Human rights group accuses Syria of mining its borders | News | DW | 13.03.2012
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Human rights group accuses Syria of mining its borders

Human Rights Watch says Syria has placed landmines along its borders with Lebanon and Turkey. Despite the apparent danger, refugees continue to flee across the frontier.

A leading international human rights organization says Syrian government troops have laid landmines along the country's borders with Lebanon and Turkey.

In a report released on Tuesday, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch cites witnesses and Syrian deminers who said the mines had been placed along routes used by refugees trying to escape the violence in the country. At least one civilian is reported to have been wounded after stepping on one of the mines.

"Any use of anti-personnel mines is unconscionable," Steve Goose, HRW's arms director said. "There is absolutely no justification for the use of these indiscriminate weapons by any country, for any purpose."

Syria started placing the mines along its border with Turkey over the past few weeks. The first report of mines being used along its frontier with Lebanon came in November 2011, when a government official told an Associated Press reporter that Syria had "undertaken many measures to control the borders, including planting mines."

Syriais not a signatory to the Ottawa Treaty of 1997, which bans the use of anti-personnel mines.

Refugees on the move

Despite the apparent use of the devices along the borders, refugees were continuing to leave. Opposition activists reported that dozens of people reached the Lebanese port city of Tripoli late on Monday after escaping from the Homs area.

"People are traumatized and scared. They saw what happened to other people in Homs and decided to flee to protect their families," Abu Imad a Syrian activist in Lebanon told the DPA news agency.

Meanwhile, there appears to be no sign of an end to the violence in Syria, with opposition activists reporting more fighting between Syrian army and rebel forces in the city of Idlib on Tuesday.

The United Nations estimates that more than 7,500 people have been killed since the unrest started with protesters holding demonstrations calling for political reforms one year ago. Such figures are impossible to independently confirm due to a government ban on foreign journalists from reporting in Syria.

pfd/ncy (dpa, AFP, AP)