Law to Strengthen Mine Ban Enters into Force in Jordan by Lois Carter Fay, Geary Cox and Anthony Morin James Madison University’s Mine Action Information Center
Following a royal decree on April 1, 2008, the 2008 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban became law in the Kingdom of Jordan. This new law represents a deepening of the government’s commitment to addressing the landmine problem in the Kingdom.
Jordan has been actively working to eradicate landmines and other explosive remnants of war since well before it signed the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, commonly known at the Ottawa Convention, in 1998. The Convention was opened for signature in Ottawa, Canada, December 3, 1997, and since then, some 156 countries worldwide have signed on to become States Parties. For the full text of the Convention, visit the International Campaign to Ban Landmines' website.
States Parties to the Ottawa Convention are obliged to make consistent progress toward eliminating the threat posed by landmines, and Jordan has been pursuing this goal since becoming a signatory. Toward that end, the government of Jordan created the National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation in 2000 to direct policy for and supervise mine-action activities. The NCDR is chaired by HRH Prince Mired and it directs management and regulatory activities, as well as coordinates mine-action programs and supervises the implementation of best policies and procedures.
History and Extent of Contamination
Landmines, unexploded ordnance, and explosive remnants of war have plagued the Kingdom of Jordan as a result of several periods of conflict, dating back to the partition of Palestine and establishment of the Israeli state in 1948. The Jordanian government and its opponents first planted landmines during the conflict immediately following Israeli independence, then later as a result of the 1967–1969 Arab-Israeli conflicts, again during the subsequent period of civil war in 1970, and lastly as a defensive measure during the 1975 altercation with Syria. Having imported its last mine in 1974, Jordan has since emerged as a regional leader for mine action in the Middle East and has proudly engaged in spreading both the spirit and letter of the global landmine campaign.
Maps show the distribution of landmines to be largely concentrated along the northern border with Syria, the western border with Israel, and within the Jordan Valley. Although these contaminated areas are now controlled by the Jordanian military and are essentially blocked from the public, their presence still has a significant impact on the social, economic and environmental resources of local communities.
According to the Royal Corps of Engineers, Jordan’s primary demining entity, when humanitarian demining started in 1993, there were an estimated 60 million square meters (23 square miles) of suspected hazardous areas contaminated with approximately 304,653 mines. Between 1993 and 2005, over 100,000 mines and 10,000 pieces of UXO were removed and destroyed, resulting in the reduction of more than 25 million square meters (9.6 square miles). The remaining 35 million square meters (13.5 square miles) of SHAs are believed to affect the lives of as many as 500,000 people, or roughly 8 percent of Jordan’s total population. Jordan completed the destruction of its stockpiles in April 2003, a month ahead of the deadline set by the Convention.
Landmines, UXO and ERW have been to blame for restricting access to some of the country’s most valuable agricultural lands, as well as for greatly inhibiting the development of much needed economic infrastructure in the form of irrigation and hydroelectric power projects, housing construction and cultural heritage tourism sites.
Penalties Under the New Law
The 2008 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban law now provides national legal punishments for anyone emplacing AP mines in Jordan or anyone trading, developing, possessing or handling mines in other ways in the country. There are also punishments for anyone aiding or abetting any of these prohibited actions. Exceptions to these regulations are provided to approved government parties actively involved in landmine eradication—most notable are members of the Jordanian Armed Forces who use mines in explosive ordnance disposal training exercises.
Those found guilty of violating the new law are subject to steep fines, imprisonment and hard labor. Additionally, anyone who provides information to authorities on illegal activities can receive legal protection for his/her assistance.
Finally, the new law establishes the National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation as the lead mine-action coordinating and supervising agency in the country. The NCDR is now officially responsible for working with the Armed Forces and outside agencies to ensure successful collaboration. The 2008 AP Mine Ban also gives the NCDR the authority to make requests of international organizations for information as well as assistance with funding, equipment and training.
The Royal Engineers Corps have completed mine clearance in the Jordan Valley, and demining efforts led by the Norwegian People’s Aid in Wadi Araba and Aqaba have also been completed. The Kingdom’s final demining effort is slated to begin soon along the northern border.
Although the Kingdom of Jordan has made remarkable progress in addressing the landmine situation within and along its borders, it anticipates that its original deadline for landmine clearance by May 2009, as dictated by the Ottawa Convention, may need to be extended to 2011.
Facts and figures for this article were gathered from the Landmine Monitor Report, Jordan’s National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation, and from Jordan’s National Mine Action Plan 2005–2009. JMU students Natalie Wall and Leah Young also contributed to this article.
For more information, visit the Mine Action Information Center's website and Jordan’s National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation's website or contact Olaf Juergensen, United Nations Development Programme Chief Technical Advisor, National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation, P: +962 6 585 9615 / F: +962 6 585 9614