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Pope decries use of landmines ‘which continue to target civilians and children’

Pope Francis had words of gratitude for all those who work to de-mine contaminated land and assist landmine victims, noting that their work is “a concrete response to the universal call to be peacemakers.”

Speaking at the Wednesday General Audience, the Pope reminded the faithful that Friday, March 1, “will mark the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines, which continue to target civilians, innocent people, particularly children, many years after the end of hostilities.”

Expressing his closeness to “the many victims of these insidious devices” he said they  “remind us of the dramatic cruelty of wars, and the price civilian populations are forced to bear.”

“Landmines remind us of the dramatic cruelty of wars and the price civilian populations are forced to bear.”

Thank you to peacemakers

In this regard, the Holy Father continued: “I thank all those who offer their contributions to assist the victims and clean up the contaminated areas: their work is a concrete response to the universal call to be peacemakers, taking care of our brothers and sisters.”

“Their work is a concrete response to the universal call to be peacemakers, taking care of our brothers and sisters.”

The Convention

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction is the international agreement that bans antipersonnel landmines. Usually referred to as the Ottawa Convention or the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty it was adopted in 1997 and entered into force on 1 March 1999.

The Convention gained 122 country signatures when it opened for signing on 3 December 1997 in Ottawa, Canada. Currently, there are 164 States Parties to the Treaty. Thirty-two countries have not signed the treaty and one more has signed but did not ratify. So far 35 countries have not signed the treaty; nonsignatories include the United States, Russia, China, Myanmar, United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Egypt, India, Israel, and Iran.

Unexploded ordinance and landmines in Kherson, Ukraine
Unexploded ordinance and landmines in Kherson, Ukraine

Landmine Monitor report

According to the annual Landmine Monitor report released in November 2023, 4,710 people were injured or killed by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) across 49 states and two other areas in 2022.

Civilians, the report said, accounted for 85% of landmine and ERW casualties recorded in 2022, half of them children.

It specified that the highest annual casualties were recorded in Syria (834) and Ukraine (608).

Amidst the conflict in Ukraine, the country saw a ten-fold increase in the number of civilian landmine and ERW casualties compared to 2021. Yemen and Myanmar both recorded more than 500 casualties in 2022.

Members of the Karenni Nationalities-Defense Force search for landmines planted by the Myanmar military junta near Pekon township
Members of the Karenni Nationalities-Defense Force search for landmines planted by the Myanmar military junta near Pekon township

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