SEPTEMBER 18 2007 16:04h
The 1997 ban on landmines has succeeded beyond hopes, campaigners said on the treaty`s 10th anniversary on Tuesday.
The convention banning antipersonnel landmines was negotiated in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, in September 1997 and signed by 122 states in Ottawa, Canada, in December that year and came into force in 1999.
So far 155 states have signed the convention, and, campaigners say, it has compelled even countries that have refused to join it to refrain from using the weapons.
"We have changed the world," Jody Williams, who won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize together with her International Campaign to Ban Landmines, told Reuters at an anniversary symposium.
Steve Goose, director of Human Rights Watch's arms division who has been involved from the start, said: "The successes of the past decade have exceeded even the highest expectations of the (landmine) treaty's biggest supporters."
"Even states outside the treaty are complying with its basic provisions," Goose told Reuters. "In the past year, only two governments are confirmed to have used anti-personnel mines, Russia and -- in the greatest quantity -- Burma."
Countries continue to join the landmine ban, with Indonesia, Kuwait and Iraq signing on just this year, though big producers of the weapon, including the United States, Russia and China remain outside, he noted.
"The weapon has been stigmatised to a huge extent, and trade in the weapon has virtually stopped, except for a very low level of illegal trade," Goose said. "Nobody admits that they ship mines any more."
States party to the ban have destroyed some four million stockpiled landmines, and the number of confirmed casualties caused by landmines each year has dropped to around 5,000-7,000 from around 26,000 killed or injured a decade ago, Goose said.
"There are many challenges still out there -- the two biggest are to continue to clear the mines and help the victims," Goose said.
The landmine ban is a model for a new "Oslo process" seeking to reach an international ban by 2008 on cluster bombs, another class of munitions that campaigners blame for indiscriminately killing and maiming tens of thousands of civilians.
The number of states pledging support for such a ban has grown to 80 from 46 that joined an Oslo declaration in February.
"We are extremely optimistic on the possibility on a new treaty banning cluster munitions in 2008," Goose said.