LETTER: Britain's deadly export trade

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From Dr David Southall and Dr Manuel Carballo

Sir: Governments are about to review the 1980 inhumane weapons convention. We have recently spent nearly two years working in the former Yugoslavia, one of us a paediatrician, where the effects of anti-personnel mines on children have been tragically and frequently demonstrated. Most often, in our experience, such injuries have occurred in the absence of adequate (if any) hospital healthcare facilities. Children have been left with terrible injuries for long periods of time without access to analgesia or anaesthesia. Such hospitals as exist in war zones are usually so poorly equipped that amputation, sometimes without anaesthetic, remains the only option.

The UN has estimated that 100 million anti-personnel mines lie unexploded in 62 countries and that every week there are 500 casualties from these weapons. Most victims are killed; the suffering in those who survive is difficult to comprehend unless seen for oneself.

These is also good evidence that anti-personnel mines are deliberately planted to provide long-term terrorism of civilians. They deny access to land, transport and water for years after the conflict has ended, and it is more often than not children who are exploring or playing that become their casualties.

The UK government has declared a moratorium on the export of anti-personnel mines, except those fitted with a self-destruction mechanism. While this is a step in the right direction, there is also good evidence that a quarter of those mines which are supposed to self-destruct do not do so. We think the public should be made aware of how many self-destructing anti-personnel mines are exported by the UK each year. They should also know whether there is any evidence that the production and export of anti- personnel mines is of any financial benefit to the people of this country.

Yours sincerely,

David Southall

Manuel Carballo

Child Advocacy International



25 September