By Firoz Ali Alizada, ICBL Campaign Manager
According to several media reports in the past five years, over 200 civilian deminers and other staff members of demining organizations have been abducted or killed in Afghanistan, Mozambique, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen by non-state armed groups and gunmen. In the first half of 2014 alone, 24 deminers and staff members of civilian demining organizations have been targeted, of which 10 have been killed and at least four are still being held by the Taliban in the Ghazni province of Afghanistan.
It is shocking to see how deminers have been targeted on such a massive scale in several countries. Attacks on people who put their lives at risk to save the lives and livelihoods of others – is just inhumane.
ICBL and the international community have spoken out loudly against these atrocious attacks such as the June 2014 incident in Afghanistan.
“De-miners carry out vital work in Afghanistan – they help make the country safer for their fellow civilians and, as such, any violence which targets them is particularly reprehensible,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Ján Kubiš in response to the June killing of eight deminers.
Targeting civilian deminers is a serious violation of international humanitarian law, and the perpetrators must be held accountable for such attacks.
Our world is a lot safer today because of deminers’ sacrifices. Nearly 30 previously contaminated countries have been completely cleared of the danger of landmines thanks to their efforts. Human casualties by landmines and explosive remnants of war have drastically reduced from 55 persons per day in the 1990s to nine persons per day in 2014.
The ICBL has challenged all affected countries that are part of the Mine Ban Treaty to complete clearing mines by 2025. Such an achievement would not be possible without the hard and often risky work of thousands of deminers.
Millions of people’s lives in more than 60 countries and territories are still in danger due to the presence of landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war. Only deminers have the courage, skills and dedication to get rid of these indiscriminate weapons and bring peace and security to those people.
Recently in Geneva I witnessed two non-State armed groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM/A-AW) and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A-MM) signing the Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment to ban antipersonnel landmines in areas under their control in Sudan. With this commitment, they join 45 other non-State armed actors that have already signed the Deed, taking us one step closer to a Mine Free World.
All armed groups should understand that demining is about peace, safety, security and prosperity. They should understand that mine clearance is in everyone’s interest, including armed groups’ constituencies and their next generation. They must stop attacking deminers and instead cooperate to get rid of landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war as quickly as possible to prevent further casualties.