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UNHCR welcomes ratification of anti-landmine convention

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UNHCR welcomes ratification of anti-landmine convention

21 September 1998

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today welcomed the ratification of the anti-mine convention as a "huge step" toward the safety of refugees returning to former war zones littered with mines, from Cambodia to Bosnia and Herzegovina to Mozambique.

"It's a gigantic step toward the safety of returning refugees and human decency," said Sadako Ogata who heads UNHCR.

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and Their Destruction, which opened for ratifications in Ottawa last December, moved closer to becoming international law last week when the 40th of the 132 signatory nations ratified the document. The 40th ratification paves the way for the Convention's entry into force next March.

"For my Office the banning of land mines has always been a top priority", said Ogata. The world's refugee organisation says the presence of anti-personnel mines can have a long-lasting, profound, and costly effect on almost every aspect of population movement and human settlement. UNHCR says today mines are being planted not just to kill and maim, but also to drive minority groups or perceived "enemies" from their homes and land.

UNHCR has earmarked US$ 2.6 million this year for equipment, training and mine clearance to support the return of ethnic minorities to villages polluted with mines and devastated by war in Bosnia and Herzegovina - one of the signatories of the mine convention where mines have killed dozens and crippled hundreds of people, many of them children, since guns fell silent almost three years ago.

Ogata said UNHCR will continue to lobby for further land mine production bans and boycott companies which produce mines. "The World has to make sure that the lethal danger of land mines disappears once and for all," she said.