Pope: No Justification for Anti-Personnel Mines
US Attends Conference for 1st Time, No Plans to Sign Convention
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By Jesús Colina
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2009 (Zenit.org).- There are no ethical arguments to defend the production and use of anti-personnel landmines, especially given that most victims are innocent civilians, a statement written on Benedict XVI's behalf is reiterating.
The Pope's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, affirmed this in a note sent on the Holy Father's behalf to a six-day summit that concluded Dec. 4 in Cartagena, Colombia.
The Cartagena Summit was the second review conference on the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. The convention is also known as the Ottawa Treaty.
The Holy See reiterated its appeal to all nations to join the 156 countries that have adopted this convention, which has been in force since 1999. China, India, the United States and Russia are the four most important states that have yet to sign it.
In the letter, the Holy See also appeals "to all states to recognize the deplorable humanitarian consequences of anti-personnel mines."
Cardinal Bertone wrote: "Experience shows that these weapons have caused more victims and damages among the civilian population, which should be defended, than they have served to defend states.
"The thousands of victims that they continue to bring remind us, in case it should still be necessary to repeat it, of the chimera of wanting to build peace and stability with an exclusively military vision."
The Holy Father's closest collaborator reiterated that "peace, security and stability cannot depend only on military security, but above all depend on the existence of all those conditions that allow for the full development of the human person, which so many times are impeded by the use and presence of anti-personnel mines."
The letter expressed Benedict XVI's closeness "to all the victims, their families and the affected countries."
"They all need will power and courage to undertake a process of rehabilitation, and they also need our help and human closeness," the cardinal wrote.
The papal statement reiterated "the Holy See's unconditional support to all those involved in the great task of freeing our world from anti-personnel mines."
The Cartagena Summit concluded with the resolution to give greater assistance to victims. It also noted that four countries -- Albania, Greece, Rwanda and Zambia -- have cleaned all their areas of these mines, in compliance with the treaty.
The Cartagena Action Plan to guide efforts between 2010 and 2014 pivots on two main goals: assistance to the victims of anti-personnel mines and the humanitarian clean-up of contaminated fields.
On behalf of the Pontiff, the letter thanked Norway's Susan Eckey, president of the conference, for her work.
Holding back and watching
During the closing of the event, Eckey pointed out that there has been success in efforts to support survivors and people who live with the risk of anti-personnel mines.
Twenty of the 39 countries that have not adhered to the Ottawa Treaty attended as observers. Among them -- for the first time -- was the United States, which announced a review of its anti-personnel mines policy, although for the time being there is no sign of intentions to adopt the convention.
In 2008 only the armies of Russia and Myanmar used anti-personnel mines. However, insurgents such as the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia and the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka utilize them.