20 September 2013

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) is deeply disturbed by recent information indicating that the army of Nagorno-Karabakh is actively laying antipersonnel mines. The ICBL calls on the authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh to immediately halt this new use of antipersonnel mines and to remove all mines that have been emplaced.

States Parties to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty should condemn this use and encourage an immediate cessation.According to reports from late July this year, including by Asbarez news, Nagorno-Karabakh military chief General Movses Hakobian stated that “…his forces have placed more anti-personnel landmines this year along the Armenian-Azerbaijani ‘line of contact’ east and north of the disputed territory.” General Hakobian said this is aimed at preventing sabotage attacks by Azerbaijani troops.

In response, ICBL sent a letter to the Government of Nagorno-Karabakh seeking urgent clarification of this matter.In his 4 September response, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nagorno-Karabakh did not deny these allegations and confirmed that “due to the ongoing conflict with Azerbaijan (…) today we are not in a position to refrain from using AP mines for defensive purposes along the line of contact.” Further, the letter notes, "these mines are neither aimed at the civilian population nor at the extermination of the adversary but for limiting its advances and ceasing any possible military aggression against us.”Antipersonnel mines are indiscriminate weapons, which are far more likely to maim or kill civilians than combatants. Use of antipersonnel mines by anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances is condemned and has been banned internationally since 1997.

Today the ban is nearly universally accepted with only two states, Syria and Myanmar, and non-state armed groups in a handful of countries still using antipersonnel landmines.It is very unfortunate that Nagorno-Karabakh is now joining this list. Nagorno-Karabakh and its people have experienced the horror of landmines firsthand. Lives and livelihoods in the country are still affected today by these banned weapons. In addition, the country has been a beneficiary of humanitarian demining programs since 1999 with the financial assistance of nations that support the Mine Ban Treaty.

Any new use of landmines in Nagorno-Karabakh threatens to cause further human suffering in the country, reverse gains from previous mine clearance, and increase the already significant problem on the ground.

Nagorno-Karabakh’s ongoing use of antipersonnel mines is contrary to the emerging international norm rejecting these stigmatized weapons, and should cease immediately.

For more information on landmine use and contamination in Nagorno-Karabakh, see the Landmine Monitor country profile (data as of 2012).