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Forbidden Weapons Won't Go Away
by James Dunnigan
April 18, 2010

Landmines, although outlawed by the 1999 Ottawa Convention (to ban landmines), are still causing at least 5,000 casualties a year. About twenty percent of the victims are killed, and 90 percent of them are males. This is largely because men are more likely to be out in the bush, or working farmlands that still contain mines. A third of the casualties are security personnel (police and soldiers.) This is because in many countries, rebels and criminals are still using landmines, either factory made ones from countries that did not sign the Ottawa Convention, or locally made mines. These devices are simple to make, and workshops are often set up to do it. There's no shortage of mines out there, despite the fact that, in the first few years after the 1999 Ottawa Convention was signed, over 25 million landmines, in the arsenals of over fifty nations, were destroyed. But these nations were not users. For those who want landmines, they are available, and they continue to be used.

The 1999 Ottawa Convention was supposed to have reduced land mine casualties among civilians. It hasn't worked, because the largest manufacturers of land mines, Russia and China, refused to sign. Chinese land mines are still available on the international arms black market. China is believed to have a stockpile of over a hundred million land mines (mostly anti-personnel). The old ones are often sold before they become worthless. But even these mines, which go for $5-10 each, are too expensive for many of the criminal organizations that buy them. In Colombia, leftist rebels are losing their four decade war to establish a socialist dictatorship. So they have been using more land mines against soldiers and police, as well as civilian populations they want to control. This was how land mines were widely used in Afghanistan and Cambodia. In Colombia, the rebels find it cheaper to build their own landmines. Labor is cheap, as are the components. Thus land mines, competitive with the factory built ones from China, can be built for less than three dollars each. You can find all the technical data you need on the Internet.

Anti-vehicle mines are increasingly popular, and are particularly popular in poor countries where there are still a lot of dirt roads, traveled by buses and trucks carrying dozens of passengers each. While these mines are usually intended for military vehicles, mines can't tell the difference. As a result, in this year or next, Colombia will have the largest number of annual mine casualties in the world.


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