Libya Struggles to Clear Explosive Remnants of War

From IRIN Humanitarian News & Analysis. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Libya Business News.

It took just over six months for Libyan rebels to overthrow the 42-year regime of Muammar Gaddafi, but nearly two years later, addressing the after-effects of the civil conflict remains a work in progress.

The widespread use of anti-personnel and anti-vehicle landmines is one of the legacies of the short conflict. Tens of thousands were laid in several areas of Libya, including Benghazi, Misrata, Zawiya, Sirte, Zliten, Brega and the western mountains, according to Monem Alaiwan, chairman of the Libyan Mine Action Centre (LMAC).

In addition, around 100,000 mines disappeared from Gaddafi’s stockpiles in 2011, according to one Libyan mine expert.

LMAC, a government body responsible for the coordination of humanitarian mine action, says 4,639 “locations” have been cleared in Libya since the conflict.

More than 500,000 explosive remnants of war (ERW), including landmines, projectiles, bombs and guided missiles, have been cleared, according to the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), which is now part of the Arms and Ammunition Advisory Section of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

But hundreds of thousands, from this latest conflict and others before it, still remain. The scale of the problem is hard to determine, as no country-wide survey has ever been conducted.

Libya is likely to remain contaminated with ERW for many years to come.

“The hazard emanating from uncontrolled ammunition, weapons and ERW in Libya is vast,” the UN appeals document says. “It requires concerted efforts for decades to come and significant financial support ranging in the hundreds of millions of US dollars.”

During the Gaddafi era, Libya did not sign onto the 1997 “Ottawa Treaty” banning anti-personnel mines, though it did establish in 2005 the National Programme for Demining and Land Reclamation to clear affected areas.

Some Libyan civil society organizations are now calling for the implementation of the treaty, although it is unlikely to be an immediate priority for the transitional government.

If Libya does sign the treaty, it will be required to destroy stockpiled antipersonnel mines within four years and clear all anti-personnel mines from affected areas within a decade.

(Source: IRIN)

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