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INFO   :::  Reports - PAGE 4 > Report on Land Mines 2001


Report on Land Mines 2001


Key developments since May 2000: Following the change of regime in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), the FRY has announced its intention to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty. Yugoslav military authorities claimed that no antipersonnel mines have been produced, imported or exported since 1992. In southern Serbia, bordering the province of Kosovo, irregular ethnic Albanian forces have used landmines.


Mine Ban Policy

International isolation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) eased when a new government under the newly-elected President, Vojislav Koštunica, was installed in October 2000. One result of the sweeping political changes in FRY has been the readiness of the new authorities to enter into dialogue with the Yugoslav Campaign to Ban Landmines (YuCBL), as reflected in this report.

At a cabinet meeting on 20 April 2001 in Belgrade, the government of the FRY decided to join the Mine Ban Treaty.[1] In May 2001, a governmental working group was formed to consider accession to the Mine Ban Treaty. The decision to adhere to the Mine Ban Treaty was confirmed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Goran Svilanoviæ, during an official visit by the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs to FRY at the end of May 2001.[2] On 6 June 2001, the decision was again reiterated, this time by Dušanka Divjak-Tomiæ, Minister Plenipotentiary with the Federal Foreign Ministry, at a panel discussion organized in Belgrade by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia on the landmine issue.[3]

The new position contrasted with a 16 November 2000 letter from the Ministry of Defense to the Coordinator of the Yugoslav Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia:

[W]e think that use of antipersonnel mines during the NATO aggression on FRY in 1999 is marginal comparing the use of other conventional and unconventional weapons.... Some professional expertise is showing that antipersonnel mines are very useful weapon for protection. Antipersonnel mines are very useful for protection in defense of technologically superior enemy. We want to remind you that NATO and some other great military superpowers have not signed the Mine Ban Treaty and that they are still producing and using antipersonnel mines.[4]

Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic on 26 January 2001 met with representatives of the Helsinki Committee and the YuCBL Coordinator. When asked whether the FRY would accede to the Mine Ban Treaty, the Minister answered that the Federal Government had been debating the issue for some time. Asked if he was personally in favor of signing the Mine Ban Treaty, he stated that this was "obvious" and "the fact that I have met with you, representatives of the Campaign, indicates that the FRY should side with all those countries which renounced the use of landmines."[5]

The FRY has not acceded to Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Conventional Weapons.[6]


Production, Transfer and Stockpiling

In the past, the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was one of the world's largest producers of antipersonnel mines and a major exporter. It is likely that current stockpiles remain substantial.[7]

In response to inquiries, Major-General Dragan Zivanovic stated on 16 November 2000, "The FRY military industry did not and does not produce antipersonnel mines. That explosive device used to be produced in the former Yugoslavia (SFRY). FRY has not imported antipersonnel mines." Asked about export, stockpiling and use of antipersonnel mines he replied, "We are not in a position to answer some of your questions."[8] On 9 January 2001, however, Colonel Radoivic Milan, Head of the Federal Defense Ministry, replied that "the FRY since 1992 has not produced, imported or exported antipersonnel mines."[9]



In southern Serbia bordering the province of Kosovo there have been many incidents in 2000 and 2001 involving the use of landmines by ethnic Albanian irregular forces, operating from the buffer zone, known as the Ground Safety Zone (GSZ), that separates Kosovo from the rest of Serbia.[10] (See also separate Landmine Monitor report on Kosovo for related details on use.)

The Kosovo Liberation Army, which had previously fought FRY forces in Kosovo, disbanded and disarmed in September 1999. Subsequently, however, another armed ethnic Albanian group emerged, the Liberation Army of Preshevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac (UCPMB). These three municipalities, all with majority ethnic Albanian populations, are in southern Serbia, across the provincial border with Kosovo. The UCPMB has operated from the three-mile-wide Ground Safety Zone established by KFOR between Kosovo and the rest of the FRY, from which FRY forces were excluded. In addition, a new ethnic Albanian group, the National Liberation Army (NLA), also took advantage of the GSZ to supply or conduct military operations in the neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). (See also Landmine Monitor country report on FYROM for related details on use.)

In November 2000, the new FRY President Kostunica stated, "The violence is spilling over into the south of Serbia, where Albanian 'terrorists' have entrenched themselves,"[11] and in the following months civilians, soldiers and police suffered casualties from mine incidents.

At the end of May 2001, in a NATO-approved operation, around 1,200 Yugoslav troops and police reoccupied the buffer zone.[12] The operation was slowed down by the presence of antipersonnel and antivehicle landmines.[13] On 1 June 2001, a Yugoslav soldier lost his leg when he stepped on a mine in the village of Visoko Bilo in Bujanovac municipality in the buffer zone.[14]

On 6 June 2001, Yugoslav Army experts in mine warfare, Colonel Milomir Manojloviæ and Colonel Branko Boškoviæ, and mine experts from the Republic of Serbia's Interior Ministry, Lieutenant-Colonel Dragan Radmilac and Lieutenant-Colonel Slobodan Borisavljeviæ took part in a panel discussion on landmines. They confirmed that the territory of southern Serbia, including the Ground Safety Zone, was contaminated by various explosive devices, asserting that the contamination included between 1,500 and 1,600 antipersonnel mines of various types (mostly from the former Yugoslavia, Russia and China), as well as a large number of improvised explosive devices. They believe the UCPMB planted these mines to prevent the entry of Yugoslav forces into the GSZ. [15]

The Serbian Interior Ministry reported 18 mine incidents between 10 June 1999 and 27 February 2001, in the southern Serbian municipalities of Bujanovac, Medvedja and Kuršumlija, involving a total of thirty antivehicle mines allegedly planted by ethnic Albanians.[16] The date and circumstances of each incident is recorded in detail, including casualties. By May 2001, it was reported that 15 people had been killed (two civilians, ten members of the police, and three members of the Yugoslav Army), and 45 people had been injured (six civilians, including two children, 30 members of the police, and 9 members of the Yugoslav Army) by various explosive devices.[17] (See Landmine Casualties section below.)

The Yugoslav Army used both antipersonnel and antivehicle mines extensively in Kosovo up to early 1999.[18] During 1998 and 1999 the Yugoslav Army also mined other border areas, in anticipation of a possible NATO invasion from the west and north.[19]


Landmine Problem

Information on the extent of mining on the Croatian border has been scarce in previous years, but in late 2000 the local authorities agreed to provide information. The Šid municipality was an important defense and security line during armed conflicts in the early 1990s with the Republic of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The river Danube forms the border with Croatia except for the Šid municipality, which has a land border with Croatia. It was principally this land border that was thought to be mined. In November 2000, Zorica Lazic, Secretary of Šid Municipality, Sava Slavnic, Head of Municipal Defense, and Svetlana Marusic, Head of the local authority in the village of Jamena, confirmed that the border was mined by the Yugoslav Army between 1991 and 1995, and there were mine casualties up to 1997 (but none after 1997, although there has been no demining there). In Jamena village also, all the mine incidents happened between 1992 and 1997.[20] According to Svetlana Marusic:
Almost the entire border belt toward Croatia is still heavily mined;
At least five hectares of arable land belonging to the local agricultural commune are mined;
Many of the forested areas are mined;
Areas on both sides of the 10-kilometer-long village road between the villages of Debrnja and Jamena are mined;
Three exit by-roads in Jamena are mined;
The Yugoslav Army has visibly marked all known mined areas, including forests and dirt roads.[21]
Svetlana Marusic added that land around Jamena has not been thoroughly surveyed, and possibly areas around the village of Morovic nad Ilinci should also be surveyed for mine-contamination. But the biggest problem for people in Jamena is that there has been no mine clearance.[22] After repeated requests by the YuCBL, Yugoslav army demining teams finally arrived in the contaminated areas, and started minefield demarcation and clearance.[23]

It was reported previously by Hungarian authorities that during the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, especially in the periods of the Serbian-Croatian wars (1991-1992, 1994-1995), mine barriers were also deployed on a 66-kilometer section of the Hungarian-Yugoslav border, starting at the junction of the river Dráva and the Danube.[24] In February 2001, however, Jovan Vujivic, President of Sombor Municipality which adjoins Hungary and Croatia, and Veljko Stanojevic, President of the Executive Council, claimed that they did not know if that part of the border was mined.[25] Marin Kovac, head of the local authority in the village of Backi Breg, maintained that it was not mined, pointing out that the local population would have known if the Yugoslav Army had laid mines in the area, or undertook any demining operations, in view of the village's close proximity (five kilometers) to the border. This was confirmed by Dušan Kotur, head of the local authority in the village of Rivica, also close to the Yugoslav-Hungarian border.[26]


Mine Action

The Yugoslav Army agreed, under the Kumanovo Agreement of 10 June 1999, to clear its minefields in Kosovo, but as of mid-2001 these forces have not been allowed to return for this purpose.[27]

The FRY organized teams for clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in most communities where unexploded NATO cluster bombs might remain from the bombing of March-June 1999.

There has been no special budgetary allocation for clearance in and near the buffer zone with Kosovo in southern Serbia. Special Army and Police engineering teams defuse UXO or undertake demining, when they are notified of known or suspected devices. In nine of 18 known cases of mines planted by ethnic Albanian forces in or near the buffer zone, a total of 19 antivehicle mines were detected and deactivated.[28] No external assistance for mine action or mine clearance - either practical or financial - has so far been provided to the FRY.

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Mine Awareness staff members visited several times the GSZ area in order to conduct a needs assessment. Subsequently a mine/UXO awareness strategy was devised and is being implemented in cooperation with the Yugoslav Red Cross. The material used so far is the material produced for the ICRC Kosovo program. This includes Adult and Children brochures, a leaflet on information for returnees, as well as adult-oriented posters (9,000 Albanian and 1,000 Serbian) showing mines and UXO. ICRC radio spots have already been used in the area.


Landmine Casualties

The 18 known cases of use of antivehicle mines by ethnic Albanian forces in the southern Serbian municipalities of Bujanovac, Medvedja and Kuršumlija caused the death of 11 people (two civilians - one Serb and one Albanian - and nine police), while 31 people were injured (21 police, four members of the Yugoslav Army, and six civilians-five ethnic Albanians and one Serb). Of the casualties, in 1999 three were killed and five injured, in 2000 five were killed and 22 injured, and up to February 2001 three were killed and four injured. The Interior Ministry report details each of these incidents, including the circumstances and identities of those involved[29]

A number of these incidents were widely reported in Yugoslav media, including an incident on 27 November 2000 in Veliki Trnovac when a tractor carrying the Zeviri family struck an antivehicle mine on a dirt road near the buffer zone. The explosion killed one child, seriously injured two children, and slightly injured three other members of the family.[30] An incident on 18 February 2001 was reported as having occurred on the demarcation line separating ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Serb security forces near Oslara in municipality Bujanovac. The Serbian government press center in Bujanovac named the Albanian guerrillas suspected of having laid the mines.[31]

Since the Interior Ministry report was prepared in late February 2001, further mine incidents have occurred. On 17 March 2001, two Serb policemen were seriously injured when their vehicle hit a mine in the Preševo valley, near the village of Rajince.[32] On 3 April 2001, one policeman was killed and three were injured when their vehicle hit a mine in southern Serbia near Kosovo.[33] On 25 April 2001, a Yugoslav soldier was wounded when he stepped on an antipersonnel mine near Preševo.[34] On 29 April 2001, three Yugoslav soldiers were wounded when their vehicle hit a mine in southern Serbia, near the Macedonian border. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic accused ethnic Albanian separatists of placing new mines.[35] On 1 June 2001, a Yugoslav soldier was injured when he stepped on a mine in Kosovo near the border with Macedonia.[36]

There is little information regarding Yugoslav casualties from mines during the fighting in Kosovo in 1999. The impact on civilians has likely been greater from cluster bombs dropped by NATO planes from March to June 1999. In the course of 1999, forty mines and cluster bomb victims from Kosovo and Serbia received treatment at the Institute for Orthopedics and Prosthetics in Belgrade.[37]

On 9 October 2000, a pyrotechnician in the Army was seriously injured while trying to defuse six unexploded cluster bomblets. He lost both legs and both hands, and his sight and hearing were permanently impaired. He told a television news report that before his accident he had defused more then 2,000 cluster bomblets since the NATO bombing ended in June 1999.[38]

It was previously reported that out of the conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the early 1990s, 1,250 mine victims had been treated in the Institute for Orthopedics and Prosthetics in Belgrade.[39] According to Svetlana Marusic, between 1992 and 1997 eight people from Jamena fell victim to mine explosions (mostly to PMA-3 mines, known as "Mash"). Two of the eight were over 60 years of age, all the others were between twenty and thirty-five years of age.[40]

Major-General Zivanovic, however, claimed in November 2000 that, "in the territory of the FRY, after the end of wars in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there were no antipersonnel mine casualties.... We deem that the civilian population is not at risk, unless mines were laid illegally."[41]

On 13 November 2000, social worker Nada Bulatovic said that more than half the 1,500 wounded persons hospitalized at the Institute for Orthopedics and Prosthetics from 1991 to 2000 were injured by antipersonnel mines, and 75 percent of them were soldiers at the time of accident. She also claimed that: all the adults at the time of their accidents were between 19 and 30 years of age; that among the landmine victims 25 percent were women and 10 to 15 percent were children; and that injuries to legs made up 60 percent of all injuries, 29 percent were thigh wounds, seven percent were upper arm injuries and four percent were forearm wounds.[42]

There is no single federal or local register of mine casualties.


Survivor Assistance

In 2000 and 2001, the Institute for Orthopedics and Prosthetics Institute in Belgrade received no mine victims. In 1999, the Institute received forty new patients injured by mines. All members of the Yugoslav Army and Serbian Police seriously wounded in mine incidents in Southern Serbia received surgical and orthopedic treatment at Belgrade's Military Health Academy. All mine victims needing artificial limbs are then transferred to the Institute for Orthopedics and Prosthetics. All mine victims treated in the Institute receive full rehabilitation. The Institute has had difficulty producing prostheses and has received no international support for several years.[43]

Handicap International is also helping people with disabilities in the FRY, currently concentrating on assistance to paraplegics.



[1] Untitled article, Politika, (Belgrade daily newspaper), 21 April 2001.

[2] "Ka svetu bez mina" [Toward a free mine world], Danas, (Belgrade daily newspaper), 29 May 2001.

[3] "Ni Beograd nije sasvim bezbedan" [Even Belgrade is not safe enough], Politika, 7 June 2001.

[4] Letter from Maj.-Gen. Dragan Zivanovic, Head of Cabinet of Chief of Staff, Yugoslav Army, 16 November 2000, addressed to the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia. This response is very similar to the position stated by the Defense Ministry under the previous Milosevic administration. See Landmine Monitor Report 2000, pp. 853-854.

[5] Interview with Goran Svilanovic, Foreign Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Belgrade, 26 January 2001.

[6] The former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) signed and ratified the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) in 1981 and 1983. As legal successor of the SFRY, the FRY had claimed that the CCW is part of current national legislation, although on 12 March 2001 it formally succeeded to the Convention and its three original Protocols.

[7] For details of mines produced and likely to be in stockpiles, see Landmine Monitor Report 1999, pp. 827-829.

[8] Letter from Maj.-Gen. Zivanovic, 16 November 2000.

[9] Letter from Col. Radoivic Milan, Head of the Federal Ministry of Defense, to the Helsinki Committee, 9 January 2001 (researcher's emphasis).

[10] After the FRY Army and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) signed the Kumanovo (Military-Technical) Agreement on 10 June 1999, a three-mile buffer zone (known as the Ground Safety Zone, GSZ),was established within Serbia bordering the province of Kosovo. In the buffer zone there were 14 villages with about 3,500 people, and very close by were three large municipalities-Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveca-inhabited by approximately 100,000 people, mostly Albanians.

[11] "Tension mounts on Kosovo border," CNN, 27 November 2000.

[12] See for instance Frederik Dahl, "Yugoslav Forces Retake Last Part of Buffer Zone," Reuters, Konculj, FRY, 31 May 2001.

[13] Dragan Ilic, "Yugoslav Troops in Buffer Zone," Associated Press, Mount Ilic, FRY, 24 May 2001; "Mines Slow Down Entering," Danas (daily newspaper), 25 May 2001.

[14] "Yugoslav soldier loses leg in south Serbia mine blast," Reuters, 3 June 2001; see also Danas, 2 June 2001. See separate Landmine Monitor report on Kosovo for additional casualty reports.

[15] "Skup proces razminiranja" [Expensive process of demining], Blic, (Belgrade daily newspaper), 7 June 2001.

[16] Report of the Interior Ministry, Republic of Serbia, 27 February 2001.

[17] Figures included in speeches by Dragan Radmilac and Slobodan Borisavljeviæ, mine experts of the Serbian Interior Ministry, at the panel discussion on 6 May 2001 in Belgrade.

[18] See the separate report on Kosovo in this edition and in Landmine Monitor Report 2000.

[19] See the report on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in this edition.

[20] Interview with Zorica Lazic, Sava Slavnic and Svetlana Marusic, Šid, 20 November 2000.

[21] Interview with Svetlana Marusic, Head of the local authority in Jamena, Šid, 20 November 2000.

[22] Interview with Svetlana Marusic, Šid, 20 November 2000.

[23] Interview with Svetlana Marušiæ, head of the local authority in Jamena, 3 and 12 June 2001.

[24] See Landmine Monitor Report 2000, pp. 855-856.

[25] Interview with Jovan Vujivic, President of Sombor Municipality and Veljko Stanojevic, President of Executive Council of Sombor Municipality, Sombor, 13 February 2001.

[26] Interviews with Marin Kovac, Head of the local authority, Backi Breg, and Dušan Kotur, Head of the local authority, Rivica, 14 February 2001.

[27] See the separate report on Kosovo in this edition.

[28] Report of the Interior Ministry, Republic of Serbia, 27 February 2001.

[29] Ibid.

[30] "Boy killed by antitank mine," Politika, (daily newspaper), 28, 29, 30, 31 November 2000.

[31] "Vehicle runs over mine: three policemen are killed," Danas (Yugoslav daily newspaper), 19 February 2001.

[32] "Two Serbian Police Officers Wounded by Land Mine," Reuters, 17 March 2001.

[33] "Serb Policeman Killed in Land Mine Blast," Reuters, 3 April 2001.

[34] "Yugoslav Soldier Hurt by Landmine in South Serbia," Agence France Presse, 25 April 2001.

[35] Konstantin Testorides, "Macedonia, NATO Step Up Security," Associated Press, Skopje, 29 April 2001.

[36] Jovan Gec, "Peace Plan Discussed in Macedonia," Associated Press, Skopje, 1 June 2001.

[37] Interview with Nada Blatovic, social worker, Institute for Orthopedics and Prosthetics, Belgrade, 13 November 2000.

[38] Prime News, RTS, 19 January 2001.

[39] See Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 857.

[40] Interview with Svetlana Marusic, Šid, 20 November 2000.

[41] Letter from Maj.-Gen. Zivanovic, 16 November 2000.

[42] Interview with Nada Bulatovic, Institute for Orthopedics and Prosthetics, Belgrade, 13 November 2000.

[43] See Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 857.


Marijana Obradovic



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