ICRC views amended landmines Protocol as 'woefully inadequate'
03-05-1996 News Release 96/16
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) considers as woefully inadequate the initial diplomatic response to the devastating effects of mines, as represented by the results of the Review Conference of the 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), to be confirmed at its closing session today in Geneva. The horror of the immense human suffering caused by landmines is set to continue, and the amended Protocol II will do little to change this situation.
Of the measures adopted today, the ICRC considers several to be of particular importance: extension to non-international conflicts of the scope of Protocol II on landmines; clear assignment of responsibility for mine clearance to those who lay them; improved recording requirements; and improved protection for humanitarian workers.
However, the limitations adopted on the use of landmines are, from the ICRC's point of view, very modest. They will encourage the production, transfer and use of a new generation of mines, while not prohibiting any existing types other than, eventually, non-detectable anti-personnel mines. The ICRC deeply regrets that, for the first time in a humanitarian law treaty, measures have been adopted which, instead of entirely prohibiting the use of an indiscriminate weapon, both permit its continued use and implicitly promote the use of new models which will have virtually the same effects. Given its mandate and humanitarian responsibilities, the ICRC cannot endorse this development.
In contrast, at its initial session in Vienna this Conference adopted a new Protocol IV banning blinding laser weapons. T his represents a landmark for international humanitarian law: particularly abhorrent weapon has been prohibited before being used on the battlefield and its transfer across borders has been completely outlawed.
Much remains to be done. The ICRC believes that this Conference has focused the attention of governments on their humanitarian responsibilities regarding landmine use, and public conscience world-wide has stigmatized - as with - poison gas anti-personnel mines. In addition, a growing number of States have reviewed the balance between military utility and humanitarian concerns, and declared support for a total ban as well as announcing their unilateral renunciation of production, transfer and use of anti-personnel mines and plans to destroy stockpiles. A number of countries and regional bodies are known to be considering such steps.
The victims of the landmine carnage of recent decades will find little solace in the results of the Review Conference. The horrific level of landmine casualties in recent years is set to continue unless governments do far more than required by the agreement adopted today. Intensified public and political efforts, at national and regional levels, must be undertaken to end the landmine crisis. The ICRC suggests that future political efforts should integrate hitherto separate elements of the international: ongoing work towards a total ban; the renunciation by States of production, stockpiling and use; an end to all transfers; and assistance in mine clearance.
The history of the development of humanitarian law is one of ongoing dialogue between legitimate military needs and the humanitarian concerns of all civilized society. The ICRC has sought to keep the spotlight on the human implications of the options under consideration. The ICRC looks forward to working on this issue together with governme nts, military establishments and other humanitarian organizations and to uniting with them at the next Review Conference with a single purpose: the total prohibition of anti-personnel mines.
To date 35 countries have supported an immediate global ban on anti-personnel mines; 16 have renounced their use by their own armed forces; four have suspended use; and at least five are destroying their stockpiles.
A complete text of the speech by ICRC Vice-President Eric Roethlisberger to the final plenary session of the Review Conference is available upon request.