Monthly Archives: February 2018

Operazione Parakram

Schermata 2018-02-23 alle 10.59.38

Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan while interviewing an insurgent about mines used by his group in Myanmar

Antipersonnel minefields have never discouraged an attacker despite the fact that mines constitute a psychological hazard, according to a recent study by Indian Centre for Land Warfare 

A research coordinator with Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor, Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan has worked in a dozen countries, spending most of his life in Southeast Asia. In 1995, he co-founded the Thailand Campaign to Ban Landmines and has been associated with the Monitor since its inception in 1998. Since 2005, Yeshua has worked for Mines Action Canada, providing ban policy research coordination to the Monitor for Asia, the Pacific, and Middle East and North Africa regions, and on Non-State Armed Groups globally.

A co-founder of the International Action Network on Small Arms, he also serves voluntarily as a consultant to the International Peace Bureau and on the grant making Advisory Board of the International Nonviolence Trainers Fund of the AJ Muste Institute.

Here’re the edited excerpts from his interview with the National Herald:

Q: When did the world wake up to the landmine crisis and what has been India’s response to it since then?

A: The International community began to seriously discuss the global landmine crisis in the mid-1990s. In 1996 the UN General Assembly passed a resolution urging states to vigorously pursue an international agreement banning anti-personnel mines. India voted in favour of that resolution, however, since 1997 when the Mine Ban Treaty came into existence, India has remained outside it. This is a surprising choice for the world’s largest democracy, given that now 80 per cent of governments in the world have joined this treaty.

Q: How do you examine the main reasons provided by Indian diplomats in explaining it’s position?

A: India has stated it has abstained and remains outside the global landmine ban due to the lack of “the availability of militarily effective alternative technologies that can perform cost effectively the defensive function of antipersonnel mines”. This is a surprising explanation for abstaining, since certainly Indian military engineers are aware that such technologies already exist.

Q: And what are those alternatives?

A: Trip flares serve the same function as an anti-personnel mine detonation it alerts soldiers to a possible crossing of an area by someone or animals. Trip flares have the added advantage of illuminating the area in the dark. As they are nonlethal they do not have the humanitarian consequences of anti-personnel mines, which can and do regularly kill or maim civilians and soldiers in India. Other alternatives to anti-personnel mine fields which exist are a combination of other weapons, such as command detonated mines combined with more intensive patrolling practices which eliminate the humanitarian consequences of anti-personnel mine fields. India should certainly benefit from the rich experience available within the 163 nations who have joined the mine ban treaty, and who do not use anti-personnel mines along their borders, many of whom have similar concerns of long rugged borders and irregular cross border movement, smuggling and insurgency.

Q: Does India need landmines to deter incursion by armed militants, especially in Jammu and Kashmir?

A: Has this proved effective? Mines laid long ago along the Line of Control (LoC) were in the ground during the rise of the insurgency in the 1990s as well as during its subsequent decline- it seemed to have no clear impact on the increase or decrease of militant activity. The role existing mines played in suppressing insurgency is speculative at best. However, what is clearly measurable, and reported in the Landmine Monitor’s annual report on India, is that hardly a month goes by without reports of deaths or injuries to Indian soldiers or civilians due to anti-personnel mines laid — many of them Indian made — along the LoC in Kashmir. In the past 5 years, despite continuing Indian military and civilian casualties in these mine fields, the Indian government has not reported even one insurgent casualty. A recent Indian Centre for Land Warfare study found that, “Anti-personnel minefields have never prevented an attacker from assaulting an objective despite the fact that anti-personnel mines-constitute a psychological hazard.

On the contrary, they impose restrictions on the defending force as the defender is conscious of the fact that the area concerned is mined and tends to avoid the same. In conflict after conflict, own minefields have impeded the movement of friendly forces and resulted in fratricidal accidents. In many instances,patrols were frightened of using the ‘‘safe lanes’’ through minefields and patrolled up to the minefield edge and no further, thus reducing rather than enhancing the security of the position. Yet we continue to lay them.”

Q: Indian Army planted landmines along its Pakistan border in Rajasthan, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir following a terrorist attack on its Parliament in 2001. What have been the consequences?

A: The largest known use of antipersonnel mines, by any government since the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty came into existence, was India’s deployment of hundreds of thousands of anti-personnel mines along the international border during Operation Parakram in December 2001. Land forces were mobilized on a large scale and mine-laying covered a huge parcel of agricultural land along the border, thereby disrupting the lives of lakhs of Indian citizens. According to an April 2005 report of the Lok Sabha Standing Committee on Defence, the Indian Army suffered 1,776 casualties while laying and removing its minefields on the border between December 2001 and April 2005.

The total number of civilian casualties remains unknown. However, an Indian NGO survey in 2004 counted at least 1,295 civilian casualties from Operation Parakaram-laid mines. Despite many rounds of manual and mechanical mine clearance, by 2004 the Army declared that at least 3 lakhs of its mines planted along 400 kilometres of the international border in Punjab and Rajasthan were untraceable, and proposed that the area be permanently cordoned off.

This needs to be seriously reflected upon. If Pakistan were held responsible for a military attack which killed and maimed a combined total of 3,000 Indian officers and citizens, what would India’s military response have been? When India’s military activities and defense policy causes the same number of casualties, what has its response been? This damage was not inflicted by a terrorist group or by an enemy; it was the outcome of the Indian Army’s unquestioned reliance on mine warfare.

Q: A recent Monitor report claims that India continues to be the third largest stockpiler of anti-personnel landmines. Does it also export these antiquated weapons?

A: India has a very large antipersonnel landmine stockpile. Precise amounts are unknown, but is likely one of the largest in the world, especially since the US and China have been destroying many of their anti-personnel landmines. While India has stated that it has not exported its anti-personnel landmines, that does not appear to be the case. Declaration and destruction of landmine stockpiles by Mine Ban Treaty signatories is required, and five of them have reported Indian-made mines in their stockpiles during destruction: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Mauritius, Sudan, and Tanzania.

Q: What is India’s current position on the Mine Ban Treaty?

A: India frequently highlights in its statements the fact that it joined the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons, a limited regulatory measure on anti-personnel landmines. The Optional Protocol does not remove the hazard posed by antipersonnel mines or the humanitarian cost associated with the use of antipersonnel mines. But since 1997, India has repeatedly abstained from voting in favour of an annual UN General Assembly resolution in support of the global landmine ban. During the past two decades, India has regularly attended, as an observer, meetings of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty. India has also regularly delivered a statement which has noted that the Mine Ban Treaty’s humanitarian goal has universal appeal, and that India supports a world free of landmines. It is time to act on that appeal. India needs to undertake a public policy debate on its stand on the global landmine ban, and that debate must include the voices of India’s many civilian landmine casualties.

NO ONE LEFT BEHIND!

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“Linee Guida per la disabilità e l’inclusione sociale negli interventi di cooperazione 2018”

20 Febbraio  11.30 – 13.00

INCONTRO STAMPA

presso la SNA (Scuola Nazionale dell’Amministrazione) in  Via Maresciallo Caviglia n. 24  - Sala eventi 1 – piano terra

Alla  conferenza stampa per il lancio del documento interverranno:

-       Laura Frigenti, direttrice AICS (Agenzia Italiana Cooperazione allo Sviluppo)

-       Luca Maestripieri, Vice Direttore DGCS – MAECI

-       Mina Lomuscio AICS (Comitato editoriale)

-       Maura Viezzoli Link 2007 (Comitato editoriale)

La Cooperazione Italiana è da sempre attenta alla promozione e protezione dei diritti delle persone con disabilità. Sulla scorta del lavoro svolto nell’ultimo decennio, le presenti Linee Guida intendono fornire un quadro di riferimento aggiornato sulle policy, indicare approcci e strategie, e fornire raccomandazioni utili per includere la tematica dei diritti delle persone con disabilità nell’ambito degli interventi della cooperazione italiana. Le linee guida sono volte alla promozione dei diritti delle persone con disabilità negli ambiti della formazione, dell’accesso al lavoro, alla salute e all’educazione.

Intendono accompagnare tutti gli attori della cooperazione (Organizzazioni della società civile, Istituzioni, mondo imprenditoriale, Università etc.) nel rafforzare le organizzazioni delle persone con disabilità, nel fare advocacy sui diritti delle persone con disabilità, nel proteggerle dalla violenza. Sono basate sulla centralità della persona umana e sulla valorizzazione e inclusione delle persone con disabilità nell’ambito di società e comunità che promuovono le pari opportunità.

Il documento è stato redatto dal gruppo di lavoro *composto da vari attori italiani impegnati nel settore nel  periodo maggio-settembre 2017 e ha lo scopo di dare indicazioni affinché gli interventi siano orientati all’eliminazione o alla riduzione delle barriere di diversa natura,  culturali, strutturali, o ambientali, che possano ostacolare l’accesso ai diritti delle persone con disabilità di natura fisica, mentale, sensoriale e/o intellettuale, in linea con l’obiettivo “no one left behind”   dell’Agenda 2030.

 

*AICS, DGCS/MAECI, RIDS, Link 2007, Agenzia per l’Italia Digitale, AOI, Global Forum on Law Justice and Development WB, CINI, Conferenza Universitaria Nazionale dei direttori di Scienze della Formazione, Forum Terzo Settore, INAPP, Ministero della Salute, MIUR, Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali, Presidenza del Consiglio Ministri. 

Syria: Landmines Kill, Injure Hundreds in Raqqa

Schermata 2018-02-13 alle 12.34.03

(Beirut, February 12, 2018) – Homemade landmines have killed and injured hundreds of civilians, including more than 150 children, in Raqqa, Syria since the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) was pushed out of the city in October 2017, Human Rights Watch said today.

ISIS had planted the antipersonnel mines when it controlled the city. They include devices often called booby traps or improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Most appeared to be victim-activated and therefore banned under international law.

“The defeat of ISIS in Raqqa was heralded as a global international victory, but international support for dealing with the aftermath of the battle, and notably the deadly legacy of mines, has not risen to the challenge,” said Nadim Houry, terrorism/counterterrorism program director at Human Rights Watch. “Explosive devices have already killed and injured hundreds of civilians, but these numbers will most likely increase as more people return.”

During a visit to the city in late January 2018, Human Rights Watch collected information from the Kurdish Red Crescent and international medical organizations working in the area. They found that between October 21, 2017 and January 20, 2018, mines injured at least 491 people, including 157 children, many of whom died. The actual number of victims is surely higher, as many people have died before reaching any medical assistance and those deaths were not necessarily reported.

Some members of the anti-ISIS coalition have donated funds for demining efforts, notably for clearing “critical infrastructure.” But local authorities in Raqqa and medical providers expressed concerns about the limited effort to clear residential areas and said there was a shortage of demining equipment and expertise. The situation has led Raqqa residents to pay local people, who are often ill-equipped, to risk their lives to demine homes.

According to local authorities, more than 14,500 families had returned to Raqqa, notably to neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city, like al-Meshleb, by December 20, 2017. The authorities expect that substantial numbers of people will continue to return, despite the high level of mine contamination and the limited services available in the heavily damaged city.

The Raqqa Civilian Council, which is in charge of the city, issued a directive on November 21 urging people not to return to their homes before neighborhoods had been cleared of mines and other explosive devices. However, many local residents whom Human Rights Watch interviewed said that they had returned to check on their homes despite the risks because they feared looting or wanted to avoid remaining in camps for the displaced.

Residents said that relatives and neighbors were injured by explosives that detonated when they opened their refrigerator or washing machine, moved a large bag of sugar left behind, or simply pushed open a bedroom door. These accounts show that most of the victims were injured or killed by victim-activated improvised explosive devices, rather than by explosives detonated by a vehicle or by remote-control.

Victim-activated devices that explode due to the presence, proximity, or contact of a person fall under the definition of an antipersonnel landmine and are banned by the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which prohibits any use of antipersonnel landmines under any circumstance. Even if labeled as improvised explosive devices or booby traps, such mines are prohibited by the Mine Ban Treaty, which Syria has not joined.

According to one demining organization working in Raqqa, a common switch or detonator used by ISIS relied on passive infrared sensors, an electronic sensor that measures infrared light radiating from objects in its field of view and detonates when a person merely passes through a particular area. The group noted that such improvised mines have been found in “building doorways, under stairwells, debris piles, roadside, rubble piles and even buried in open fields.”

The United States and other members of the anti-ISIS international coalition, including the United KingdomGermany, the Netherlands, and France, have provided or promised support for demining efforts, particularly to clear “critical infrastructure sites” while training local residents to take the lead in clearing residential areas. But the local demand for demining is far outstripping existing services.

A member of the Raqqa Civilian Council indicated that families could ask their local neighborhood council to request an inspection of their homes before returning, but that the ability to respond did not meet the demand. In just one Raqqa neighborhood, the local council reported receiving about 10 requests for house inspections a day, while they said that the local authorities’ ability to respond is about 10 clearance tasks a week across the entire city.

The discrepancy has driven many local residents to simply pay someone to clear their homes. During its visit, Human Rights Watch saw young men waiting at a roundabout to offer their services to inspect houses and remove rubble, at great risk to their own lives. One local resident said that he paid 25,000 Syrian pounds (about US$50) for a man to check his house. “It’s like playing Russian roulette, but these young men are desperate for money,” the resident said.

Some efforts to educate residents about the mine risks were visible in the city, with posters at key intersections and on administrative buildings. But many residents were still taking a risk by returning.

International donors should make mine clearance and mine risk education a priority to protect people from these avoidable deaths and injuries, Human Rights Watch said. Countries bordering Syria should facilitate access for demining organizations and for humanitarian assistance to survivors.

“Visiting Raqqa, one is struck by the discrepancy between the international support to militarily defeat ISIS and the very timid support to deal with the aftermath,” Houry said. “If the situation does not change, the ISIS legacy of landmines will continue to kill for years.”

Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to bring about the Mine Ban Treaty and for its contributions to a new international diplomacy based on humanitarian imperatives.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/02/12/syria-landmines-kill-injure-hundreds-raqqa