INTERVENTION BY THE HOLY SEE
INTERVENTION BY H.E. MONS. SILVANO MARIA TOMASI, C.S.
Since the Second World War, the use of mines in about 20 conflicts in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America has left us with sufficient hindsight, information and experience to make an objective and well-grounded judgment of the viewpoint of international humanitarian law and a strictly pragmatic vision regarding the consequences of the use of a whole category of weapons.
Humanitarian organizations, United Nations agencies and development agencies have unanimously recognized the need for serious reflection on the legitimacy of the use of mines. The deceased, injured and handicapped victims of landmines can be counted by the thousands, and it is not difficult to perceive the obstacles to the return of refugees and, consequently, to the development of numerous regions contaminated by unexploded landmines.
Some countries that stockpile landmines have realized their very high failure rate. They have therefore decided to remove from their military inventories certain types of mines whose use would pose a grave humanitarian problem, disproportionate to any military benefit. One can only hail such cautious and responsible decisions.
It is in this spirit that my Delegation understands the resolution of the European Parliament adopted in 2004, which calls for an immediate moratorium on the use, stockpiling, production and transfer or exportation of landmines.
A pause for reflection is essential. But it would be insufficient and inadequate to limit reflection to the matter of improving the quality of mines, knowing that such weapons were not conceived as precise weapons; on the contrary, they are scattered over large surface areas.
This makes the principle of distinction between military and civil targets extremely difficult, if not impossible, to observe, especially in densely populated regions.
Moreover, even if it were possible to reduce the failure rate of landmines, the consequences continue to be sufficiently serious to require further discussion on this weapon's very nature, and not merely on the quality of its manufacture and the technological means to improve it. Imprecision and the high rate of unexploded ordinance call the legitimacy of this weapon into question.
To conclude, the Holy See is of the opinion that consultations in this field are more than necessary; they should begin without delay and include the States, the NGOs, the CICR and all who are involved in humanitarian mine clearance.
While awaiting the results of these consultations, however, the international community cannot and must not be satisfied with counting the victims and assessing the damage caused by landmines.
If, for various reasons, it is impossible to come to an immediate agreement on the definitive banning of the production and use of this sort of weapon, the Holy See vigorously supports the idea of a moratorium on the proposals, while awaiting the adoption of an adequate international instrument.
Thank you, Mr Chairman.