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Overview of the Convention on the prohibition of anti-personnel mines

15-08-2007

 What does the convention ban?  

The Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines, also called the Ottawa Convention (and by some the Mine Ban Treaty), is a comprehensive ban on antipersonnel mines. It prohibits the use, stockpiling, production, development, acquisition and transfer of anti-personnel mines and requires their destruction, whether they are in stockpiles or in the ground.[1 ]

 

Anti-personnel mines are “victim-activated” explosive devices. They are designed to be placed under, on or near the ground, and to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person.

The convention does not ban mines that are designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a vehicle (i.e. anti-vehicle and anti-tank mines) and it does not ban explosive devices that are remotely controlled.
 
   

  ©ICRC/A. Buzzola    
 
   

     

 Why ban anti-personnel mines?      

By the early 1990s, anti-personnel mines had caused a profound medical, human and social crisis in nearly all the situations in which they were used. At the time, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) stated that, in medical terms, anti-personnel mines had created an “epidemic” of exceptionally severe injury, death and suffering.

Anti-personnel mines are inherently incapable of distinguishing civilians from soldiers, which is a fundamental requirement of international humanitarian law. Anti-personnel mines continue to strike blindly long after conflicts have ceased, killing and maiming mostly civilians.

The injuries caused by anti-personnel mines are particularly horrific, and war-hardened surgeons consider them among the most difficult to treat. Those who survive a mine blast typically suffer shattered limbs requiring amputation, multiple operations and prolonged physical rehabilitation. They suffer permanent disability and the social, psychological and economic implications of being disabled. The effects of anti-personnel mines do not occur by “accident”: these weapons are specifically designed to shatter limbs and lives beyond repair.

ICRC field surgeons have been direct witnesses to the horrendous and widespread suffering inflicted on civilians worldwide by anti-personnel mines. It was in response to the “epidemic” of injuries caused by anti-personnel mines that 10 years ago the ICRC called for a global ban on anti-personnel mines. Its appeal, to which National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies added their voices, came on the heels of a similar call first made by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). Faced with growing public abhorrence of the devastating effects of anti-personnel mines on civilians, governments led by Canada began a process in 1996 which resulted in the adoption just one year later of the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines (hereinafter referred to as the “Ottawa Convention”). In 1997, the ICBL and its coordinator Jody Williams were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in campaigning for a ban on anti-personnel mines.

 

Why is the Ottawa Convention a unique treaty?  

The adoption of the Ottawa Convention in 1997 marked the first time that States agreed to completely ban a weapon that was already in widespread use. They did so on the basis of international humanitarian law, which aims to alleviate the suffering caused by armed conflict and to protect civilians in times of war.

The Ottawa Convention does not just prohibit a weapon. It is a comprehensive programme of action designed to respond to the humanitarian consequences of anti-personnel mines by committing States to remove the threat of mines already in the ground, assist mine victims and raise awareness among the civilian population of the dangers of anti-personnel mines.

 

 What are the Ottawa Convention’s core humanitarian requirements?      

Each State party to the Ottawa Convention is required to:

  • Destroy its stockpile of anti-personnel mines within four years.

  • Clear all mined areas under its jurisdiction or control within 10 years, and in the meantime take measures to ensure the effective exclusion of civilians from these areas, including through mine risk education programmes.

  • Assist mine victims by providing care and rehabilitation, including social and economic reintegration.

In addition, in order to ensure compliance with the convention, each State Party is required to:

  • Prosecute and punish persons who engage in activities prohibited by the convention.

  • Submit annual reports to the Secretary-General of the Unite d Nations (UN), reporting on the steps taken by the State Party to implement the convention.

  • Work together with other States Parties to facilitate compliance with the convention, including by facilitating the conduct of fact-finding missions to gather information on compliance issues, as required.

 

Which States are party to the Ottawa Convention?  

The Ottawa Convention was signed by 123 States in Ottawa, Canada on 3 - 4 December 1997. It entered into force on 1 March 1999.

As at 15 August 2007, 155 States — more than three-quarters of all countries — had become party to the Ottawa Convention, either through ratification or accession. These include:

  • all but two members of the European Union (Finland and Poland);

  • all but two States in the Americas (Cuba and the United States of America);

  • all but four States in Africa (Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Somalia).

By becoming party to the convention, a State is legally bound to implement all of the convention’s requirements. Most of the world’s mine-affected

States are now party to the convention, although a number of major military powers are not.

See the list of : State Parties to the Ottawa Convention(deuxÉtatsont signé la Convention mais ne l’ont pas encore ratifiée (ne sont pas parties à la Convention) : les îles Marshall et la Pologne.- 15 août 2007.
 

Virtually all of the world’s States reaffirmed by consensus the goal of the eventual global elimination of anti-personnel mines at the 28th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in December 2003.

 

Has the Ottawa Convention made a difference?  

Since the Ottawa Convention entered into force on 1 March 1999, significant progress towards achieving its objectives has been observed:

  • The convention has had a marked impact on the worldwide use, transfer and production of anti-personnel mines, confirming that these weapons are being stigmatized and that the anti-personnel mine ban norm is becoming universal.

  • The use of anti-personnel mines has decreased dramatically since the convention was adopted. According to the 2006 Landmine Monitor, only three States had used antipersonnel mines since May 2005. A number of non-State armed groups were also reported to have used mines, though fewer than the previous year.

  • The production of anti-personnel mines has also decreased significantly; of the 50 States that at one time produced anti-personnel mines, 33 are now party to the convention.

  • The legal global trade in anti-personnel mines has virtually halted. Most States not party to the convention that possess anti-personnel mines (e.g. China, the Republic of Korea, Poland, the Russian Federation, Singapore and the United States) have export or transfer moratoria in place.

  • States Parties have destroyed approximately 40 million anti-personnel mines. In all, 143 States Parties no lo nger hold stockpiles of anti-personnel mines. Almost all States whose stockpile destruction deadlines have passed have reported completing their destruction programmes. This represents an outstanding rate of compliance.

  • A total of seven States have completed mine clearance and 45 others have indicated that they still have mined areas that need to be cleared. Significant mine clearance activities are taking place in most of these States.

  • Between 1992 and 2005, US$ 2.9 billion has been invested in mine clearance, stockpile destruction, victim assistance and other mine action activities by States.

  • Most importantly, the number of new mine victims has fallen. The ICRC has found that where the convention’s norms and requirements are being respected and implemented, the annual number of new mine victims has dropped significantly, in some cases by twothirds or more.

However, the landmine crisis is far from over. Millions of anti-personnel mines continue to threaten populations around the world, claiming thousands of new victims each year and impoverishing communities. Vast tracts of valuable land remain unusable owing to the presence of anti-personnel mines. States remaining outside the convention that have large stockpiles of anti-personnel mines must be convinced to join. Ridding the world of anti-personnel mines and caring for mine victims throughout their lifetimes requires the long-term commitment of all.

Although anti-personnel mines are being stigmatized, the objectives of this unique and historic convention will only be achieved when all of the world’s countries are party to it.

 This document is based on information available as at 15 August 2007.   (Landmine Monitor Report 2006  )The ICRC has been careful to use the most reliable sources available. However, it cannot take responsibility for any errors contained in the external sources referenced.  

    

Notes  

1. The official title of the treaty is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of

Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction. It was adopted in Oslo on 18 September 1997, opened for signature

in Ottawa on 3 December 1997, and entered into force on 1 March 1999 following the 40th ratification.