In the light of the unfortunate events caused by COVID-19 coronavirus and the threat it poses to our country, Bosnia and Herzegovina Mine Action Centre today wants to once again remind all citizens of our country to be aware of the still-present explosive ordnance left behind from previous war events and to urge the entire population to strictly adhere to mine warning signs, especially since most mine accidents occur in early spring.
The fact that our country is one of the most endangered in the world, when it comes to explosive devices, tells us that our citizens must be warned about their consequences. Since most people due to the current restriction of movement and despite the strict warnings to stay home, still go into nature, it is very important to warn them about the existence of these kinds of dangers and to avoid the unknown areas.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina all necessary and available actions are being taken to protect endangered civilians and to remove explosive ordnance efficiently. These devices do not select their victims and it is very important to adequately take care of all survivors and families of mine victims with legal solutions enabling them to be included in social life and non-discrimination.
During the last five years, 158.5km2 was released and returned for use to the citizens where 8 992 mines and 9 992 residual explosive remnants of war were destroyed. The total number of landmine casualties is 1767, of which 617 were fatal. The danger that our country still struggles with, and how unstable and dangerous these devices are, shows the fact that two demining accidents occurred in the last year, in which two deminers were killed and four injured.
In the past 18 months, BiH Mine Action Centre in cooperation with the NGO Norwegian People’s Aid and BiH Armed Forces, and with the financial support of the European Union (EU IcSP), worked on finalizing the project “General Assessment of Mine Suspected Areas in BiH”, confirming the overall mine suspected area of 965 km2, while over 480 field tasks have been adapted to the new Land release methodology, as a more efficient and effective approach to clear mine contamination in the coming period.
All data collected through this project serve as a basis for filing a BiH Request for Extension under the Ottawa Convention, signed in 1997 together with over 160 other countries affected by the same problem. According to the request, it is clearly specified that all remaining minefields should be cleared by 2025, as foreseen by the BiH Mine Action Strategy which was adopted by BiH Council of Ministers last year.
Bosnia and Herzegovina still faces serious problem of mine contamination because mines and explosives left behind from the war pose a direct security threat and the lives of over 300,000 citizens.
Swift action by the BiH Council of Ministers is required to appoint the new Demining Commission, Head of the EU Delegation to BiH and EU Special Representative Ambassador Johann Sattler and EUFOR Commander Major General Reinhard Trischak have warned. The Demining Commission is the country’s only body authorized to accredit and re-accredit demining organisations. With its mandate expiring, 89 percent of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s demining capacity and the entire capacity for the removal of explosive remnants of war outside registered mine suspected areas is set to be lost by the end of March.
The current stalemate represents a threat to the safe and secure environment for the citizens in a country where around 2 percent of the territory is still mine contaminated. EU Ambassador Sattler and Major General Trischak have flagged up the urgency of this matter with relevant authorities in the country. Following the nomination of a new Demining Commission by the BiH Minister of Civil Affairs Ankica Gudeljević, BiH Council of Ministers needs to move forward with the official appointment of the Commission and its members, in order to facilitate continuation of the Mine Action Strategy in line with national and international standards.
Having no commission in place also jeopardizes the execution of EU-funded demining projects worth €10 million and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Mine Action Centre (BHMAC) would be unable to continue work with organisations not accredited by the Demining Commission.
EUFOR continues to stand ready to monitor mine clearing efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, furthermore, there is a sense of urgency due to the fact the demining season lasts from April to October subject to weather conditions.