Other countries should reconsider joining the Ottawa Treaty to ban landmines following Sri Lanka’s accession to the treaty on Wednesday, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
HRW Arms Director Steve Goose on Thursday said Sri Lanka’s accession should spur other nations that haven’t joined the landmine treaty to take another look at why they want to be associated with such an obsolete, abhorrent weapon.
“This should spur other countries that haven’t joined the treaty to review their position and address any obstacles to joining it,” he said.
Sri Lanka deposited its instrument of accession to the treaty with the United Nations in New York, becoming the 163rd country to join.
The Mine Ban Treaty comprehensively bans antipersonnel landmines, and requires destruction of stockpiles, clearance of mined areas, and assistance to victims of the weapons.
The HRW said Sri Lanka participated as an observer in the fast-track diplomatic Ottawa Process, which led to the adoption of the Mine Ban Treaty in September 1997, but said it could not sign due to its ongoing conflict with the LTTE.
“Since then Sri Lank expressed its support for the humanitarian objectives of the Mine Ban Treaty and voted in favor of every annual UN General Assembly resolution on it. In December 2015, Sri Lanka announced that it was “seriously considering” joining the Treaty “as a matter of priority” following “a paradigm shift” in policy after the election of a new government in January 2015,” it said.
According to the HRW, the Sri Lankan army has acknowledged using antipersonnel mines in the past while the LTTE produced and used them extensively during the armed conflict.
“After deliberating for almost two decades, Sri Lanka ultimately decided to get on the right side of history by relinquishing antipersonnel mines. With every country that joins the treaty, the norm against these weapons only gets stronger,” Mr. Goose said.
Non-signatories of Ottawa Treaty
Thirty-three UN countries including the US, China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Egypt, Israel, Iran and Russia have not yet signed the Ottawa Treaty. Marshall Islands has signed the Treaty but not yet ratified it.