The parties to the Mine Ban Treaty on Friday granted Colombia’s request for ten more years to remove anti-personnel landmines from its territory.
Rosa Irene Rubio, interim director of the country’s mine action program, told Colombia Reports that she was very satisfied with the decision, and that Colombia would continue to fulfil its commitments under the treaty.
Colombia on Monday formally asked for ten more years to complete the de-mining process, which was due to be finished by March 2011. The request was made on the first day of the Tenth Meeting of the States Parties to the Ottawa Convention to ban anti-personnel landmines, held in Geneva.
The convention agreed to the request on condition that Colombia give updates on the plan it presented to the conference. These reports will be presented at the 11th and 13th meetings of the states parties, in 2011 and 2013 respectively.
On Monday, Colombia’s representatives told the conference that the country had removed all mines placed by its armed forces, but needed more time get rid of explosives laid by illegal armed groups.
Kerry Brinkhert, director of the convention’s secretariat, told Colombia Reports on Monday that Colombia had demonstrated its commitment to the implementation of the treaty, and that the “international community” appreciates the country’s “special circumstances.”
Colombia faces a more difficult situation than many other parties to the treaty as its conflict is ongoing, and illegal armed groups continue to plant improvised explosive devices (IEDs). These are likely to be laid without a pattern, and without records being kept, and so are more difficult to locate and disarm than conventional mines.
Rubio explained that Colombia is working on legislation to allow civilian groups to work on de-mining, which currently can only be carried out by the armed forces. This will be necessary in the coming years, she said, because work to remove mines planted by state forces has already been completed, and now the focus will be on the more difficult task of removing mines placed by illegal armed groups, which will require more manpower.