Ukraine, the government promises an investigation into the prohibited use of anti-personnel mines

Ukraine, the government promises an investigation into the prohibited use of anti-personnel mines


ROME – “The Ukrainian government should act consistently with its expressed commitment not to use landmines; investigate the use of these weapons by its military; call those responsible to account”: this is what he urges today Human Rights Watch (hrw). The declaration of the government, in a meeting of 21 June of the Mine Ban Treaty in Geneva, it came nearly five months after Ukrainian officials said they would look into reports by HRW and other groups that Ukrainian forces have used these weapons in operations to retake territory occupied by Russian forces.

More evidence uncovered. Since releasing a report in January, Human Rights Watch uncovered further evidence of Ukrainian use of these indiscriminate weapons throughout 2022. “The Ukrainian government’s commitment to investigate its military’s apparent use of landmines is an important acknowledgment of its duty to protect civilians.” , said Steve Goose, director of the weapons sector Human Rights Watch. “A timely, transparent and thorough investigation could have far-reaching benefits for Ukrainians, both now and for future generations.”

The four HRW reports. Since the start of the war in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Russian forces have used at least 13 types of landmines in multiple areas across Ukraine, killing and wounding civilians. Human Rights Watch published four reports documenting the use of landmines by Russian forces in Ukraine since 2022. Russia, which is not a party to the Mine Ban Treaty, violates international humanitarian law when it uses landmines because they are inherently indiscriminate weapons.

The “butterfly” mines in the areas occupied by the Russians. The human rights NGO reported on January 31 of numerous cases in which Ukrainian forces fired rockets carrying thousands of PFM-1 anti-personnel mines, also called “petal” or “butterfly” mines, in Russian-occupied areas in and around the eastern Ukrainian city of Izium between April and September 2022. Human Rights Watch verified 11 civilian casualties from the mines, including one fatality and multiple lower leg amputations, based on interviews with victims and their family members. In a statement issued on the day the report was released, the Ukrainian government pledged to “duly study” the report.

How deadly devices work. Landmines are detonated by the presence, proximity or contact of a person and can kill and injure people long after armed conflicts have ended. PFM mines are small plastic mines that are fired in an area, land on the ground, and detonate when pressure is applied to the body of the mine, such as when someone steps on, manipulates, or moves it. Some PFM mines self-destruct, detonating randomly for up to 40 hours after being used.

The remains recovered in agricultural land. Last May, a man working in an area of ​​eastern Ukraine where the Ukrainian government restored control after Russian forces left posted photos online showing more remains of artillery rockets. They said the remains were recovered from farmland during clearing operations. Upon close inspection of the marks on the remains, Human Rights Watch identified two sections of 9N128K3 9M27K3 Uragan 220 mm rocket warheads, each containing 9N223 “blocks”, or stacks, of 9N212 PFM-1S antipersonnel mines in cassettes.

Each rocket contains 312 mines. Each 9M27K3 Uragan land mine rocket is exclusively designed to carry and disperse 312 PFM-1S antipersonnel mines. The markings on all pictures of the rockets examined show that they were manufactured in 1986 (from batches number 14 and 16) at the USSR Ammunition Factory designated #912. In addition to the GRAU index numbers which corresponded to the warheads used to carry PFM-1S landmines, Human Rights Watch also identified handwriting on the side of a section of the warhead. Handwriting analysis determined that the first word is the Ukrainian word “Від”, which translates as “from”. A second sentence, written in Latin characters, refers to an organization in Kiev.

The Treaty that prohibits its use. The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty bans landmines completely and requires the destruction of stockpiles, clearing mined areas and providing assistance to victims. Ukraine signed the Mine Ban Treaty on February 24, 1999 and ratified it on December 27, 2005. Russia is not a party to the treaty, but it violates international humanitarian law when it uses landmines because they are inherently indiscriminate. The Mine Ban Treaty entered into force on March 1, 1999, and its 164 states include all NATO members except the United States and all European Union member states.

What should be done, according to HRW. “Ukraine’s investigation into the use of PFM landmines should address evidence provided by us and others. It should aim to hold those responsible for making one accountable. it should also make recommendations on the efforts the Ukrainian government should undertake to identify and assist victims.This includes the provision of adequate and timely compensation, and medical and other assistance, such as prostheses where appropriate, and ongoing rehabilitation needs ”.

The concern of the Ukrainian authorities. Human Rights Watch co-founded and chairs the International Campaign for Landmine ban (ICBL), co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize 1997. “The Ukrainian authorities concerned about the protection of their civilians – concluded Goose, of HRW – have an interest in learning more about how, when and where these mines were used. And do everything possible to prevent them from being used again new”.


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