cleared," said Sylvie Brigot, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. "The Israeli people know all too well the devastating effects of antipersonnel mines. Israel should formally renounce the use of these horrific weapons and join the Mine Ban Treaty to ensure all mined areas will be cleared and mines won't claim any new victims."
Among its shortcomings, the legislation does not require that international humanitarian standards be applied to all mine clearance activities.
"We celebrate the success of civil society in convincing the government to systematically address the landmine threat. But we strongly encourage the use of internationally recognized humanitarian demining standards instead of the less rigorous military demining standards permitted by the legislation," said Dhyan Or, Coordinator of the Mine-Free Israel Campaign, a member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. "This would ensure a higher confidence rate that every effort has been made to clear contaminated areas to the fullest extent possible, especially at sites frequented by thousands of civilians."
The ICBL calls on Israel to show that it is truly committed to eliminating the threat of mines in Israel and elsewhere by joining the Mine Ban Treaty. As a step in this direction, the ICBL encourages the government and its new Mine Action Authority to start attending meetings of the Mine Ban Treaty beginning in June this year.
"By joining the majority of the world's states at these meetings Israel will not only demonstrate its commitment to ending the humanitarian harm caused by these weapons, but it will also be exposed to the best practices and policies which will greatly improve its efforts," added Brigot.
More than 80 percent of the world's nations have joined the Mine Ban Treaty since it was adopted in 1997. According to the ICBL's Landmine Monitor 2010, the only country where governmental forces have actively laid antipersonnel mines in recent years is Myanmar/Burma. Throughout the world, intense humanitarian mine clearance efforts are underway. Under the Mine Ban Treaty, states must renounce use of antipersonnel mines, destroy their stockpiles of the weapon, clear all their mined areas, and provide comprehensive assistance to landmine survivors.
The ICBL is a network in over 90 countries and areas, working for a mine-free world, where landmine survivors can lead fulfilling lives. The ICBL received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its efforts to bring about the Mine Ban Treaty.