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Located across the Mediterranean Sea
from Italy, Libya has always attracted colonizers. It was an important
part of the Roman Empire and was also invaded by the Islamic Arabs and
Ottoman Turks. In 1911, Libya was attacked by Italy and, after years of
struggle, was colonized in 1939. During World War II, it became an arena
where Italy and Germany fought the Allies, leaving the country scattered
with landmines. More landmines were planted by Libya during border
conflicts with Egypt and Chad during the 1970s and 1980s.
While Libya is not known to have ever
produced or exported landmines, minefields exist throughout the country
in deserts, ports and urban areas. The majority of the landmines are
left from European participants of World War II, such as Germany, Italy,
France and the United Kingdom. Libyan officials estimate that both
Allied and Axis forces left 1.5—3 million landmines and UXO in Libya.
Libya also imported landmines from the Soviet Union, used them during
border conflicts with Egypt and Chad, and placed them, for protection,
in economically important areas of the country.
Figures from numerous sources show a
vast variance in the number of landmine casualties. The United Nations,
for instance, states that between 1940 and 1975, 5,670 people were
killed and 4,935 were injured. The Libyan police claim that between 1940
and 1995, 6,749 people were killed and 5,096 were injured, while the
Libyan government, at the U.N. National Assembly in 1999, stated that
there have been approximately 4,000 deaths. Italy, because of their
involvement with Libya, has provided several types of assistance,
including the construction of a mine injury hospital, cooperation
between the Italian Red Cross and the Libyan Red Cross and the treatment
of injured Libyans in Italy.
Insufficient historical records and
maps of mined areas during World War II make it difficult to know the
exact location and numbers of landmines/UXO, creating a dangerous
situtation for demining. Demining is conducted by the Police Force
Explosive Division; however, locals are also trained to demine. In
addition, private companies linked with products, such as oil, actively
participate in mine clearance. Recently, some advancements have been
made in demining; in 1998, Italy signed an agreement that provides Libya
with Italian historical records, technical assistance, training for
Libyan deminers and support for mine casualties. Currently, however, it
is not known if records exist that show the number of mines or the area
of land cleared.
Neither independent non-governmental
organizations nor human rights groups are found in Libya, and the
government prohibits the formation of political parties and political
criticism of any kind, even extending control over the press.
Permanent Mission of Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Geneva
Avenue Blanc 47
Geneva, Switzerland CH-1202