How Bosnia is on the frontline of Europe’s landmine battle

How Bosnia is on the frontline of Europe’s landmine battle
By Chris Harris
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People are still being killed by landmines in Europe 20 years since they were banned in many countries around the world.


He’s the victim of a European war that had finished even before he was born.

Aldin Karavdic, 16, was tending goats near his home in Bosnia and Herzegovina when he stepped on a landmine.

He suffered severe injuries and was fortunate not to lose his right leg. He's been left disabled.

The accident happened near his home in the hills around Mostar, which was heavily hit during the 1992-95 Bosnian War.

Karavdic’s is one of a dozen people to be injured by landmines in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the last couple of years.

Nine people have been killed over the same period.

Experts say Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the most landmine-contaminated countries in Europe following the war in the early 1990s.

More than 80,000 mines and unexploded ordnance still exist in the country, putting more than half-a-million people at direct risk, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the only countries in Europe where landmine contamination is considered ‘massive’ because it affects more than 100 square kilometres, according to Landmine Monitor 2016. Others include Croatia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq and Angola.

ICRC says while progress has been made in clearing Bosnia and Herzegovina’s landmines the country has put back a deadline to be free of them from 2019 to 2025.

The country’s case shows that two decades since landmines were banned - a treaty was signed on December 3, 1997 - they are still killing people in Europe.

Twenty years ago an estimated 20,000 people, mainly civilians, were being killed or maimed by them every year.

But since the treaty - signed by 162 states - the numbers have gradually decreased to around 6,500 annually.

Erik Tollefsen, the ICRC’s head of weapons contamination, said while landmine deaths have been decreased over the last two decades there has been a hike in recent years.

“The big problem today is non-state actors,” he said. “In many of these conflicts that we see on the news and in the newspapers every day we see that many more improvised landmines are being used than we are able to clear.

“Today landmines and other unexploded ordinance such as cluster munitions are presenting a huge menace in post-conflict scenarios. It’s not just a hindrance to human security, but it is also preventing life from going back to normality.” 

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