Syrian forces have placed landmines near the borders with Lebanon and Turkey in recent weeks and months, Human Rights Watch said today, based on reports and confirmations from witnesses and Syrian deminers. Civilian casualties have already resulted, the witnesses said.
The Syrian army should cease its use of antipersonnel landmines and recognize that planting this internationally banned weapon will hurt Syrians for years to come, Human Rights Watch said. Both antipersonnel and antivehicle mines of Soviet/Russian origin have been cleared by deminers associated with the opposition.
“Any use of antipersonnel landmines is unconscionable,” said Steve Goose, Arms Division director at Human Rights Watch. “There is absolutely no justification for the use of these indiscriminate weapons by any country, anywhere, for any purpose.”
Antipersonnel mines are militarily ineffective weapons that mostly kill and injure civilians, Human Rights Watch said. A total of 159 countries have joined the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which comprehensively prohibits the use, production, trade, and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines.
Syria has not joined the Mine Ban Treaty, though it is not thought to be a producer or exporter of antipersonnel mines. It is last believed to have used antipersonnel mines during the 1982 conflict with Israel in Lebanon. The size and origin of Syria’s landmine stockpile is not known, but it is believed to consist mainly of Soviet/Russian-manufactured mines, such as the PMN-2 antipersonnel mines and TMN-46 antivehicle mines.