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Landmines

Landmines Today

Landmine’s nature as a weapon is especially harmful to civilian populations since it’s: 

  • indiscriminate, 
  • inhumane, and 
  • plentiful. 

Mines are especially vile as weapons as they are designed to maim the victim instead of killing them, ultimately causing the worst possible economic outcome, let alone human suffering.

Unregistered mines, weather and time add to the continuing scourge of old conflicts still being present in many people’s lives. Eighty countries throughout the world are infected with landmines and there is no telling how many are currently in the ground in each.

Banning the use of anti-personnel landmines had gone a long way during the past decade, however. Currently, there are 151 signatories to the Mine Ban Treaty. To date, 38 million mines have been destroyed and another ten million are scheduled to be destroyed, and seven of 52 states parties to the Treaty affected by landmines have cleared their mined areas. In addition, at least 38 nations have stopped production and global trade has almost halted completely. 

Despite progress, concerns remain. Some countries, often neighboring ones, still refuse to give up mines as a relatively cheap yet indiscriminatory form of self-defense. Cheap and easy to make, landmine production costs are around $1, yet once delivered it can cost more than $1,000 to find and destroy a landmine. 13 countries still haven’t committed to non-production of antipersonnel mines, according to the ICBL’s Landmine Monitor Report of 2005. Nine of the 13 mine producers are in Asia (Burma, China, India, Nepal, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, Singapore, and Vietnam), one in the Middle East (Iran), two in the Americas (Cuba and United States), and one in Europe (Russia). Despite broad national commitments, use of homemade landmines such as improvised explosive devices by armed non-state actors or rebel groups still remains a threat in conflict areas. Most concerning, however, is the fact that the absolute number of mine victims still keeps growing each year.

History of landmines

The modern antipersonnel landmine has been used in armed conflict around the word since the Second World War, though precursors to its design were used as early as the 1800s during the American Civil War. Originally, landmines were used as supporting weaponry to anti-tank mines, and for strategic purposes in border regions for example. Since then, landmines have extensively been used in internal conflicts also, thus directly affecting the civilian population in the form of terror, hampered economies and prevention of mobility. Change in doctrine has also meant weakened marking and mapping, therefore making landmines a persistent danger in vast areas.

As technology enabled landmines being delivered from the air, detectability worsened considerably as mapping and marking became unfeasible. Also, so-called smart mines came in the picture. Though designed to be self-deactivating and self-destructible, when active they still pose the same threat as their predecessors and pose a question of reliability.

Mines Other Than Anti-Personnel Mines, or Anti-Vehicle Mines
[see Landmine Action's MOTAPM report]

Mines other than anti-personnel mines (MOTAPMs), or anti-vehicle mines, are designed to incapacitate or destroy vehicles, containing a larger explosive charge than antipersonnel mines. They are commonly used on roads to prevent traffic. As with personnel landmines, MOTAPMs kill and mutilate a large number of people every year and prevents people from using roads, leaving many rural communities completely isolated. Delivering humanitarian aid becomes difficult and dangerous – as an end result, populations are denied access to health care, food distribution and clean water. The exact number of people who suffer from this causality cannot be calculated, but for example in 2003, the UN Mine Action Service reported that 16 anti-vehicle mines had affected the delivery of humanitarian assistance to ‘almost 300,000’ people in Angola. All in all, Angola experienced 41 accidents in the whole year.

In 2006 Landmine Action released a report identifying 56 countries affected by MOTAPMs. According to the report, over recent years the following humanitarian organisations have lost staff to MOTAPMs in their efforts to assist poor communities: International Committee of the Red Cross, World Food Programme, International Rescue Committee, Austrian Relief Programme, Norwegian People’s Aid, The Halo Trust, Save the Children, CARITAS, CARE, Oxfam.

Mines other than antipersonnel mines are not banned by the Mine Ban Treaty. States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) have been considering the issue, and it is one of three subjects the states parties to the CCW focused on at its Review Conferences. Despite high hopes, no progress was made. 

Thus, after half a decade worth of discussions and preparatory work by the CCW's Group of Governmental Experts, it remains unclear whether there is enough political will to reach an agreement to create a new legally binding instrument banning their use. During the 2006 UN General Assembly First Committee session, the President-Designate of the CCW, Ambassador Rivasseau of France, called Ambassador Carlos Antonio da Rocha Paranhos of Brazil's (Coordinator of the CCW's Working Group on MOTAPM) efforts to introduce a protocol on MOTAPM a “mission impossible”. Differences still remain in the areas of detectability, active life, recording and removal of minefields, and categorization of fuses and censors.

40+ countries have already backed proposals that acknowledge that tighter controls are needed. These proposals call for:

  • A minimum metal content equivalent to 8 grammes of iron for all anti-vehicle mines so they can be found with a metal detector.
  • Outside of marked and recorded areas, countries only to use ‘self-destructing’ mines.
  • At the 2006 CCW Review Conference Australia, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, and the US made a joint declaration on MOTAPM, commiting themselves “not to use any anti-vehicle mine outside of a perimeter-marked area if that mine is not detectable.” Denmark made a statement on behalf of Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, El Salvador, Estonia, France, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Korea, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, the UK and the US on AVM and MOTAPM, promising not to use any MOTAPM outside a perimeter-marked area (PMA) if it is not detectable and does not contain a self-destruction or self-neutralization mechanism designed to ensure that no more than 10 percent of activated mines fail to self-destruct within 45 days.

These propositions have been criticized for being inadequate, however. The amount of iron is questionably small and therefore insufficient in order to demine effectively and efficiently. And as mentioned before, self-destructing mechanisms are not perfect, either. The concern is also that those who test the failure-rates are usually the producers themselves. Neither is marking or recording minefields the highest priority for those planting them. In war-torn areas where conflicts continue for years records are almost always lost anyway.

A new protocol on MOTAPM has added value for the CCW only if it contains norms that strengthen existing international humanitarian law. Thus, optional provisions on mine detectability and active life will not satisfy this requirement. With new legislation, the CCW should also show commitment to controls that would afford real additional protection to the civilian population. Banning MOTAPM and further implementing the Mine Ban Treaty are practical disarmament measures that will ultimately release economic resources and ending civilian suffering.

The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons 

Conventional weapons, or weapons which are not derived from chemical, nuclear, or biological sources, are the most common type of weapon employed in armed conflict. The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) controls the use and effects of several types of these weapons. The Convention codifies two fundamental customary principles of international humanitarian law applicable in armed conflict: the prohibition on the use of weapons which have indiscriminate effects and the prohibition on weapons which are “of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.” The primary intention of the CCW is to protect civilians, as well as combatants, in situations of armed conflict, from excessive suffering not necessitated by a legitimate military objective. To achieve these aims, the CCW contains only general rules in order to allow for flexibility and longevity. It is designed to be expanded and updated to encompass new technological and methodological developments in warfare.  The Convention is unusually structured in the form of an umbrella convention with more specific provisions contained in annexed protocols. The Convention entered into force on 2 December 1983, with one hundred States Parties to the treaty today.

The three original protocols annexed to the Convention regulate weapons producing fragments in the human body not detectable by X-ray (Protocol I), mines, booby-traps, and other devices (Protocol II), and incendiary weapons (Protocol III). Protocol IV was adopted 13 October 1995 to prohibit the use of blinding laser weapons and Protocol V, adopted 28 November 2003, prohibits and regulates explosive remnants of war. The Convention will be updated again at the Third Review Conference, scheduled from 7-17 November 2006 in Geneva. Discussions will then focus Mines Other Than Anti Personnel Mines (MOTAPM) among other things.

Protocol II of the CCW was negotiated from a proposal brought forth by France, the Netherlands and the UK, and prohibits or restricts the use of landmines, booby-traps and certain other devices. In the original protocol, a mine is defined as “a munition placed under or on the ground and is designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person or vehicle.” MOTAPMs, however, are not defined.

The general rules of the original protocol requires that mines, booby-traps, or other devices cannot be used indiscriminately or intentionally target civilians. The language of the general rules is vague and seemingly lenient in certain instances—for example, it only requires States to record all “pre-planned minefields,” and “endeavor to insure” recording of other minefields, “ ‘whenever possible, by mutual agreement…’, ‘provide for the release of information concerning the location of minefields, mines and booby-traps, particularly in agreements governing the cessation of hostilities.’”

The specific rules of the original protocol prohibit the use of manually-placed mines amidst areas of high civilian concentration, “unless (a) combat between ground forces is taking place or appears imminent, or (b) either the mines are placed on or close to a military objective belonging to an enemy, or measures are taken to protect civilians from their effects.” The provisions regulating remotely-placed mines differ slightly, specifying that they may only be used “‘within an area which is itself a military objective or which contains military objectives’ and must either be recorded or contain an ‘effective neutralizing mechanism’. ‘Effective advance warning’ must be given of ‘any delivery or dropping of remotely delivered mines which may affect the civilian population, unless circumstances do not permit.’” The original Protocol II fell short of the expectations of many parties, who would push to amend the protocol in the future. Following further disappointment with the results of amended text, concerned parties concluded a separate treaty containing an absolute ban on the use of APM, or the Ottawa Treaty.

Dissatisfied with the text of the original Protocol II, France, the ICRC, and many NGOs pressured for the amendment of the protocol and convoked the First Review Conference for the Convention in Vienna, from September to October 1995. The negotiations were laborious and two additional sessions had to be convened in Geneva after the first failed to produce a consensus. Finally on 3 May 1996, the Amended Protocol II was adopted.

Unlike the original protocol, Amended Protocol II provides a definition of an anti-personnel mine (APM) as a “mine primarily designed to be exploded by the presence, or contact of a person that will incapacitate, injure or kill a person.” The insertion of the word ‘primarily’ is contentious, as it suggests that Mines Other Than Anti Personnel Mines (MOTAPM) may also be detonated by persons, but are not considered to be anti-personnel mines.  Amended Protocol II also contains more extensive general provisions which declare that the use of mines is prohibited if they are designed in a manner to cause unnecessary suffering, made to explode in the presence of mine detection equipment, used indiscriminately, or directed against civilians or civilian objects. The protocol is not an absolute ban on the use of mines, but places restrictions and obligations for their use. States Parties are required to remove all mines at the end of hostilities, take “all feasible precautions” to protect civilians, give advance warning to civilians at risk, maintain records on the locations of mines, and protect humanitarian missions.

In addition to the general rules, Protocol II contains specific rules pertaining to the use of mines. Anti-personnel mines must be detectable by mine-detection equipment and contain an internal 8 gram metallic signature. In addition, they must contain self-destruction and self-deactivation mechanisms, unless they are placed in a marked area which is monitored by military personnel and fenced in to keep out civilians. The area must also be cleared before it is abandoned. The same provisions apply to remotely-delivered APM, and remotely-delivered MOTAPM must also “to the extent feasible” contain the same self-destruct and self-deactivation mechanisms. The protocol stipulates that prohibited mines cannot be transferred and that no mine may be transferred to a non-state entity. States not bound by the Protocol are prohibited from receiving mines, unless they agree to accede to the Convention.

Protocol II, even after its amendment, fell far short of producing an absolute ban on the use of landmines. Many parties felt the provisions were too lenient and lacked rigorous obligations or compliance measures. One example of an objection is that even though Amended Protocol II requires mines to contain a self-destruction and self-deactivation feature, a mine which possesses both and still fails to detonate poses the exact same danger to civilians and mine clearance groups as any ordinary mine. In addition, the US estimates that the cost of a self-destruction and self-deactivation mechanism would be $20 per mine. Intense dissatisfaction with Amended Protocol II by parties advocating for stricter regulations or an absolute ban on the use of landmines instigated the creation of the Ottawa Landmine Convention. 

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction 
[see the document at the UN website]

After the CCW was perceived inssufficient as a legal instrument condemning the use of landmines, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, or Ottawa Treaty, entered into force on 1 March 1999 and bans all use of anti-personnel landmines, requires the destruction of existing stockpiles, and obliges States to clear mined areas and assist victims. The Ottawa Convention enjoys wide compliance, with 151 States Parties, although some major states refuse to join, including India, Pakistan, and the USA. 

The First Review Conference of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Antipersonnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Aka the Nairobi Summit on a Mine Free World) convened at United Nations facilities in Nairobi from 29 November - 3 December 2004 according to Article 12, which states that a Review Conference shall be convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations five years after the entry into force of the Convention.

Led by President Designate Ambassador Wolfgang Petritsch of Austria, the Review Conference was set to:

(a) review the operation and status of the Convention;
(b) consider the need for and the interval between further Meetings of the States Parties referred to in paragraph 2 of Article 11 of the Convention;
(c) take decisions on submissions of States Parties as provided for in Article 5 of the Convention; and,
(d) adopt, if necessary, in its final report conclusions related to the implementation of the Convention.

At its final plenary meeting, the conference adopted the document ”Review of the operation and status of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction: 1999-2004”, emphasizing that while great progress has been made in ending the suffering caused by anti-personnel mines, much more needs to be done.

The conference also adopted the document ”Ending the suffering caused by anti-personnel mines: Nairobi Action Plan 2005-2009”, and urged all States Parties and all others who share the States Parties' aims to undertake all necessary actions at the national, regional and international levels to implement this action plan.

Also adopted was the document ”Towards a mine-free world: the 2004 Nairobi Declaration”, emphasizing that this declaration contains the States Parties' renewed commitment to achieving the goal of a world free of anti-personnel mine, in which there are no more new victims.

Leading up to the Second Review Conference will take place in the second half of the year 2009, the conference decided also to hold annually a Meeting of the States Parties which will regularly take place in the second half of the year, in Geneva.

Bangkok-Nairobi Action Plan
[see ICBL's feature]

In preparation for the Nairobi Review Conference, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the decade-old global coalition of non-governmental organizations, met in Bangkok, Thailand in September 2003 to adopt an Action Plan to guide its work. According to it, the ICBL will strive to achieve the following goals:

Universalization

    * Achieve at least 150 States Parties to Mine Ban Treaty
    * Secure ratification by all 12 remaining signatories: Brunei, Burundi, Cook Islands, Ethiopia, Greece, Haiti, Indonesia, Marshall Islands, Poland, Sudan, Ukraine, and Vanuatu.
    * Continue to work for universalization of the treaty by all non-States Parties, while targeting accession by: Bahrain, Estonia, Finland, Kuwait, Latvia, Micronesia, Mongolia, Oman, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Tuvalu, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates.
    * Ensure that an unprecedented number of non-States Parties participate in the Review Conference, and that some key countries attend the Standing Committee meetings in 2004.
    * Work towards mine policy progress and eventual accession by key countries outside of the treaty, such as the China, Russia and the US.

Implementation

    * Reach 100 percent compliance on Article 7 reporting.
    * Ensure a common understanding on Article 1 (interpretation of ‘assist’) is reached by States Parties.
    * Ensure a common understanding on Article 2 (definitions) is reached by States Parties, and lobby, in particular, five problem countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom).
    * Ensure a common understanding on Article 3 (mines retained for training) is reached by States Parties.
    * Get all 19 States Parties with domestic legislation ‘in process’ to comply with Article 9 by completing all the necessary steps. Get the others to initiate this process.
    * Have all States Parties complete their stockpile destruction by their deadlines, and encourage early completion in the period before the Review Conference.
    * Ensure that States Parties act swiftly to get Turkmenistan to comply with Article 4 (by destroying most or all of the 69,200 mines it has retained for training).
    * More action on compliance, including a State Party to ask the UN to initiate the process of implementing Article 8 and through more transparency, especially on the list of experts.

Non-State Actors

    * Mission by representatives of the Non-State Actors Working Group to engage government and NSA in joint mine ban activities, if requested by national campaigns.
    * Mainstream NSA discussion into Standing Committees, ICBL, UN, international organisations, and other fora.
    * Ensure landmine eradication is included within conflict resolutions and peace processes with NSA
    * Seek cooperation of governments, INGOS, NGOs and other pro-mine ban NSAs in supporting engagement of NSAs in a landmine ban, mine action and victim assistance.

Mine Action

    * Bring mine action reality and field perspectives into the Standing Committee meeting in February and May 2004 and the Review Conference. For example: Lead discussion of the terms “mine-free,” “impact-free,” and “mine safe” to reach a common understanding.
    * Relate progress in mine action to the results expected by 2009.
    * Increase involvement by Mine Action Working Group (MAWG) members in the group’s work, including feedback on the group’s statements and presentations in the intersessional meetings in 2004 and Review Conference.
    * Conduct in-depth research (using interns and researchers within existing member organizations) to prepare a mine action issues brief, including talking points, for country campaigns to use when lobbying donors. Obtain feedback on the results of these meetings to form the basis for presentations to the Standing Committees in 2004.

Mine Risk Education

    * The Mine Risk Education (MRE) Sub-Group will respond to requests for MRE materials using resources on the ICBL website, MRE experts, and colleagues. Handicap International Belgium is in charge of the theme. Among others, Landmine Resource Centre in Beirut is one resource focal point.
    * The MRE Sub-Group will work to examine the possibility of conducting a MRE training workshop for countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States region.
    * The MRE Sub-Group will follow-up with UNICEF on matters related to the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) on MRE.
    * The MRE Sub-Group will explore opportunities for conducting a specialized MRE workshop on MRE norms and quality work.

Survivor Assistance

    * The Working Group on Victim Assistance (VAWG) will analyse donor funding and present its findings to the Standing Committee meeting in February 2004.
    * Push for governments to develop and/or implement a plan of action to address the needs and promote the rights of mine survivors, or more generally to improve rehabilitation services for all persons with disabilities, in all mine-affected countries.
    * Push for better reporting on victim assistance activities by States Parties through increased use of Form J and use of the 4 P’s (problems, plan, priority, progress).
    * Draw attention to the need for sufficient and sustained victim assistance in areas controlled by NSA.
    * Encourage States Parties to send representatives of the relevant ministries to attend the Standing Committee meetings in 2004

Mine Ban Treaty at the United Nations

Since 1997, the resolution entitled “Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction” has been adopted in the UN General Assembly with a large majority. States which are party to the Mine Ban Treaty vote in favor of the resolution and states which are not party abstain from voting. During the 2006 First Committee, 157 countries voted in favor, ten more than did last year. No state voted against the resolution. 

It is a positive sign that non-states parties to the Convention countries abstain from the resolution instead of voting against it. Though a universal norm against the use of these indiscriminate weapons continues to grow, challenges in universalizing the Treaty continue as some countries, often neighboring ones, refuse to give up mines as a relatively cheap yet indiscriminatory form of self-defense. 

Resources

International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)
The most comprehensive source of information on landmines - a network of over 1400 groups in 90 countries working locally, nationally, and internationally to eradicate antipersonnel landmines.

AP Mine Ban Convention Implementation Support Unit
Information and primary documents from all Mine Ban Treaty conferences. 

Other valuable resources include:

"Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction"
The Mine Ban Treaty from 18 September 1997.

Ottawa Convention Status Report

Mines Action Canada