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Table of Contents
Country Reports
Turkey, Landmine Monitor Report 2003

Turkey

Key developments since May 2002: On 12 March 2003, the Grand National Assembly unanimously adopted legislation for accession to the Mine Ban Treaty, which was subsequently signed by the President. On 3 May 2003, the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey issued a joint statement that they would proceed to adhere to the treaty simultaneously. Also in May 2003, Turkey announced that its armed forces had started planning the destruction of the stockpile of antipersonnel mines. Turkey announced that mine clearance along the Turkish side of the border with Bulgaria was completed in mid-2002. Clearance elsewhere is ongoing. The government reported 21 new mine casualties in 2002, as compared to 58 new casualties in 2001. On 26 April 2003, Turkey without Mines organized the first national conference on antipersonnel mines, held in Istanbul.

Mine Ban Policy

The Republic of Turkey is not a signatory to the Mine Ban Treaty. On 12 March 2003, the Grand National Assembly unanimously adopted legislation for accession to the treaty. The legislation was signed by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and published in the Official Gazette on 15 March.[1] In accordance with their agreement of 6 April 2001, Turkey and Greece will deposit their instruments of accession or ratification with the UN at the same time.[2] On 3 May 2003, the foreign ministers of both countries met and issued a joint statement that Greece and Turkey would proceed to submit simultaneously their respective instruments of adherence to the treaty.[3] No timetable was set for this to happen.

Turkey participated as an observer in the Fourth Meeting of States Parties in September 2002. Ambassador Murat Sungar, the Permanent Representative of Turkey to the UN in Geneva, stated that Turkey’s security situation had prevented its signature of the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997, but that other measures had been taken and it intended to complete the accession process in the shortest possible time.[4]

In November 2002, Turkey voted in favor of UN General Assembly Resolution 57/74, which calls for universalization and implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty. During the general debate in the First Committee of the General Assembly, Turkey restated its commitment to the humanitarian objectives of the treaty.[5]

Turkey attended intersessional Standing Committee meetings in February and May 2003, giving detailed presentations on the mine problem in Turkey, mine clearance operations, casualties and survivor assistance.

Turkey is a signatory to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). In April 2003, it reported that it had “reached the final stages of ratifying” the CCW and Amended Protocol II.[6] Turkey attended the Fourth Annual Conference of States Parties to the protocol on 11 December 2002.[7]

NGO activities

The national mine ban campaign, Turkey without Mines, translated the report on Turkey in the Landmine Monitor Report 2002 and distributed it within the country. The campaign also participated in several initiatives protesting against the possibility of war in Iraq, highlighting the impact of landmines on civilians. On 26 April 2003, the campaign organized the first national conference on antipersonnel mines in Istanbul, funded by the Swiss Campaign to Ban Landmines and Medico International. About 60 people attended, including Ambassador Jean Lint, the President of the Fourth Meeting of States Parties, and a representative of the ICBL. Ambassador Lint delivered a speech saying that: “The accession of Turkey will have an important regional role as many neighboring countries at its eastern and southern borders are still outside the Convention.”[8] The conference issued a declaration calling on Turkey and Greece to adhere to the treaty as soon as possible, and in any event before the Fifth Meeting of States Parties in September 2003. There was extensive media coverage of the event.

The Landmines Committee of the Human Rights Association (HRA), established in 2000, released its first report, “HRA Land Mines Turkey Report,” at a press conference in Ankara on 8 November 2002.[9]

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling, Use

Production of antipersonnel mines ceased concurrently with a national moratorium on the sale and transfer of antipersonnel mines in January 1996. The export moratorium was made permanent in March 2002. Turkey has revealed no information on its stockpile of antipersonnel mines, which is believed to be substantial. In May 2003, Turkey announced that its armed forces had started planning the destruction of the stockpile of antipersonnel mines, and this process would commence following accession to the Mine Ban Treaty. It has determined that stockpile destruction can be completed within the four-year deadline set by the treaty.[10] Turkey has stated that government forces have not laid antipersonnel mines on Turkish territory since the Chief of General Staff issued instructions to that effect on 26 January 1998.[11]

Landmine Problem

In May and June 2002, Turkish officials declared that 900,000 to 935,000 mines were laid between 1956 and 1959 to prevent “illegal border trespassing;” these were said to be “all marked, monitored and covered by fencing or other means to ensure the effective protection of civilians.”[12] More details were presented at the Standing Committee meetings in May 2003: 900,094 antipersonnel mines were laid to prevent illegal border crossing, the majority of which (615,419) were on the Syrian border. In addition, 39,569 mines were also laid around security installations in eastern and southeastern Turkey from 1989 to 1992.[13]

Landmine Monitor has previously reported that mine contamination is concentrated on Turkey’s borders with Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Iran, Iraq and Syria, and in parts of the southeastern provinces.[14] In March 2001, Greece’s Defense Minister referred to minefields on the Turkish side of the border with Greece.[15]

The November 2002 report of the Landmines Committee of the Human Rights Association said there was evidence that in the southeast a number of evacuated villages are mined, presenting an obstacle to the return of displaced people. The report identified the most mined areas as the provinces of Mardin, Şırnak, Hakkari, Siirt, Diyarbakır, Bitlis, Batman, Van and Bingöl.[16] The HRA called on all parties involved in conflicts in Turkey to make public information on mined areas, and demanded that the government mark the minefields clearly. The HRA also called on Turkey to accede immediately to the Mine Ban Treaty.

Mine Clearance

Turkey reported to the Standing Committee meetings in May 2003 that “comprehensive mine clearance” started in 1998. It stated that mine clearance coordination centers and clearance teams were set up, and a working group was studying detection and clearance methods. A program of clearance activities was established. At total of 13,945 antipersonnel mines were cleared by the end of 2002.[17]

Bilateral agreements to clear the shared borders were proposed to Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia and Azerbaijan.[18] At the Fourth Meeting of States Parties, the Turkish representative announced that clearance of the Turkish side of the Bulgarian border was completed in mid-2002.[19] A similar agreement with Georgia was signed in January 2003, and was due to be ratified by the Turkish parliament in May.

In a January 2003 letter to Landmine Monitor, Turkey’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva stated: “[A]t certain sections along the common borders with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Iraq and Syria, landmines exist to deter illegal passages. However, the removal of these mines...is in some cases at a planning stage, and in others actual work is underway.... In the southeastern part of Turkey, within the framework of fight against terrorism and solely for security reasons, landmines are used around security installations. However, since 1998 those mines are being cleared according to a plan.... In addition mine clearance around the security installations is expected to be completed by 2008 after the collection of roughly 40,000 mines.”[20] Priority was being given to the 877 kilometer-long border with Syria, where a 300-450 meter wide strip of land was mined.[21]

Demining on the Armenian border cleared 37,234 square meters and 12,774 mines in 2002. Activities were continuing in 2003.[22]

Mine Action Assistance

At the Standing Committee meetings in May 2003, Turkey reported that it had carried out mine-related projects in several regions of the world, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo, and that courses on mine clearance had been provided to foreign military personnel in the context of the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP). In 2002, a contribution of €25,000 was made to the PfP Trust Fund for the destruction of stockpiled antipersonnel mines in the Ukraine.[23]

Landmine Casualties

In 2002, 21 new mine casualties were reported as compared to 58 new casualties in 2001. Turkey’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva has provided data on mine-related casualties in 2001 and 2002, which are attributed to mines laid by the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK):[24]

Of the 21 casualties in 2002, five were killed and 16 injured. Ten were military (one killed and nine injured) and 11 were civilians (four killed, including one child, and seven injured, including one child).

Of the 58 casualties in 2001, 11 were killed and 47 injured. Forty-two were military (five killed and 37 injured) and 16 were civilians (six killed and ten injured).

Turkey maintains that because mines laid in its border zones are marked and fenced to international standards, casualties have been minimal. It claims, however, that “mines and booby traps that were laid by KADEK (PKK) terrorist group are aimed at inflicting losses to the Security Forces and intimidating the civilian population.”[25] According to the government, between 1993 and 2003, 299 members of the armed forces and 289 civilians died as a result of antipersonnel mines; another 1,524 members of the armed forces and 793 civilians were injured.[26]

There were no Turkish military deminers killed or injured in mine accidents in 2002.[27]

There were reports of continuing casualties from mines and UXO, especially to children, in 2003.[28] There were no reports of military casualties. Both civilian and military casualties are recorded by the Chief of General Staff Data Collection Center.[29]

The Human Rights Association has continued to collect data on mine incidents and the landmine problem in Turkey. The HRA reported that in 2002 a total of 15 people (both civilian and military) were killed by mines and 25 were injured. There were additional casualties resulting from unexploded ordnance (UXO).[30]

HRA’s November 2002 report calculates that a total of 838 people were killed and 937 people were injured in Turkey in 512 mine explosions between 1990 and 2002. During the same period, 146 incidents involving UXO killed 137 and injured 213 people. No data relating to incidents between 1983 and 1990 could be obtained. Of the 975 fatalities from both mines and UXO, 244 were children and 394 were adult civilians; 334 were security force personnel and three were members of the PKK.[31]

Survivor Assistance

The Turkish Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva informed Landmine Monitor that: “No distinction is made with regard to the status of a mine casualty. The landmine casualties either civilian or member of the military are given the proper care also at the Turkish Armed Forces Rehabilitation and Care Center free of charge. Many hospitals in Turkey have fully functional prosthesis and rehabilitation centers.”[32] Armed Forces rehabilitation and care centers are located in Bursa (with capacity for 300 patients) and Ankara (capacity 200 patients). In 2002, these two centers provided assistance, care or therapy to 111 mine survivors.[33] The center in Bursa was inaugurated in 2000. Since then, 1,101 people (1,005 military and 96 civilians) have been treated at the center, which can provide ten different types of prosthesis.[34] At the Standing Committee meetings in May 2003, Turkey presented a film showing the Ankara rehabilitation center.[35]

Mine survivors can also be assisted at the prosthetic and rehabilitation center which was opened at Dicle University in 2001, with the assistance of the US-based Physicians for Peace Foundation.[36]

In November 2002, Turkey finalized a case before the European Court of Human Rights by a friendly settlement, accepting that they had violated Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of a 16-year-old boy. The boy, who was in the custody of the security forces, stepped on a mine and was killed in November 1996 while helping the gendarmes to find the body of a PKK militant. Turkey paid €40,000 (US$38,000) for non-pecuniary and pecuniary damage, costs and expenses to his family. The government made the following declaration, regretting “the occurrence of individual cases of death resulting from the failure of the authorities to take the necessary measures to safeguard the lives of individuals as in the circumstances of the death of Orhan Yakar, notwithstanding existing Turkish legislation and the resolve of the Government to prevent such actions. It is accepted that the failure of the authorities to protect the right to life of the applicant’s son in the instant case constituted a violation of Article 2 of the Convention.”[37]


[1] “The Accession to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and On Their Destruction,” Law No. 4824, Official Gazette, 15 March 2003.
[2] Fax from Murat Esenli, Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva, 23 April 2003. The parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee approved accession on 9 May 2002, but early elections in November 2002 prevented completion of the legislative process. It was returned to the Foreign Affairs Committee which on 20 February 2003 again gave approval and passed the legislation to the General Assembly. See Landmine Monitor Report 2001, p. 909; Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 755.
[3] Statement by the Permanent Representative of Turkey on behalf of Turkish and Greek Delegations on the Ottawa Convention, Standing Committee on General Status and Operation of the Convention, 12 May 2003; Karolos Grohmann, “Neighbors Greece and Turkey – Let’s Live in Peace,” Reuters, 23 May 2003.
[4] Intervention by Ambassador Murat Sungar, Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Fourth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 16-20 September 2002 (Landmine Monitor notes).
[5] Statement by Alper Coskun, Representative of the Republic of Turkey, First Committee, UN General Assembly, New York, 10 October 2002.
[6] Fax from Murat Esenli, Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva, 23 April 2003.
[7] Turkey also attended the Third Annual Conference and Second CCW Review Conference in December 2001; this was incorrectly reported in Landmine Monitor Report 2002.
[8] Intervention by Ambassador Jean Lint, President of the Fourth Meeting of States Parties, Istanbul, 26 April 2003.
[9] Human Rights Association, “IHD Kara Mayinlari Turkiye Raporu” (HRA Landmines Turkey Report), 8 November 2002, available at www.ihd.org.tr.
[10] Presentation by Turkey, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Mine Risk Education, and Mine Action Technologies, Geneva, 14 May 2003.
[11] Fax from Murat Esenli, Permanent Mission to the UN, 23 April 2003; Presentation by Turkey, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, 14 May 2003. For previous statements and past use by the Kurdish Workers’ Party, see Landmine Monitor Report 2000, pp. 848-850; Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 756-757.
[12] Presentation by Turkey, Standing Committee on the General Status and Operation of the Convention, Geneva, 30 May 2002; email from Murat Esenli, Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, 26 June 2002.
[13] Presentation by Turkey, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, 14 May 2003.
[14] Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 758.
[15] “Greek DM to Turkey: Let’s Cooperate in Balkans,” BHMA (Greek Canadian newspaper), 23 March 2001, www.bhma.net.
[16] Human Rights Association, “HRA Land Mines Turkey Report,” 8 November 2002.
[17] Presentation by Turkey, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, 14 May 2003.
[18] Fax from Murat Esenli, Permanent Mission to the UN, 23 April 2003.
[19] Ambassador Murat Sungar, Fourth Meeting of States Parties, 16-20 September 2002.
[20] Letter from Murat Esenli, Permanent Mission to the UN, 29 January 2003.
[21] Ibid; fax from Murat Esenli, Permanent Mission to the UN, 23 April 2003.
[22] Fax from Murat Esenli, Permanent Mission to the UN, 23 April 2003.
[23] Presentation by Turkey, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, 14 May 2003.
[24] Letter from Murat Esenli, Permanent Mission to the UN, 29 January 2003; fax from Murat Esenli, 23 April 2003. As noted in last year’s Landmine Monitor, the PKK (now known also as KADEK) has been defined as a terrorist organization by the European Union. See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 757.
[25] Presentation by Turkey, Standing Committee on Victim Assistance and Socio-Economic Reintegration, Geneva, 13 May 2003.
[26] Ibid.
[27] Fax from Murat Esenli, Permanent Mission to the UN, 23 April 2003.
[28] See Human Rights Foundation of Turkey website, www.tihv.org.tr/eindex.html.
[29] Fax from Murat Esenli, Permanent Mission to the UN, 23 April 2003.
[30] Human Rights Association, “Human Rights Report 2002.”
[31] Human Rights Association, “HRA Land Mines Turkey Report,” 8 November 2002.
[32] Letter from Murat Esenli, Permanent Mission to the UN, 29 January 2003.
[33] Fax from Murat Esenli, Permanent Mission to the UN, 23 April 2003.
[34] Presentation by Turkey, Standing Committee on Victim Assistance, 13 May 2003.
[35] Ibid.
[36] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 760.
[37] Report available on European Court of Human Rights website, www.echr.coe.int