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ICBL Comments on Algeria's Mine Clearance Deadline Extension Request

Article 5 deadline: 1 April 2012
Extension period requested: 5 years (1 April 2017)

Clarification sought on the Extension Request

Algeria's request for five additional years appears to be well-reasoned, but additional details and clarity are needed to assess the current level of contamination, past accomplishments, future objectives and the proposed extension period.

Remaining Contamination

The request provides many pieces of information about land that has been released and remains to be cleared, but it often refers to different locations, time periods, and ways of quantifying suspected land (i.e. hectares versus lines of square kilometers without a clear way to relate the two numbers), making an overall understanding of the problem very difficult. It appears from the information on page 19 that there are 6.2km2 of remaining mined areas in the east and 7.36km2 in the west, but such information does not appear to correspond to information provided elsewhere, including in the annexes. The request also notes a need to clear a line of 887km, but how does this translate into square kilometers? In addition, the request states that some land was not cleared to international norms and will need to be covered again. But when total quantities of land cleared are presented, it is not specified if they include these areas requiring re-clearance and/or areas that have been cleared again. Algeria should therefore clearly present the total amount of remaining contamination in the country.

Mined areas in the interior of the country

The request notes that in addition to the long minefields located along the Moroccan and Tunisian borders, there were many sites in the interior of the country laid by both French forces during the war of independence and by Algerian forces (before acceding to the Mine Ban Treaty) around electricity installations and other sensitive locations to protect them from attacks by non-state armed groups. The request states that all of the areas mined by Algerian forces have now been cleared, but it should clarify when and where this took place, as well as how much land was cleared. In addition, in its extension request Algeria reported clearance of 15,626 antipersonnel mines, but in its 2009 Article 7 report stated that there were 15,709 antipersonnel mines laid by the Algerian army. Why is there a difference? Moreover, the request should provide clear information on whether all other mined areas in the interior of the country (laid during war of independence or by non-state armed groups) were also cleared.

Technical issues

Algeria states that it is now using only manual clearance and does not mention any survey activities. Yet States Parties are encouraged, including through the Cartagena Action Plan, to use non-technical and technical survey techniques to help reduce the amount of land that needs clearance and to gain a better assessment of contaminated areas. Algeria does note that it conducted a technical survey and a Landmine Impact survey (LIS), but does not provide specific information on the results, nor on whether non-technical or technical survey continue to be carried out. Could more information be provided on survey?

Algeria should also explain how it is dealing with the possibility of mines that were moved by people or due to climatic factors outside known/suspected mined areas. The request notes, for example, that 532 mines have been found by civilians outside of known mined areas. What efforts have been made to survey such areas to determine if these mines were isolated or could be considered to form mined areas?

Algeria refers to some mines with no metal content whatsoever and states that they can only be found by prods or visually. It also mentions other technical challenges including the movement of sand. Has Algeria sought international technical assistance in locating these mines more efficiently?

Funding

While Algeria is to be congratulated for financing all mine clearance with its own funds, it would be useful to have an estimate of how much money has been spent and how much more will be needed, as all other States Parties have provided this information in the context of their extension requests.

Work Plan

Algeria should provide, as requested of States Parties seeking an extension, clear annual forecasts of land to be released during the extension period, including by clearance or other means. In addition, since Algeria's productivity projections are based on the most difficult conditions it faces (in the east), Algeria should also specify whether it can be expected that clearance will proceed more quickly in less complicated areas. It should also explain whether they plan to move resources to the remaining areas if they finish faster than expected in such areas.

Conclusions and recommendations

Algeria acknowledges that it started clearance operations to fulfill Article 5 too late. It also notes both the humanitarian and security implications of delays in completing clearance. Nonetheless, the fact that Algeria is meeting all of the costs of its clearance deserves recognition.

Algeria appears to have requested the minimum extension period necessary based on existing work. But before an assessment can be properly made, Algeria should clarify the exact extent of remaining contamination, in particular whether any contamination is believed to remain in the center or north of the country. A table presenting the total known/suspected mined areas and the precise quantity of land cleared per region would greatly help to clarify the extension request. Algeria should also provide a specific breakdown of planned clearance per year and region for the extension period, as well as projected levels of funding. Without such clarity on the remaining problem, it is difficult to assess the projected time period needed for clearance.

Finally, Algeria must commit unequivocally to clear all of the known remaining areas within the extension period, including the so-called "museum" mined areas. While it is understandable that Algeria wants to have a reminder of the terrible legacy of these minefields and the lives they have taken, there must be an alternative way to establish such a memorial. The Mine Ban Treaty does not allow the retention of any mined areas containing live antipersonnel mines for any reason.

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