HALO Trust Denies Claims of Sharing Karabakh Landmine Maps with Turkey
By Emilio Luciano Cricchio
The HALO Trust, a UK-based organization involved in demining conflict zones, has refuted claims that it shared maps of minefields in Karabakh with Turkey before or during the Second Karabakh War.
HALO released a statement calling the claims “totally false.” The statement went on to add that, “HALO Trust is only able to operate in conflict zones around the world because it is a totally non-political and neutral organization.”
The HALO Trust has been working to remove landmines in Karabakh for over 20 years. Along with the International Committee of the Red Cross, the HALO Trust is one of the only two international entities that has operated in Artsakh. Due to Artsakh’s internationally unrecognized status, many international organizations, such as the UN, have not been active. This has resulted in Artsakh’s population lacking humanitarian support from abroad.
In the 1990s, Armenian and Azerbaijani forces laid landmines across Karabakh, rendering whole swathes of the territory hazardous. According to an assessment by the United Nations and the United States in the 90s, over 100,000 landmines were laid throughout the territory during the First Karabakh War.
Artsakh authorities have estimated that in the 90s, 180 people were killed and 507 injured as a result of landmine explosions. These casualties have resulted in Karabakh having the highest number of landmine accidents per capita of any region of the world.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) meanwhile has stated that 123 people have been killed and over 300 injured by landmines since the ceasefire which was declared in 1994.
Since getting involved in Artsakh in 2000, HALO has been receiving support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and has cleared nearly 500 minefields in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Recently, the Trump administration cut off funding for the organization. However, the new Biden administration had promised during the 2020 presidential campaign that it would reinstate funding.
On top of this, HALO’s workforce of more than 100 people in Nagorno-Karabakh, most of which are from the local population, does not only work to locate and remove landmines but has also been engaged in providing Artsakh Armenians with hygiene kits, essential supplies, and personal protective gear, to aid with the fight against covid-19.