Practice Relating to Rule 83. Removal or Neutralization of Landmines
In 2011, in its Humanitarian Operation Factual Analysis July 2006–May 2009, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence stated:
A major impediment to the swift resettlement of internally displaced people was the extensive presence of land mines placed by the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] in civilian areas. To meet this challenge, Security Forces conducted a comprehensive demining operation to clear the North and East of this hazard. Several foreign governments and international agencies provided support for this endeavour.
The Ministry of Defence further stated: “On 18 May 2009, Sri Lanka defeated the LTTE, bringing to an end three decades of conflict and suffering.”
In 2011, in the National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Sri Lanka 2011–2016, Sri Lanka’s Government stated:
The rehabilitation and reconstruction of devastated economic and social infrastructures in conflict affected areas, was given high priority. With the aim of speeding up the development efforts in those areas, a special 180 day Accelerated Development Programmes namely “Negenahira Navodaya” and “Uthuru Wasanthaya” were implemented. As a result of strong effort with the help of donor communities and other local and international stakeholders, 70% of the de-mining process has been completed. Following the de-mining and the rehabilitation process, resettlement of IDPs [internally displaced persons] in their original places has been completed and at present 2,187 families alone are left to be resettled.
In a table entitled “Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)”, the Government also stated:
3. Return and Resettlement
3.1 Land free of mines to ensure safe return
3.1.a Inability to return due to land mines
Accelerate de-mining after base line study.
Establish a monitoring mechanism to account for the disposal of mines.
In 2012, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence issued a press release entitled “Allow Sri Lanka’s efforts at reconciliation to proceed unimpeded – Minister Samarasinghe at UNHCR, ‘No justification or urgency for resolution to implement LLRC recommendations’”, which stated:
The de-mining of former conflict-affected areas was carried out at a pace comparable with the best achievements in the world. The Government has at present demined 1,412 square kilometres out of the 2,046 square kilometres that were contaminated with landmines. More than 42,000 Antipersonnel Mines and 227 Antitank Mines, and more than 15,000 items of Unexploded Ordnance have been recovered from these areas. The Sri Lanka Army is responsible for around 80% of the successful demining operations and is supported by other agencies. It may be noted that with the establishment of the National Mine Action Centre under the Ministry of Economic Development in 2010, all coordination related to mine action and mine risk education come under the purview of civil administration.
In 2012, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence issued a press release entitled “Demining process nearing completion – Northern Governor”, which stated:
The de-mining process in the North is nearing its successful completion as lands would be cleared-off, for the resettlement of the remaining displaced people [IDPs] by the end of July, said Northern Governor Maj Gen (Rtd) G.A Chandrasiri said yesterday (May 29).
Both the resettlement and de-mining processes are to be concluded in record time the Governor asserted with all praise for the government officials, security forces and other non-governmental agencies involved. …
There are only 2,562 IDPs in the Kadirgamar Welfare Centre and another 3,469 at Anandakumaraswamy Welfare Centre. The Governor stated their resettlement was delayed due to the delay in the demining process in their villages. The demining process of Shinanagar, Pudukudirippu West, Mullaithivu would be completed by May 31.
The same process in Pudukudirippu East, Ambalavan Poppanei, Mandavil, Mullivaikal West and Anuradhapura is scheduled to be completed by end of July.
Governor Chandrasiri said with the completion of de-mining Sri Lanka will be an IDP free country. He added that yet the de-mining process will have to continue for another 3 to 4 years to secure the Mahaveli area which was heavily mined. He added these areas will be released for cultivation.
In 2012, in its fifth periodic report to the Human Rights Committee, Sri Lanka stated:
29. Several significant measures were taken by the GoSL [Government of Sri Lanka] to protect the civil and political rights of those that were affected by the conflict with particular attention being paid to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
30. One of the principal challenges the GoSL faced was the resettlement of approximately 300,000 IDPs displaced by the conflict. As the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] had laid antipersonnel mines, antitank mines and created obstacles using different types of Improvised Explosive Devices in towns and villages as they retreated from the military, it was not feasible for civilians to immediately return to their original places of inhabitation after the conflict ended. The places they had been displaced from were no longer safe for human habitation. As a result, the civilians had to be looked after by the Government at newly created welfare villages while every effort was taken to demine areas in which their homes were located.
36. In total, mines were suspected to have been laid in more than five thousand square kilometers (5000 km²) of land. Mine action activities are implemented by the GoSL through the Sri Lanka National Mine Action Centre (SLNMAC) that has been setup at the Ministry of Economic Development (MED) to coordinate and fast track the de-mining process. The National Steering Committee for Mine Action (NSCMA) acts as the decision making body on mine action through SLNMAC in collaboration with respective institutions and agents.
37. The demining programme was carefully conceived, and priority areas were chosen to maximize efficiency and enable the speedy return of the internally displaced. The first priority was to demine the towns and villages. The second priority was to demine the plantation areas and paddy fields. The last priority was accorded to the forested areas. Approximately 94% of the areas identified for demining have been cleared. Work only continues in areas where there was a very high concentration of mines. The extent of the problem the Government faced in this regard can be clearly seen from the sheer number of mines and other devices unearthed and neutralized during the demining process. Another less than 116 square kilometers of territory remains to be cleared. Priority has been given to clearing residential areas in villages identified for resettlement and livelihood purposes. Demining was principally undertaken by the Sri Lanka Army approximately 75% together with support from international and local partners including certification of de-mined areas being undertaken by the UN.
[footnote in original omitted]