Students want landmine issue included in FARC peace talks

(Photo: El Tiempo)

Student peace activists have joined the cry for the government to reach a solution with the FARC to Colombia’s landmine problem, which threatens the safety and welfare of thousands of civilians in rural areas.

The students are joining NGO Campaign Against Mines in Colombia (CCCM) in calling on the government to reach a “special agreement” with the FARC  to solve Colombia’s landmine problem. The government have been in peace talks with the FARC for almost a year.

CCCM Communications Coordinator Mauricio Valbuena told Colombia Reports that the issue of landmines must be part of the peace talks “to avoid any more civilian deaths… the continued use of landmines is infringing on the rural communities’ rights to enjoy their land.”

According to CCCM, since dialogues started with the FARC in November 2012, 144 civilians have been victims of land mines – “between deaths, lesions, and mutilations.” Sixty of those were minors.

In October, CCCM director Alvaro Jimenez sent letters to both President Juan Manual Santos and FARC supreme commander Rodrigo Londoño, alias “Timochenko,” calling on both parties to reach an agreement on landmines in Colombia.

“We have insisted… on approaching the topic of anti-personnel mines  in a special way at the peace talks, because of continued effects on non-combatant populations in different regions of the country,” said Jimenez in the letter to Santos. “We have not been listened to.”

Rebel groups FARC and ELN have long been considered the main perpetrators of landmine violence. However, according to information from the Colombian army, other drug-trafficking groups have increasingly resorted to planting landmines around coca crops to halt anti-narcotics operations carried out by the Colombian armed forces.

MORE: Colombian drug traffickers increasingly use landmines

Colombia is one of 161 countries worldwide to have signed the 1997 Ottawa Agreement, declaring the use of landmines a human rights violation. But landmines still cover a significant area of Colombia’s countryside, according to a report compiling 23 years of the devices’ reported effects in the country.

MORE: Report breaks down 23 years of landmines in Colombia

Since 1990, there have been close to 40,000 documented incidents involving landmines in Colombia, according to a report released in August by a presidential program designed to monitor and deal with Colombia’s landmine problem. The large majority of those incidents involved defective mines that did not detonate, but explosions have still left 10,500 documented victims as of August 31, 2013.

Antioquia (2,331), Meta (1,072), Caqueta (816), Norte de Santander (748) and Narino (732) were the departments with the most number of victims, together accounting for over half of all landmine victims.

Civilians accounted for 39% (4000) of the total number of victims, while 61% (6,470) were members of the Colombian armed forces.

The report found that 80% (2,150) of reported incidents resulted in injury, while another 20 percent (8,370) resulted in death.

Landmine victims since 1990


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