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Iraq Called Upon to Remove Anti-Personnel Mines in the Region

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Iraq acceded to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, also known as the Ottawa Treaty, in 2008. In doing so, it committed itself to destroy stockpiled mines in four years and to clear minefields in 10 years. However, a newly released United Nations report calls upon Iraq for greater efforts to ensure a safe environment for the population and warning that the country may be unable to meet its obligations under an international treaty to rid the country of the deadly scourge of anti-personnel land mines.

In the joint report issued by the United Nations Development Program and the United Nations Children's Fund, along with the Iraqi Ministry of Environment, concerns were raises that the country is unable to meet its treaty obligations. Paolo Lembo, United Nations Development Program's Country Director for Iraq said that "after decades of war and conflict, Iraq has become one of the world's most contaminated countries in terms of land mines and unexploded remnants of war, impacting the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis." Mr. Lembo added, "unfortunately, with the Government's current capacities and resources, it is unlikely Iraq will be able to meet its obligations under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty, as it will take decades to clear all mines and unexploded ordnance."

The report, "Overview of Land mines and Explosive Remnants of War in Iraq," points out that approximately 20 million land mines and 2.6 million cluster bombs are contaminating more than 1,700 square kilometers of Iraq's land, including oil fields and farmlands. "These unexploded remnants of war are affecting more than 1.6 million Iraqis in some 4,000 communities by significantly impeding both their own and their country's economic recovery," the agencies said in a joint news release.

Since 2008, around 20 square kilometers have been cleared by national and international demining organizations and nearly 276,700 people have received mine-awareness training through UNICEF-supported activities. According to UNICEF, around 1 million Iraqi children are at risk of being injured or killed by mines and unexploded ordnance. In addition, 2,000 children have been maimed or killed by cluster bombs since 2003.

Sikander Khan, UNICEF's Iraq Representative said "Iraqi children have the right to grow up in a safe environment without risk to their well-being and lives as much as any other child in the world." Sikander Khan said that "more action to clear mines and other unexploded ordnance is urgently needed so all Iraqi children can grow up without fear of this hidden enemy and be assured of a safer and better future."

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Lawrence J. Gist II is a dedicated pro bono attorney and counselor at law, adjunct professor of legal studies at Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles, CA, a member of the board of directors of the Institute of Indigenous Knowledges, and a veteran (more...)
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