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Argentine General: demining a humanitarian and ethical imperative

Martes, 5 de enero de 2010 - 01:22 UTC

“Argentina is free of all type of mines, with the exception of those planted in the Falkland/Malvinas Islands which motivated Argentina to request and obtain a ten year de-mining extension, because Argentina currently does not have access to the Islands illegitimately occupied by the United Kingdom”.

The statement belongs to Argentine ambassador in Colombia, former commander of the Argentine Army and Malvinas veteran General Martin Balza who last month participated in the 2nd Review Conference of the Ottawa Convention held at Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, and wrote a column under the heading of "Antipersonnel mines and ethical duty" for a Buenos Aires daily.

Besides this short lopsided initial presentation of the issue, General Balza mentions some terrifying statistics about anti-personnel mines which annually victimize 25.000 people through death, mutilation or terrible laceration, mostly civilians and which can remain buried active for over half a century.

The meeting was held in Colombia, South America because it has displaced Cambodia as the country which suffers most victims from this cruel weapon "created more than to kill, to mutilate and seriously injure because of its direct demoralizing impact on other combatants and later for any government is far costlier in economic and social terms than a dead solider".

"Mine sweeping, clearing the fields of mines is a humanitarian and ethical imperative for governments" states Balza but unfortunately "several countries and illegal organizations do not see it this way" and this is particularly cruel because in the majority of cases mine planting is not done with the necessary registries and demarcation plans.

"Planting a mine can cost 2 US dollars but de-activating it soars to 800 US dollars".

Balza points out that many of the mine manufacturing companies are the same that obtain very profitable contracts for de-mining, and mentions among the main world producers three members from the UN Security Council: United States, China and Russia.

The conference with the participation of 154 countries was held ten years after the Ottawa Treaty to ban antipersonnel mines became effective in 1999 and Colombia was chosen because of the dramatic situation it is suffering.

In 31 of the 32 Colombian provinces there are extensive mined fields, with no demarcations, signalling, maps, records or blueprints of their existence, planted by an on-going insurgence movement. It is estimated it will take decades to clear antipersonnel mines in Colombia since the "criminal process" continues.

Between 1990 and October 2009, 8.100 Colombians have been victims of antipersonnel mines, over 400 annually. In 2009 the number was 550, of which 450 with ghastly injuries and 100 killed, with a considerable number of them less suspecting and most curious children and innocent civilians.

General Balza, who forgets to mention in his column that the thousands of antipersonnel mines still in the Falklands were planted by the retreating Argentine forces in 1982 underlines that "the suffering and valour of the victims and survivors of antipersonnel mines' explosions must be a boost for those responsible under International Humanitarian Law, particularly taking into consideration that most victims belong to the weakest and most vulnerable".

Categorías: Política, Argentina.