Sri Lanka to ban landmines

BannedSri Lanka’s government on Thursday announced it would ban land mines and promised to destroy its stockpiles of the explosive devices, nearly seven years after its protracted civil war ended.

Deputy Foreign Minister Harsha de Silva said the cabinet had decided to sign the 1997 UN treaty which banned anti-personnel mines.

Sri Lanka had been among a few dozen nations to resist the treaty known as the Ottawa Convention, which prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of mines.

“We decided to sign the Ottawa Convention because we have no intention of going to war again,” de Silva told reporters in Colombo.  “We have also agreed to destroy stockpiles of land mines,” he said.

He did not say what quantities of the explosives remained in the military’s hands.

Sri Lanka had previously refused to become a signatory to the treaty, arguing that it was forced to use land mines because its main warring partner, the Tamil Tiger separatists, used them extensively.

Security forces crushed the Tamil Tiger leadership in a major offensive, ending the 37-year civil war in May 2009.

Two years ago, the military declared that it had cleared mines and unexploded munitions from most of the areas where civilians are being resettled in the island’s former war zone. Reports of landmine injuries in Sri Lanka have been scarce in recent years thanks to a successful awareness campaign.

The separatist conflict had claimed over 100,000 lives between 1972 and 2009. Thousands of combatants as well as civilians fell victim to improvised explosive devices as well as mines. (AFP)

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