Call for total international ban of landmines

Statement by the observer delegation of the I.P.O. to the Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects

Officially published in the Final Document of the Conference, Doc. CCW/CONF.I/SR.6, Paras. 74-78, pp. 16f.

Vienna, 28 September 1995/P/K/14955

The specific protective measures of the United Nations Convention's Protocol II on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby Traps, and Other Devices (1980) are rather vague and have proven totally ineffective. The language of Protocol II is open for arbitrary interpretation by any of the warring parties when it comes to the protection of the civilian population ("all feasible precautions shall be taken to protect civilians from the effects of [mines] ... which are practical or practically possible ..."). Protocol II further lacks any enforcement mechanisms.

As stated in a report of the International Committee of the Red Cross (1992), mines constitute a "perverse use of technology". The nature of the suffering caused by mines is both enormous and unusual. Half a century after the end of World War II innocent civilians in Libya and Egypt are still killed or maimed by mines planted by warring parties that are situated far away from the territory which they have used and whose governments do not bear the consequences of these acts of warfare. Tragedies of immense proportions are caused by the minefields in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Angola, Mozambique − the legacy of more recent conflicts that have been fuelled by the interference of outside powers that now do not bear the consequences of their involvement.

Because of the practical impossibility to effectively ensure the safety of civilians in the course of armed conflicts − and even decades after armed conflicts -, because of the landmines' propensity to kill or maim by inflicting insidiously cruel injuries, and because of the unbearable strain caused to the economic resources of the afflicted countries, the International Progress Organization calls for a total ban of landmines. The International Progress Organization welcomes the formulation included in Art. 6 bis, para. 1 of the draft amended protocol as presented by the Chairman of the Group of Governmental Experts: "It is prohibited to use, develop, manufacture, stockpile or transfer, directly or indirectly: − Anti-personnel mines ... [and] − booby-traps ..." as a step in the right direction. In this regard, the International Progress Organization welcomes the Swedish delegation's proposal to the Group of Governmental Experts which has led to the incorporation of the above Article into the draft amended protocol (Chairman's Rolling Text). The International Progress Organization, however, expresses the hope that such a ban will be extended to landmines in general.

The International Progress Organization would like to make it clear that no chances must be left for the circumvention of such a ban by the military-industrial establishment of member states by means of casuistic distinctions that would allow to exclude certain types of devices from the category of "mines".

The International Progress Organization further welcomes the steps already undertaken by the government of Belgium to stop production and export of anti-personnel mines, and the initiative of the government of Norway. We also welcome the resolution adopted by the Austrian National Assembly on 14 July 1995 in regard to a ban on the production and use of mines.

In conformity with the Final Statement of the Landmines Conference held in Phnom Penh (2-4 June 1995) the International Progress Organization states that, bearing in mind the general principles of international humanitarian law, there is no justification at all for the continued use of landmines. The I.P.O. hopes that the Review Conference will take into consideration the statement made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations that "the ultimate goal of establishing a total ban of landmines be kept in view for humanitarian reasons". As the Secretary-General stated in his message to the Conference, "a total ban would be easier to implement, monitor, and verify."

In addition to a general ban on the production, stockpiling, sale, and use of landmines, the International Progress Organization calls for the establishment of a set of international legal norms regulating the questions of responsibility for the effective clearance of minefields, and of liability and compensation for the losses of life, injuries and material losses caused by landmines even decades after a war has ended. The former warring parties should be held fully responsible and are obliged to offer adequate compensation to individuals and states.