Anti-landmine groups condemn BIFF’s use of ‘victim-activated IEDs PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 06 March 2016 14:19

A local anti-landmine advocacy group and its Swiss counterpart have condemned a breakaway rebel faction for using “victim-activated improvised explosive devices” (IEDs) in skirmishes with army troops on February in the conflict-wracked province of Maguindanao in southern Philippines.

“Victim-activated IEDs have the same function and effects as the globally banned anti-personnel landmines and violate international humanitarian law. These indiscriminate weapons do not distinguish between combatants and civilians. Even a child could trigger such devices to explode,” said the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL) and its international partner organization Foundation Suisse De Deminage (FSD or Swiss Foundation for Mine Action) in a statement released Saturday by the Office of Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP).

The two groups were referring to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) attacks on February on Army soldiers securing a river dredging project killing one and injuring five.

The soldiers were scanning for booby traps set by BIFF guerrillas along foot trails interconnecting farms of Moro settlers in secluded areas in Datu Salibo town  IED, detonated from a distance, went off along a path on a swamp.

The same rebel group was blamed for the roadside bomb blast that killed four people aboard a Mitsubishi Delica van on February.

BIFF separated from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), after the one time largest rebel group signed a peace deal with the Philippine government.

The PCBL and FSD also appealed to the BIFF to follow the commitment of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to stop the practice of using landmines or any other victim-activated explosives. “The BIFF can take heed from the MILF who unilaterally declared in 2000 as an official policy that they will not use anti-personnel landmines and victim-activated improvised explosives in their armed struggle. The MILF views the use of these weapons as against the teachings of Islam,” they said.

“This crucial decision by the MILF has saved countless innocent lives and altered the future of the Bangsamoro for the better, and has helped to avoid the challenges of unusable land littered with explosives and landmines which continue to claim innocent lives in neighboring countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.”

Chief government peace negotiator Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer echoed these calls and criticized the BIFF for their action that would risk civilian lives in the process.

“We must not allow our fields and streets to become minefields. No political nor military objective justifies endangering the lives of civilians,” she said.

Existing in the Philippines since 1995, the PCBL has campaigned for a ban on the use of landmines by both the government and rebel groups as part of its peace advocacy.Currently, FSD and PCBL are working with local and international partners to conduct Mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) risk education, with specific emphasis on the dangers of IEDs in the affected areas.

In May 2010, the PCBL and FSD entered into an agreement with the GPH and MILF peace panels to assist in mine clearance and education. A year after its implementation, the PCBL-FSD project with the support of the European Union, has surveyed 210 barangays (villages) and recorded 71 UXO locations and identified 47 mines/UXO victims, and assisted in clearing 5 UXOs in 4 operations.