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Land Mine Use Defended by Sri Lanka as UN Says Nothing, of “Victim Activated” IEDs

[Inner City Press, Wednesday, 18 November 2009 09:03 No Comment]

The UN and its Secretary General are said to be strong advocates for countries to become parties to the Mine-Ban Convention. But when it comes to Sri Lanka, which has refused to join the Convention and which states openly that it uses land mines, it is unclear what the UN is doing to urge the country to stop using mines.

The UN is paying for removal of mines laid by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Meanwhile, in a debate in the UN General Assembly’s Fourth Committee on October 30, Samantha Jayasuriya of the Sri Lankan Mission argued that "for legitimate national security concerns, Sri Lanka had not become a party to the Mine-Ban Convention… Land mines were used by security forces ‘always for defensive purposes’ and mainly to demarcate the limits of their military installations."

This statement, more than five months after the Rajapaksa government declared final victory over the LTTE or Tamil Tigers, went uncommented on by the UN. At a press conference on November 17, Inner City Press asked Dmitry Titov of UN Peacekeeping and Maxwell Kerley, Director of the UN Mine Action Service, about Sri Lanka’s statement and continued use of land mines. Video here, from Minute 35:56.

Mr. Titov replied that the Secretary General is in strong support of the Mine Ban Treaty. But when Inner City Press asked if Ban Ki-moon, in his many bilateral talks this year with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has ever directly asked that Sri Lanka join the Mine Ban Convention, Mr. Titov passed the question to Mr. Kerley, who described UNDP’s work removing LTTE mines.

With the LTTE defeated, the Sri Lankan government’s justification for using land mines is gone. But it was repeated on October 30 at the UN.

In more positive land mine news, Inner City Press asked Mr. Kerley about the use of bacteria to show where mines are. Kerley said the UN is looking into technology but primarily uses dogs. He made reference to "victim activated" improvised explosive devices. Inner City Press asked why the UN distinguishes these from IEDs activated by cell phones or command wire.

[Full Coverage]

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