OPINION

Letter to the Editor

Stavros Tzimas’s excellent article Live Minefields Cast a Dark Shadow on Peace, in Monday’s Kathimerini English Edition (October 22), demonstrates why 142 nations have agreed to ban these weapons. The mines used in Greece for short-term military reasons 50 years ago are still killing people today – including members of the Greek army – and keeping large areas of land out of use. A NATO Partnership for Peace workshop hosted by the Ministry of Defense in Athens last week held a minute’s silence for the latest victims of those mines, Captain Haralambous and Sergeant Hatzinikoloau. This meeting was told about the efforts of many countries to rid Southeastern Europe of the scourge of anti-personnel mines, including a remarkable project funded by eight countries which is now destroying Albania’s large stockpile of mines. Anti-personnel mines have been banned by so many countries precisely because they are victim-activated – they cannot discriminate between an enemy and an ally, nor between civilian and military. These mines lie hidden waiting to kill or maim the innocent decades after the conflict in which they were used. Often the people killed by mines are refugees fleeing other wars, persecution or natural disasters – and this is the case with civilian casualties occurring regularly in the minefields maintained today on the Evros border. So as well as the brave and dedicated work to get rid of old minefields, other minefields are actually created and preserved on Greek soil. Many countries face the problem of illegal immigration, but no one argues that killing or maiming the refugees is an acceptable solution. From new research in the annual Landmine Monitor Report (www.icbl.org), I can update Monday’s article in other ways. The production of anti-personnel mines is not continuing – it has virtually ceased worldwide, and trade in mines has been much reduced, with the help the Ottawa Convention. New usage of mines has also been cut to a very few countries. Greece signed this total ban on anti-personnel mines in 1997, in agreement with its humanitarian aims, but has not yet legally brought it into effect. Soon, we hope, Greece will join the majority of other nations as a full member of the Ottawa mine-ban. Ian Doucet