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Last Updated: Friday, 10 December 2004, 12:03 GMT
Has the landmine issue been forgotten?
Danger sign warning of the presence of landmines



An anti-landmine summit in Kenya has called on the world's major powers to sign up to a global ban on the devices.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan urged the big players to join "a remarkable success story in the history of international co-operation".

The US, China and Russia are among 40 nations which are not party to the 1999 Ottawa Treaty banning landmines, signed by 144 countries.

Washington on Friday rejected the call, citing its military responsibilities.

Has the landmine issue been neglected? How much of a difference would it make if the non-signatory countries were to sign up to the treaty banning landmines? Have you been affected by the landmine issue?

We will be discussing these issues on the Talking Point phone-in programme on Sunday, 5th December at 1400GMT. The guest will be Heather Mills McCartney, campaigner and patron of Adopt-A-Minefield. If you would like to take part, please include a phone number on the form above, it will not appear on the page.

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.


Your comments:

The Geneva convention clearly states that minefields should be mapped, surrounded with a single barbed wire fence and marked "Danger, Mines" (as in your photo). They aren't designed to be used as hidden killers, rather they should be used as a barrier defence (who'll willingly walk across a know minefield?). Anyone planting unmarked mines is a war criminal and the responsibility for clearing the mines lies with those that laid the mines, not the manufacturer. After all if I stabbed someone with a kitchen knife, I'd be to blame not the knife maker. Why should mines be any different?
Peter, Nottingham U.K

The Germans planted several million mines in the channel islands and took them all back up without incident once the war ended. The issue here is not organised forces planting carefully mapped minefields, metallic scatterables or self destructing smart mines. The issue is irregulars planting non-metallic mines all over the place without any records. Most of the countries making these did not sign the ban. Rather than an unenforceable political ban, there should be a requirement to make all mines contain integral and non-removable metallic components and/or limited life components.
John, Coventry UK

The United States of America does not export landmines. Please focus your attention on countries that do. I remember a sapper from the UK military showing mines that he had removed on a TV program. Most were nice and new and from Italy, Russia and China. The Italian ones were 100% plastic and undetectable except by probing by hand. If you can figure out a way to ban the low tech parts list good luck to you.
F, US

The Finnish government, known for its compassionate politics and neutrality, has not signed the treaty because mines have an integral part in our nation's defence. South Korea is another country that has not signed the treaty with the same defensive issue. If our defence could be better ensured, for example by membership in NATO or the EU defence agreement, we might be able to sign the treaty. However, the government has continued in its neutrality. If non-signers have legitimate security concerns, as we and South Korea do, can we be blamed as inhumane?
Benjamin Ranta, Finland

We need a safer world for our children
Pancha Chandra, Brussels, Belgium
The United States, China and Russia should take humanitarian problems more seriously. In fact, they should be ashamed of their record and callous disregard of the dangers posed by these mines. More countries need to urgently sign up to the treaty banning landmines. We need a safer world for our children.
Pancha Chandra, Brussels, Belgium

Mines are remnants of armed conflicts put to use for the sole purpose to restrict the movement of "enemies". Unfortunately, once the conflict is over neither warring side takes the responsibility to clean up. The only "enemy" affected by this inaction are civilians and future generations. It is reckless and negligent to leave the mines where they are. Each and every one of us must lobby our nations to partake in this global crisis and advocate a clean-up. It is the present generation's social and moral responsibility to do so, even if one is not directly affected.
Sana Ansari, Minnesota, USA

I would like to see the governments that use landmines to be held financially liable for the damage they cause. It seems in today's world that the only thing that really matters is money. I would like to see victims of landmines compensated by the countries and companies that produce these weapons.
Ritchie Gibb, Gibsons, Canada

Symbolic acts don't save lives
Michael Clelland, London, UK
Signing the treaty would be a nice symbolic act, but symbolic acts don't save lives. The US doesn't sell land-mines to anyone so it's a bit unfair, but perhaps unsurprising, that they are getting bashed by various participants here. A more worthwhile campaign would be to have all countries agree to ban the export of land-mines. Arms means profit, and how ironic that those two stalwarts of the anti-Iraq war, the French and the German governments are now pushing for the EU to drop it's ban on exporting arms to China.
Michael Clelland, London, UK

Recently the UN has tried to put a definition to terrorism as an act "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants". It wouldn't need an especially clever lawyer to connect the use of land mines with terrorism. Maybe this is one way to raise the profile of this barbaric practice with US citizens and, through them, perhaps a future US government.
Yaroslav, Victoria

The majority of mines now deployed by the US are 'smart' mines that self-destruct
Dan L, NJ, US
I believe that the majority of mines now deployed by the US are 'smart' mines that self-destruct after a preset period of time. This seems more practical than an obviously unenforceable ban on mines in general.
Dan L, NJ, USA

I do not believe the issue has been forgotten, however it has been overshadowed by the discovery of hundreds of thousands of Saddam's victims, over 3000 victims on 9/11 and the continuing war on terror. Compared to these events, landmines do not seem to measure up as a newsworthy issue. As for the US signing the Ottowa Convention, I hear the same people who say the US should "show some leadership" by signing the treaty are unhappy with US leadership in other areas (the Iraq war for instance) and refuse to follow our lead. These are fair weather friends that we don't need.
Douglas G, Lafayette, LA, USA

Everyone should take a deep breath and get real. War is not a "gentlemen's game"; it is bloody, immoral and deadly. Land mines will always be used by nations who believe they are about to lose a war. Trying to ban them is as futile as trying to hold back the tide.
William Burt, Melbourne, Australia

I feel in the list of the world's most urgent humanitarian problems land mines aren't at the top
Ken Badoian, Wilmington, North Carolina, USA
Please, let's stop the US bashing. It is easy to sign a treaty when you have little or nothing at stake. This treaty like the Kyoto Treaty has its flaws. And of course it is always the United States that is the big bad evil, in the "old world order" that is to blame. Land mines are bad, they do kill, there should be a protocol established to clean them up after a conflict. That said land mines are defensive weapons not offensive. Great to be for the ban and the publicity surrounding it but I feel in the list of the world's most urgent humanitarian problems land mines aren't at the top.
Ken Badoian, Wilmington, North Carolina, USA

Since the death of Diana who dedicated a great deal of time and effort in pressing the landmine issue worldwide, no-one else has stepped up to the plate. The USA should show some leadership and goodwill by doing the "right" thing by signing the Ottawa Convention.
Manuel, Toronto, Canada

Landmines are one of the worst weapons ever created. Someone else on this forum compared landmines to guns and other weapons. However, this is simply not true. Landmines remain in the ground long after a war is finished, and can cause suffering to the civilian population. They do not, and cannot, distinguish between enemies and innocents. All nations should join an international effort to remove landmines around the world.
Mark, Brisbane, Australia

If the country producing the mines thought it was such a great idea in the first place, force them to purchase them back at a cost of removal price
Art Krenzel, Battle Ground, WA, USA
I would like to propose a new concept for the reduction of mines in the world. We should require that the country (or company) that produced them purchase them back. This could be the ultimate recycling project. If the country producing the mines thought it was such a great idea in the first place, force them to purchase them back at a cost of removal price.

Use the World Courts to impose sanctions on the producers to include seizing assets to settle the debts involved. We do it for other hazardous wastes, why not for this hazardous waste. If you don't produce mines, the law does not apply. If you make mines and garner some economic benefit, you pay the recycled price. The mines could be inspected and certified as to the country of origin, totalled in number and then destroyed in place. The bill gets sent to the country that produced the mine and bill collection is enforced by the world courts. That might take some of the joy out of producing these little random li! fe destroyers.
Art Krenzel, Battle Ground, WA, USA

It is obvious that the mine issue has been sidelined, the world's attention is now focused on terrorism, conflicts and wars and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The international community fail to realise that landmines are in themselves a deadly epidemic.
Leesoon Ayeshea Johnson, Banjul, The Gambia

In his campaign for re-election, President Bush told the nation that he would not give other nations control over his military arsenal. The proposition that the U.S. would sign the treaty is preposterous.
M Smote, San Diego USA

The US, China and Russia show their true colours by not signing the treaty
Tom Hunsberger, Mexico
Talk about terrorism! These are weapons whose victims frequently are children - who die or are maimed for life. The US, China and Russia show their true colours by not signing the treaty.
Tom Hunsberger, Canadian in Mexico

Half the world's population seems to own an AK-47, yet I am supposed to believe that banning the production of weapons that anyone can easily make themselves is a major step in saving lives? If the nations that signed this treaty have such high moral values, why haven't they agreed to stop producing assault rifles, RPGs, bombs, missiles, tanks, fighters, bombers, etc.? All of these weapons are much more effective killers, usually of the innocent, and most can't be made at home. How hypocritical to criticize the 40 nations who didn't sign while continuing to sell death and destruction to whoever has the cash! Is a drug dealer who sells heroine but not cocaine any better than one who sells both? Please.
Anthony, USA

Absolutely the United States has forgotten about this issue. The media takes great pains to remind us annually of the passing of Princess Diana, but they never seem to remember any of the causes she supported. Of course, here in the USA, it's all Iraq, all the time. Maybe 25 years from now when we're still clearing the landmines and other unexploded munitions that are lying around Baghdad, somebody might pay attention again.
David M., Waltham, MA, USA

Landmines exist and are easy to make so they will be used
John Anderson, Teaneck, NJ, USA
The treaty is yet another feel-good fantasy with no relevance to the real world. Landmines exist and are easy to make so they will be used. To sum it up, the genie is out of the bottle. As with nuclear weapons once the knowledge exists that it is possible, there is no going back.
John Anderson, Teaneck, NJ, USA

The international community should force the countries that sold and sell the mines to pay for the clean up of the land.
N. Cardoso, Cascais, Portugal

I think it's a sad thing in a world that's suppose to be so civilized, that my country refuses to sign.
Julie Lee, Fernandina Beach, USA

Well, we're discussing it now, aren't we? Seems to me plenty is being done, but when you consider that they're still clearing unexploded bombs from fields in Flanders that we will always have a long way to go on this.
Mike, London

We should hold ourselves to a higher standard than some petty rebel leader or dictator
Matthew, San Francisco, USA
Many are undoubtedly using the US's refusal to sign as an empty excuse. Even so, I think we should hold ourselves to a higher standard than some petty rebel leader or dictator. And do we really need something so faulty and out-dated? I imagine our nuclear and other advanced weapons would serve as sufficient deterrent against attack in places like Korea. I wish we would show a higher regard for civilian safety, over that of professional soldiers paid to take risks.
Matthew, San Francisco, USA

How come everyone is pressuring the US to sign the treaty? The pressure should put on the Russian and Chinese who are the number one and two producers of landmines and armaments in the world. Unfortunately, the world cares about their investments in those countries than anything. The United States, on the other hand, decreased the usage of landmines with the exemption of South Korea and has helped other countries to de-mine itself. Maybe one day, the usage of these weapons will disappeared but as long as war exist so will landmines.
Emanuel, Fort Lee, New Jersey, United States

I believe it's not only forgotten but has been a neglected issue only attended to when there are conferences and the situation is already out of hand. It is like treating the problem despite having seen the symptom earlier.
Isabella U. Mwagodi, Nairobi, Kenya

There are plenty of weapons that like to hang around after the battle is forgotten. Unexploded ordinance from World War 2 is still found all over Europe and depleted uranium shells have caused sickness and injury in many. Responsible land mine placement would see those who planted the mines make careful maps of exactly where each mine and to clear the mines after leaving the area. The truth is though, that everyone forgets about landmines until they step on them.
James, Australia

The US Army and US Special Operations continually, and quietly work this program
Chris, Lithia USA
I work in the military. De-mining operations has been a major focus of our operations for years. It doesn't make the news much, but the U.S. Army and U.S. Special Operations continually, and quietly work this program. Other Nations offer platitudes. We just do it.....
Chris, Lithia USA`

Have you seen any landmines in Washington, DC? How about Beijing? Moscow? Of course it has been forgotten. The big three, US, China, and Russia, make too much money off of the sale of landmines to sign any such treaty. I am particularly disgusted that the US led by a Christian with high moral values hasn't signed this treaty.
Doug Fisher, Asheville, USA

I have nothing against the US, China and Russia planting mines in their own countries. I do have a problem with the aforementioned countries selling and planting mines in third-world countries.
Marc, Quebec, Canada

Yes, landmine issues have been sidelined because new war techniques are now in place. This makes those who are directly affected in Mozambique, Angola etc more vulnerable because no one has time for them as everyone is more into this new phenomena (war on terror.) Personally I feel if US, Russia and China did sign up, the world will be a much better place after all, they are the largest most influential nations who helped indirectly put these landmines where they are today i.e. their home companies manufactured these evils and they best know how to eradicate them.
E. Courage Maunze, Zimbabwean, Canada

Usage of landmines is indiscriminate violence on the innocent
Ian, Austin, Texas USA
I visit Vietnam regularly and I see the toll of landmines on children, the most likely victims, along with cattle and domesticated animals, who rummage through vegetation that has gown over forgotten landmines. I still remember Khoi, a five-year-old boy without an arm and leg, face disfigured, playing checkers with me. His stumps were soft and smooth, like the flesh of my own son of the same age then. I have since devoted years of my life as a scientist to detect hidden landmines with ground penetrating radar. Landmines are evil. They might be inexpensive traps but they are "dumb bombs" that are more likely to maim an innocent person than an enemy. Usage of landmines is indiscriminate violence on the innocent. It is no different than terrorism, which all of humanity must resist and condemn.
Ian, Austin, Texas USA

And another thing about landmines, they don't care who they kill. Soldier or civilian makes no difference to the landmine. It is time to get rid of them and work actively to remove them.
Doug Fisher, Asheville, USA

The manufacturers of these landmines should be fined and pay for the removal of landmines. As it was done to tobacco companies in the USA.
Anon, US

This is a reflection of the changing world order. China, Russia and the USA are all members of the Security Council, yet the US undermines the UN's power and refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol, China and Russia refuse to impose sanctions in Sudan due to their oil interests, and both countries regularly abuse human rights and undermine democracy. If these three countries aren't willing to assume global leadership, who will? This is the epitome of self interests over global interests.
Prashanth Parameswaran, Malaysia

I'm originally from Southern Sudan. I know how landmines look like, I can tell the differences between them, which one is anti-personal and which one can blow up large vehicle. I saw one person in 1988 and a monkey in April 1994 in Iktos town torn apart after they stepped on a Landmine. Despite the difference possess they are all threats and will be to human life if they are not banned. All those that are involved from manufacturers to dealers from the US to China to Russia, France, Italy, should be forced by the world community to sign the Ottawa Convention.
Yoolson Abrams, Winnipeg - Manitoba Candada

It is not the "IN" problem anymore. Don't fore get that in the early 1920's, submarines was the great scare. But nobody cared after a while and not see what has happened to them.
Russ Black, USA

It seems many have forgotten or don't want to remember how these landmines came to be planted in the first place? The so called "liberation" wars in the 60s, 70s and 80s used landmines extensively in Rhodesia, Mozambique and Namibia. And would you guess who the suppliers were? None other than the Soviets and the Chinese. Maybe you'd all like to hear what they have to say about this issue?
Andrew, Wausau, Wisconsin

Of course a landmine ban would be unenforceable, but so what? That's still not an excuse for the U.S. not to sign it! It is a symbol of what we believe, not what we can control and a belief is more powerful then the strongest army. We believe in our form of government too, but (as is being proved in Iraq) we can not force on anyone. If the US truly wants to deserve to lead the world, then we must lead by our example, not by our force of arms. Signing the ban would be a symbolic gesture that the rest of the world could understand and support. How refreshing that would be. Of course it won't happen because in this case, as in far too many others, the current administration has taken a position of do it our way...or you are our enemy. Because of that our nation does not deserve to lead, so it doesn't.
Randy, Los Angeles CA USA

We have been suffering from war against terrorism for nearly 20 years in Sri Lanka. There are thousands of civilians had lost their limbs as well as lives due to land mines. Land mines are the main weapon of rebels. We must force the United Nations to ban usage of land mines during the war throughout the world.
Ranasiri Dayawansa Keembiyage, Kandy , Sri Lanka

It would be better to bring about peace in the world than trying to ban landmines as many rebels in the world use them as a means for defending their own territories against their enemies and vis-versa.
James Laila, Sudanese in Perth/Australia

The responsibility for removing land mines lies with those who placed them in the ground. Like so many other issues, the subject is cynically exploited by those who us the topic as a smokescreen to mask anti-US prejudices.
Mark, AZ, USA

It seems to me that those who make apologies for the use of land mines or simply see them as "too valuable" to give up don't actually have them deployed in their countries. I wonder what kind of pressure the American people would put on the US government to sign the treaty if it were American boys and girls hopping around in one shoe.
Aaron Phillips, Philadelphia, US

Please also note that those who are responsible in Finland have also not signed the treaty.
Kalemyo, Finland

Banning would be unenforceable
John, France
Anybody with a limited knowledge of explosive materials and a little mechanical knowledge can make an AP mine. So banning would be unenforceable. We need to stop the 'rebels' in the world from making war, that is the only way forward.
John, France

Signing a treaty will do nothing about the millions of landmines still in the ground. But countries should be encouraged to design landmines that either expire or can be neutralised perhaps by a coded radio signal, or that somehow make themselves easily detected after a certain time.
Jeremy, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

As usual it's the countries with the largest militaries that don't want to sign and its the people in the countries they have made war in that suffer the thousands of mines now buried in the ground. They could at least clear up the mess when the conflict is over.
Anon, Australia

The US, China and Russia must rethink and consider the concern of thousand of thousand who have become victims of landmines in war torn countries around the world. My cousin is a landmine victim; his right leg was blown off in 1988. However, my concern is, will the ban of landmines come to effect if countries such as US, Russia and China which had already refused to sign the Ottawa Treaty?
Peter Tuach, Minnesota, USA

In a perfect world, landmines would be banned
Brent, Philadelphia, PA, USA
The land mine issue has not been forgotten, but dismissed. In a perfect world, landmines would be banned and no one would use them, but in reality, they are far too effective to abandon. Take for instance the fact that the US would ratify the treaty if an exception would be made or the Korean peninsula. There the mines offer a cheap alternative to maintaining a million man army to counter balance the north.
Brent, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Let's dispel some myths. 1. The US does not sell or distribute Anti-Personnel (AP) landmines, and it hasn't for many years. The fact is that the primary sources of landmines in the world are knockoffs of former Soviet and Chinese mines that are produced locally in the region in which they are used. The primary source of advanced mines, that are nearly impossible to detect and neutralize, is Italy and France.

2. While it is true that the US has not ratified the Land Mine Ban, its policy for many years has been that it will not use the types of mines that are banned in any country except Korea. Bill Clinton even said that he would sign the landmine ban treaty if an exception for Korea was written in. The land mine ban treaty makes for good publicity and makes people feel like the world would be better off but that simply isn't true because the treaty would be unenforceable.
Most landmines are manufactured locally from designs that have been around since the 1950s and 60s, if not earlier. Even when deprived of the correct raw materials for conventional mines, almost anybody with a small amount of training can make very effective mines with materials that are available at any hardware store.
Robert, Strawberry Plains, TN, USA

There are too many groups which will not be bound by a treaty signed by any government
Dave Woods, Cleveland/USA
The death of Princess Diana followed by the 9/11 attacks and the so-called "war on terrorism" have taken attention, funding, etc. away from the landmine issue. I am afraid that just now it would not matter much if all countries would sign the treaty - there are too many terrorist groups, rebels and insurgents which will not be bound by a treaty signed by any government. In Iraq the term for homemade landmines is "improvised explosive device" or EOD - these are often set on roads and highways and used to blow up trucks and other vehicles.
Dave Woods, Cleveland/USA

What chance has this treaty got when the three most powerful militaries in the world refuse to sign it? The fact is, no military will accept the banning of any weapon, no matter how indiscriminate or inhumane, if they consider it could give them any advantage over any enemy in the foreseeable future. They will only accept bans on weapons that they have already abandoned, and are now only used by their enemies. The current US administration in particular is so arrogant; it would refuse the sign any treaty it saw as potentially limiting its own actions in any way at all.
Ralph Williams, Cambridge, UK

To Ralph of Cambridge: Actually, many weapons that are still very effective have been banned because they are inhumane. Flame throwers, dumb dumb bullets, and chemical weapons jump to mind. The problem with land mines is that there is nothing to replace them. They are the perfect sentries, they are always at their post, they never get distracted, and they never sleep.
Brent, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Maybe I am a cynic but I can't help noticing that it is the three most profilers of arms in the world that have failed to sign up to these limitations. Without their agreement to stop producing, as well as deploying, mines this treaty has no value.
James , Shropshire




SEE ALSO:
US 'hurting' anti-mine campaign
30 Nov 04 |  Africa
Meeting logs landmine progress
28 Nov 04 |  Africa
US promises 'safer' landmines
27 Feb 04 |  Americas


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