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Anti-personnel mines: 'dangerous ambiguity'

24-04-1996 News Release 96/16

At the opening meeting of the Review Conference of the 1980 United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons on 22 April, ICRC President Cornelio Sommaruga drew the participants'attention to a " dangerous ambiguity " in the new definition proposed to the Conference, under which an anti-personnel mine is one " primarily designed to explode on the presence, proximity or contact of a person " .

" Use of the phrase'primarily designed'as opposed to'designed'does indeed introduce a dangerous ambiguity " , said ICRC legal adviser Peter Herby. Dual-use mines - anti-personnel and anti-tank - and other types of hybrid weapons are already available and are likely to become increasingly cheap and widespread. These devices would be covered neither by the rules of the 1980 Convention nor by national export controls if the proposed definition is adopted and it is claimed that they are " primarily designed " for use against tanks. All efforts made so far to restrict or prohibit use of these perfidious weapons might then prove vain.