War in Iraq: Geneva Call appeals to all parties to respect international humanitarian law
24 March 2003
War in Iraq: Geneva Call appeals to all parties that may be involved in military action to refrain from using anti-personnel mines and to respect international humanitarian law.
Geneva Call condemns the illegal invasion of Iraq in the clear absence of UN Security Council approval. This constitutes a grave step back in the international rule of law and the cause of peace and the peaceful resolution of disputes. It also undermines the international mechanisms established for monitoring and verification of illegal weapons.
Now that the military operations have begun in earnest, it is imperative that all parties to the conflict fully respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. Geneva Call is deeply concerned about the effects of the war on the civilian populations. “We are particularly concerned that some States and non-State armed groups, irrespective of whether they have committed to a total ban on anti-personnel mines, might use such indiscriminate weapons in the course of their campaign”, said Elisabeth Reusse-Decrey, President of Geneva Call. The United States already officially acknowledged that they plan to use landmines in Iraq, as they did in the 1991 Gulf War. Reports also indicate that Iraqi troops were laying mines near the Kuwaiti border, around the city of Kirkuk in the north and elsewhere.
Iraq already suffers dramatically from landmines. It is one of the most heavily mine affected countries in the world. The number of mines has been estimated to be between 8 and 12 million, with the majority of those located in Iraqi Kurdistan. This figure does not include unexploded mortars, shells, grenades and other debris of war. Since 1991, more than 11’000 people have been killed or maimed by landmines and unexploded ordnances. “New use would aggravate Iraq’s existing mine problem, put civilians at greater risk and reverse nearly a decade of dedicated efforts to eradicate this scourge in the region”, warned Ms Reusse-Decrey. Landmines will also hamper post-conflict reconstruction efforts and affects returning refugees and the provision of humanitarian aid.
Neither Iraq nor the United States have joined the 1997 Ottawa Convention, which prohibits use, production, transfer and stockpiling of anti-personnel mines. However, both the United Kingdom and Australia are States Parties, while Turkey’s Parliament has just approved the accession law to the Convention. Kurdish opposition groups have also committed under Geneva Call to a total ban on anti-personnel mines. Geneva Call solemnly appeals to all parties that may be involved in the conflict to strictly respect the international norm established by the Ottawa Convention and to refrain from using anti-personnel mines in Iraq, taking into account the tragic humanitarian impact of these inhumane weapons on civilian populations long after the hostilities have ceased.
Geneva Call is an international humanitarian organization dedicated to engage non-State armed groups in adhering to a total ban on anti-personnel mines and to other humanitarian norms. To facilitate this process, it provides a complimentary mechanism by which non-State armed groups, as they are not eligible to sign the Ottawa Convention, can commit themselves by signing a declaration called the “Deed of Commitment”.
To date, 20 groups have banned anti-personnel mines through the “Deed of Commitment”.
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