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Table of Contents
Country Reports
NAGORNO-KARABAKH, Landmine Monitor Report 2005

Nagorno-Karabakh

Key developments since May 2004: In 2004, HALO Trust cleared 3.6 square kilometers of affected land through manual and mechanical demining, and a further 450,000 square meters in 2005 through April. It concentrated clearance on farmland, and re-focused mine risk education on adults, in view of mine casualties rising as agricultural production increased. By the end of 2004, ICRC had provided safe play areas for children in 27 villages.

Mine Ban Policy

Nagorno-Karabakh voted in 1988 to secede from Azerbaijan and join Armenia, which resulted in armed conflict from 1988-1994. The region declared independence as the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) on 2 September 1991. Since the end of conflict in 1994, NKR has presented itself as an autonomous republic linked to Armenia, but it has not been recognized by the United Nations.

NKR political and military leaders have stated their support for an eventual ban on antipersonnel landmines, but have indicated that Nagorno-Karabakh would not join the Mine Ban Treaty now even if eligible to do so.[1 ]

Nagorno-Karabakh has stated that it has never produced or exported mines, and has not purchased new mines since 1995; its antipersonnel mine stockpile consists of mines left over from the former Soviet Union (PMN-2, POMZ-3 and OZM-72 mines).[2 ] There were no reports of new mine use in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2004 or the first half of 2005.

Landmine and UXO Problem

The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in which battle lines changed frequently and were loosely defined, left Nagorno-Karabakh contaminated with landmines. An estimated 50,000 landmines remain on the former front lines.[3 ] There is also a considerable amount of unexploded ordnance (UXO), as well as some abandoned ammunition.

Mine Action Coordination and Planning

A Working Group on Mine Problems, established by the Nagorno-Karabakh government in 1993, was renamed the Mine Action Coordination Committee (MACC).[4 ] The committee has no formal membership, but most of the relevant actors and ministries attend meetings.[5 ] HALO Trust, the only international organization carrying out mine clearance in Nagorno-Karabakh, reports that the working relationship with the committee is good, with coordination meetings held regularly.[6 ]

In addition to HALO, the Department of Emergency Situations and the Army conduct occasional small-scale clearance, but do not always record the work they perform. Most of the planned mine clearance and responses to call-outs are carried out by HALO. In 2005, HALO employed more than 200 local staff, the majority of whom are deminers. Combinations of general and technical survey, manual and mechanical mine clearance, battle area clearance and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) are used.[7 ]

According to HALO, priority for clearance is given to areas where the majority of mine incidents occur, or where development activities are planned and decided in consultation with the authorities. There is no overall mine clearance plan, as survey is ongoing to establish the areas and extent of contamination. Due to higher mine casualty rates in 2004, HALO aimed to raise more funding and train and deploy more manual deminers during 2005. This would allow clearance efforts to match expanding agricultural activities.[8]

HALO estimated that if current funding levels are maintained, mine clearance should be completed within five to seven years.[9 ] However, Valon Kumnova, HALO Trust Program Manager, cautions that survey of mine-suspected areas has not been completed and new areas of mine contamination not recorded previously as suspect are being discovered. He added, “The accurate calculations can be done only after ALL survey has finished and we know how much suspect land remains to be cleared. At this stage we are trying to expand our program to accelerate the clearance and currently we are seeking more funding from donors. The funding levels also will have a huge impact on the target.”[10 ] HALO uses Microsoft Access software to record clearance activities, rather than the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA).

A Mine Awareness Working Group, created in 1999, did not meet in 2004.[11 ] The International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) for mine risk education have not been applied in Nagorno-Karabakh and no local standards have been developed.

Mine/UXO Clearance and Survey

In 2004, HALO cleared 3,580,289 square meters of affected land through manual and mechanical demining, destroying in the process 675 antipersonnel mines, 340 antivehicle mines, 2,040 UXO, 2,352 items of stray ammunition and a large quantity of small arms ammunition.[12 ] Types of land cleared were primarily agricultural (1,519,953 square meters), access routes (1,003,537 square meters), major infrastructure (139,415 square meters), community infrastructure (33,900 square meters) and other (883,484 square meters).[13 ] This represents an increase on 2003, when HALO cleared 2,302,761 square meters.

In 2005 through April, HALO cleared and handed over more than 450,000 square meters, destroying a further 149 antipersonnel mines, 186 antivehicle mines and over 1,000 UXO.[14 ] With the exception of two areas, all known tasks along the Ingur River were cleared, post-clearance survey carried out and land released to local communities. The two exceptions are a small minefield (some 500 square meters) close to a military base, and one area in Dikhazurga village where mines are very deep in the ground due to flooding.[15 ]

Since 2000, HALO has surveyed more than 10 square kilometers of land, and survey was ongoing in 2005.[16 ] HALO reports that it marks all the suspect areas it surveys with “Danger Mines!” signs. Post-clearance survey is carried out on a case study basis on some sites, as most areas are handed over and used almost immediately after they have been cleared.[17]

In 2004, the Engineering Service of the Army and the Department of Emergency Situations destroyed 48 antipersonnel landmines, 37 antivehicle landmines, 447 UXO and 5,141 items of small caliber explosive ordnance.[18]

One HALO Trust deminer was injured during clearance in 2004.[19 ]

Mine Risk Education

In 2004, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) continued its Safe Play Areas for Children program, aiming to build or rehabilitate sports areas and playgrounds in order to create play spaces for children away from mined areas. With funding from the Norwegian Red Cross, the program started in 2003, and by the end of 2004, children from 27 affected villages had benefited. The condition and accessibility of safe play areas is monitored by ICRC health teams. ICRC envisaged that this program will end in 2005, completing its mine risk education (MRE) in Nagorno-Karabakh. In future, MRE will be the responsibility of civil defense and educational services.[20 ]

HALO also provides MRE. After an increase in the number of casualties in 2004 involving antivehicle mines on agricultural land, the team changed its focus on schools and concentrated more on adults, which it deemed to be the most at-risk group.[21 ] New MRE material has been produced, including large advertising hoardings.[22 ] The program includes community liaison with villages near clearance sites, giving information on the work of the clearance teams and handover information. The MRE team also conducts school and adult programs, with MRE for adults usually involving informal discussions with small groups in the targeted community.[23]

Funding and Assistance

In 2004, HALO received US$662,756 from the Netherlands, $450,000 from USAID, $32,419 from the UK’s Cooperative Bank, and $20,199 from the Cafesjian Family Foundation (USA).

HALO’s budget for 2005 is approximately $1,330,000, with funding received as follows: $797,061 from the Dutch Government for demining, survey and MRE teams; $450,000 from USAID for demining and survey; $53,321 from Cooperative Bank for demining; $29,800 from the Cafesjian Family Foundation for demining. In total, 2005 funding will cover the costs of just over 200 local staff.[24 ]

Landmine and UXO Casualties

In 2004, 34 new mine/UXO casualties, including 10 people killed and 24 injured, were reported in 25 incidents; another nine people were involved in the incidents but did not suffer physical injuries.[25 ] At least three of the casualties were children. This represents a significant increase from the 21 new mine/UXO casualties (nine killed and twelve injured) recorded in 2003. According to HALO, the increasing casualty numbers are the result of record harvests produced in recent years and a greater investment in agriculture.[26 ] Of the 25 incidents in 2004, 14 were caused by antivehicle mines, seven by antipersonnel mines and four by UXO.[27 ] In 2004, one deminer was injured during mine clearance operations.[28]

Casualties continued to be reported in 2005, with one person killed and three injured in five mine/UXO incidents to June; one other person did not suffer physical injuries.[29]

The total number of landmine casualties in Nagorno-Karabakh is not known. Since the cease-fire in 1994 to the end of 2004, 326 mine/UXO casualties were reported, including at least 77 people injured since 2000.[30 ]

Survivor Assistance

The healthcare system in Nagorno-Karabakh has been seriously affected by the general economic situation, and by a lack of resources and skilled staff. In 2004, ICRC supported 66 primary health centers in rural and conflict-affected districts with the supply of medicines and training of health staff.[31 ]

Physical rehabilitation and prosthetics are available at the Prosthetic and Orthopedic Center in Stepanakert, and psychosocial support services are also available, but resources are limited. During the first nine months of 2004, the orthopedic center provided 48 prostheses, repaired 76 prostheses, and provided 34 wheelchairs. Crutches were also provided. All landmine survivors receive free or discounted treatment in the medical institutions of Nagorno-Karabakh, and are eligible for monthly pensions, corresponding with the level of their disability. Benefits are regulated by the law entitled On Social Security of the Disabled in the Republic.[32]


[1 ]In 2002, NKR Minister of Foreign Affairs Naira Melkoumian said Nagorno-Karabakh would be able to join “only after the establishment of a peace treaty with Azerbaijan.” Meetings between Nagorno-Karabakh Committee of ICBL and Naira Melkoumian, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Masis Mailian, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1 and 2 February 2002.

[2 ]Remarks by Lt. Col. Marsel Pogosian, Deputy Chief, Field Engineer Service, at a meeting of the Working Group on Mine Problems, 21 November 2000.

[3 ]Information attributed to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Kavkazskiy Uzel (news agency), 2 October 2004.

[4 ]Letter from Valon Kumnova, Program Manager, HALO Nagorno-Karabakh, 13 June 2005. See also Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 837-841, and Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 1221.

[5 ]Letter from Valon Kumnova, HALO Nagorno-Karabakh, 13 June 2005.

[6 ]Response to Landmine Monitor Mine Action Questionnaire by HALO, 2 May 2005. HALO worked briefly in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1995-1996, then resumed activities in January 2000.

[7 ]Response to Landmine Monitor Mine Action Questionnaire by HALO, 2 May 2005; see also Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 1221.

[8] Response to Landmine Monitor Mine Action Questionnaire by HALO, 2 May 2005.

[9 ]“HALO Trust Continues Progress in Heavily Mined Karabakh,” Armenian News Network (Groong), 15 July 2004; email from Ed Rowe, Program Manager, HALO Trust, 3 September 2004.

[10 ]Letter from Valon Kumnova, HALO Nagorno-Karabakh, 13 June 2005.

[11 ]Email from Ed Rowe, HALO Trust, 3 September 2004; Email from Valon Kumnova, Program Manager, Halo Nagorno-Karabakh, 15 September 2005.

[12 ]Letter from Valon Kumnova, HALO Nagorno-Karabakh, 13 June, and email 23 September 2005.

[13 ]Response to Landmine Monitor Mine Action Questionnaire by HALO, 2 May 2005, and email from Valon Kumnova, HALO, 23 September 2005.

[14 ]Letter from Valon Kumnova, HALO, 13 June 2005.

[15 ]Email from HALO Trust, 20 September 2005.

[16 ]Response to Landmine Monitor Mine Action Questionnaire by HALO, 2 May 2005.

[17] Letter from Valon Kumnova, HALO, 13 June 2005.

[18] “Collegium of Department of Emergency Situations,” Regnum News Agency, 11 February 2005, accessed 20 April 2005.

[19 ]Response to Landmine Monitor Mine Action Questionnaire by HALO, 2 May 2005.

[20 ]ICRC Special Report, “Mine Action 2004,” Geneva, June 2005, p. 32.

[21 ]Email from Ed Rowe, HALO, 27 August 2004.

[22 ]“Mine Casualties Have Become More Frequent in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Regnum Information Agency, 13 December 2004.

[23] Response to Landmine Monitor Mine Action Questionnaire by HALO, 2 May 2005.

[24 ]Letter from Valon Kumnova, HALO Nagorno-Karabakh, 13 June 2005; response to Landmine Monitor Mine Action Questionnaire by HALO Trust, 2 May 2005.

[25 ]Letter from Valon Kumnova, HALO, 13 June 2005.

[26 ]For more information see Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 1223.

[27 ]Letter from Valon Kumnova, HALO, 13 June 2005.

[28] Response to Landmine Monitor Mine Action Questionnaire, HALO, 2 May 2005.

[29] Letter from Valon Kumnova, HALO, 13 June 2005.

[30 ]For more information see Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 1223.

[31 ]ICRC, “Annual Report 2004,” Geneva, June 2005, p. 199; see also Health Protection in Nagorno Karabakh, www.nkr.am/eng/facts/health.htm accessed 15 August 2005.

[32] “Social Security of the Disabled,” AzatArtsakh (daily newspaper), 8 December 2004, http://artsakhtert.com/eng/index.html?lang=eng&t=archive&d=08&m=12&y=2004&id=1080, accessed 15 August 2005; for more details, see Landmine Monitor Report 2001, pp. 976-977.