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Statement on anti-personnel mines and proposed amendments to Protocol II

09-01-1995 Statement

Fourth meeting of the Group of Governmental experts 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.

Mr. Chairman,

The International Committee of the Red Cross has been privileged to contribute to the work of this Group of Governmental Experts through its three meetings in 1994. We anxiously await the successful completion of the work of this body and look forward to seeing the fruits of its labor enshrined in new international norms at the Review Conference later this year. Every month which passes before the implementation of strict and effective controls on anti-personnel mines can be measured in the loss of human limbs, lives and livelihoods. The responsibility entrusted to this Group of Governmental Experts is indeed sobering.

The ICRC has stated on a number of occasions its firm belief that the only effective solution to the global scourge of anti-personnel land mines is a total prohibition of their use, possession and transfer. In addition we have identified a number of supplemental measures which we believe are essential to the success and credibility of the amendment process for Protocol II:

* the extension of the scope of the Convention to cover internal armed conflicts as defined in Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 ;

* incorporation into the Convention of effective implementation and verification mechanisms;

* the introduction of methods, including positive incentives, to promote universal adherence.

However, we should emphasize that none of these supplemental measures will be effective without stringent controls on mine transfer and use. We are deeply concerned that none of the proposals currently under conside ration in this body, other than a total ban, are likely to significantly reduce civilian casualties from land mines.

We welcome the recent resolution on the export of anti-personnel mines adopted by the 1994 United Nations General Assembly (AIRES/49175D of 15 Dec. 1994) which recognizes the'ultimate goal of the eventual elimination of anti-personnel land-mines as viable and humane alternatives are developed'. In so doing it sets the standard against which amendments to the 1980 Convention, developed by this body, should be judged. Changes will be welcome to the extent that they move towards elimination and should be discarded if they undermine or divert attention from that goal.

The most widely supported initiative currently under consideration would require that all mines used outside of marked and guarded mine fields contain effective self-destruction mechanisms. However because this same proposal explicitly permits the continued production, sale and use of non self-destruct mines for classical use in minefields, these'dumb mines'will continue to be available and to be used indiscriminately. The implementation of a requirement for self-destruct mines, even if agreed, may not be possible in the many countries which claim they cannot pay for new mine stocks and may not be effectively implemented elsewhere for a variety of other reasons.

Unfortunately, the promotion of self-destruct mines for use outside of marked and guarded minefields suggests that not only classical barrier mine fields, but also use outside such fenced areas is essential to military operations. This use outside fenced and guarded areas is precisely what has had such devastating effects on civilian populations. The assumption that mines will self destruct could lead to a significant increase in the volume of mines used outside of barrier minefields either to compensate for their short life or because they are considered relatively b enign. Promotion of such mines would also entail an increase in the overall production and trade in mines.

A regime based on the use of self-destruct mines is only likely to reduce casualties if the production, transfer and use of non self-destruct or'dumb'mines is prohibited and if it is accompanied by stringent verification and sanctions. The self-destruct period would need to be short (at most a few months) as would the'grace period'for implementation of the new requirement. ' Their reliability rate would need to approach 100%. Even if these conditions are met large numbers of civilians are likely to suffer when these mines are used indiscriminately in civilian areas before self-destructing and from those which fail to self-destruct. It is essential that attempts to develop a regime based on self-destruct mines does not delay steps towards a total ban and the development of more humane alternatives.

Another route towards achieving total prohibition could be (a) a stringent interim requirement that anti-personnel mines be used only within marked, fenced and guarded mine fields, (b) an impartial and non-political verification regime to identify violators, and (c) the appropriate use of sanctions. If accompanied by a ban on the production and export of anti-personnel mines, and good faith efforts to develop alternatives this might result in a significant reduction in mine use and casualties over a period of time. The process could be accelerated by international efforts to destroy existing mine stocks, estimated to number some 100 million globally. Such an effort would certainly be less costly than the development of new self-destruct mines, the replacement of existing stocks, continued treatment of victims of self-destruct mines and the development of'viable and humane alternatives'to which the international community has committed itself.

Mr. Chairman,

If States are unable to agree on the total prohibition of anti-personnel mines two further supplemental measures are indispensable:

* a prohibition on mines which are not easily detectable, with specific technical characteristics prescribed for this purpose;

* establishment of the principle that parties which use mines are responsible for their removal.

We are encouraged by the fact that these provisions appear to have gained nearly universal support in this body.

The ICRC would also like to introduce a proposal for consideration under Article 8 of Protocol II pertaining to the protection of ICRC and other humanitarian workers from the effects of land mines. This proposal, to be circulated by the Secretariat, provides specific protections for a category of persons whose lives are endangered by mines and whose tasks, in the case of ICRC mandated under international humanitarian law, are essential to the aid and safety of war victims. We look forward to discussing this with delegations.

Mr. Chairman,

The only effective solution to the global crisis of anti-personnel mines is their total prohibition and elimination. Other options currently being considered here fall far short of the goal of protecting civilians from the indiscriminate effects of anti-personnel mines and are likely to result in continued civilian casualties on a large scale for many years.

This body has the opportunity to take decisive steps this Year towards the goal adopted by the United Nations of elimination of anti-personnel mines and the pursuit of alternatives. If the results of this international process fail effectively to protect civilians from the effects of land mines our work here will have been in vain and will carry little public credibility. In such a circumstance it will be incumbent upon national authorities and informed public opinion to ensure that the global humanitarian tragedy caused by land mines is brought to an end though other means such as the extension and expansion of national moratoria on the export of anti-personnel mines and vigorous national measures to prevent the continued use of mines in violation of established humanitarian norms.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

DDM/JUR.PH 611/95