SIX more countries have been added to the list of nations that have eliminated “the scourge of landmines”, organisers of a conference on the deadly weapons say.
Congo, Denmark, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Jordan and Uganda have declared all mined areas in their territories cleared, organisers said on Friday at the end of a five-day meeting to evaluate progress since the signing of the 1997 Ottawa Convention.
Gambia was added to the list as late as Friday, after a country representative unexpectedly announced its mine-free status to the gathering, Laila Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Geneva event, told AFP.
As for perhaps the most surprising name on the list of countries not considered landmine-free until this year, Denmark in July finished clearing minefields left over from World War II, when Nazis put about 1.4 million landmines along the Jutland peninsula to ward off an allied invasion.
Following the new additions, 36 signatory countries to the Mine Ban Treaty are still clearing mines, organisers said.
“Fifteen years after the opening of the Mine Ban treaty, we still see a high level of commitment. . . aimed at ending for all time the scourge of landmines,” said Stephen Goose, chair of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), which oversees the implementation of the 1997 treaty.
Poland’s announcement during the conference of its imminent ratification of the treaty was also grounds for celebration, ICBL said, pointing out Polish participation as the 161st signatory country will mean all EU member states will be part of the pact.
That will leave the United States as the sole NATO member yet to ratify the treaty.
A US delegation nonetheless took part in the Geneva conference and said a domestic landmine policy review launched in 2009 would “soon” be complete, which could potentially open the way for a US ratification.
The Palestinians, who attended the conference for the first time, had meanwhile told the gathering they wanted to take advantage of the upgraded UN status they gained late last month to join the Mine Ban Treaty.
Conference organisers lamented that three signatory countries – Belarus, Greece and Ukraine – were still in violation of the treaty since they had missed deadlines for destroying their stockpiles.
The ICBL says almost 4300 people were killed by landmines worldwide last year – or nearly 12 deaths a day, compared with 32 in 2001.
It says the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad was the only government in the world to lay new landmines this year.