Under the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, the UK Government has an obligation to clear minefields remaining from the Falklands War.  At the 11th Meeting of States Parties to the mine Ban Treaty, that took place in Phnom Penh from 27 November – 2 December, the ICBL called on the UK to explain its plans for meeting this obligation, and to make clear the resources it needs to finish the job. Article 36 also wrote to the Minister for Counter Proliferation expressing concerns.

The UK’s initial legal obligation was to clear these minefields “as soon as possible” but within a ten year period that expired on 1 March 2009.  The UK made virtually no progress towards meeting that obligation (see papers written by Richard Moyes whilst at Landmine Action on the history of the UK’s efforts, and calling on States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty to reject their request for an extension.)

In November 2008, the United Kingdom was granted a 10-year extension to its mine clearance obligation.  In seeking approval for this extension, the UK not only committed to clearance of the landmines within the revised extension period (in line with the UK’s choice of ‘Scenario 5’ from its own feasibility study) but also committed to providing States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty with detailed information on plans and progress.

As of November 2011 the UK had only undertaken clearance of a very limited pilot-project area and has provided no substantive information on plans or projected costs for meeting the commitment to completion that it clearly reaffirmed in 2008.  Details of the UK’s limited recent efforts are presented in the 2010 Landmine Monitor.  Although the UK tends to maintain that the threat posed by the minefields are minimal, information released under the UK Freedom of Information Act shows both that the landmines are still active and that civilians are periodically putting themselves at serious risk. 

Although the UK’s current financial circumstances bear upon the allocation of resources to this work, the UK’s practice of making commitments on this matter and then failing to follow through on them sets the worst possible example to other states that are working to meet their treaty obligations in good faith.

As a British member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, we therefore urge the UK to present its actual plans for further clearance work including their projected costs, and to make public any needs for assistance it has in order to meet the commitments it has made.