A Deceptive Compromise On Anti-Personnel Landmines

Author: Cardinal Roger Etchegaray


Cardinal Roger Etchegaray

Vatican City, May 7, 1996 (VIS)—Made public yesterday afternoon was a declaration by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, on the decision by the conference of states which were parties to the convention on the so-called inhuman conventional weapons.

The conference, held in Geneva from April 22 to May 3, was entitled "Conference of Inquiry by the States Parties to the Convention on the Banning or Limitation of the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which could be Considered as Producing Excessive Traumatic Effects or as Striking Indiscriminately." The Holy See delegate spoke on April 22. Following is Cardinal Etchegaray's declaration on the outcome of that meeting:

"One could have reasonably hoped that the international community would have banned anti-personnel landmines, as it did in 1993 for chemical weapons. There is nothing more senseless than a weapon of war this blind and which kills or wounds even further in peacetime.

"Despite the negotiating campaign used by the International Committee of the Red Cross and by more than 400 NGOs (non-governmental organizations), despite the pressing appeal by John Paul II asking for the definitive stop to their production, trade and use, despite a message just as categorical to the negotiators by the UN secretary general, the Geneva conference which just ended on May 3 is content with regulating the manufacture and use of mines which, even when rendered intelligent, remain by their nature weapons 'without a master' and thus abandoned to all indiscrimination.

"Only the total ban will allow for the re-closing of this shameful wound that no international law should expect to tolerate. As the Holy See delegate to the conference said: 'The needs of national defense could be otherwise satisfied, without having to pay this heavy price in suffering and innocent lives.'

"Homage must be paid to the states which did have the courage, in a unilateral manner, to commit themselves to the radical elimination of anti-personnel landmines and it is to be hoped that their number does not cease to grow through the aid of a widening awareness by the public, while awaiting their outlawing by the entire international community."