Syria laying mines near borders: HRW

Damascus refused to sign landmine treaty

Syrian forces have laid mines near the borders of Lebanon and Turkey along routes used to escape the conflict in Syria, advocacy group Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.

Its report documented multiple accounts from witnesses in Turkey, Lebanon and inside Syria who had either seen Syrian troops laying mines or been injured by mines.

Opposition activists use Lebanon and Turkey to bring food, medicine and weapons into Syria. Thousands of Syrians have also fled the violence into Turkey and Lebanon.

"Any use of anti-personnel landmines is unconscionable," Steve Goose, Arms Division director at HRW, said. "There is absolutely no justification for the use of these indiscriminate weapons by any country, anywhere, for any purpose."

Syria last used anti-personnel mines during the 1982 conflict with Israel in Lebanon, the report said. Syria's stockpile is believed to consist mainly of Soviet/Russian-manufactured mines, it added.

The report quoted a 15-year-old boy from Tal Kalakh in Syria who lost a leg in a landmine explosion in February while trying to transport a wounded person to Lebanon for medical treatment.

Opposition activists in Syria say they fear arrest, torture and death at the hands of Syrian security forces if they seek treatment in Syrian state hospitals when they are wounded in protests or clashes with police and security forces.

Turkey acceded to the international Mine Ban Treaty on September 25, 2003. Syria and Lebanon have refused to sign the treaty, which would require all landmines in their countries to be cleared.

Nadim Houry, HRW's researcher for Syria and Lebanon, told Reuters that is was very hard to get the exact figure for the number of wounded by Syrian-placed landmines because most casualties occur on the Syrian side of the border.

The Syrian government has repeatedly denied access into the country to rights groups and journalists.

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