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The scourge of landmines and the responsibility of States

15-02-1995 News Release 7

On 21 January in Geneva, the Group of Governmental Experts ended its final meeting to prepare for the Conference that will review the 1980 United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. The group made a series of recommendations designed to strengthen the rules governing use of landmines. The outcome of the group's deliberations received a mixed reaction at ICRC headquarters. As the body responsible for the implementation and development of international humanitarian law, the International Committee welcomed the group's recommendation that the current restrictions should apply in both international and internal armed conflicts, as well as the decision to include on the agenda of the Conference (to be held in Vienna from 25 September to 13 October) a proposal for a total ban on the use of blinding laser weapons.

However, the ICRC considers that the procedures and mechanisms proposed by the group to limit the suffering caused to civilians by anti-personnel landmines are both too complex and too weak. In fact, only the complete prohibition of landmines could put an end to what has become a large-scale human disaster. It is estimated that there are now more than 100 million such mines laid and waiting  all over the world, nearly 30 million of them on the African continent alone. These devices claim between 1,000 and 2,000 victims a month, most of them civilians.

The ICRC therefore appeals to the States to ponder this question, in order to ensure the success of the Vienna Conference. In particular, it considers that States should at least accept that all mines used must, obligatorily and without exception, be detectable and fitted with self-destruct mechanisms.

To date, only 42 States have signed the 1980 Convention in its present form. To promote  participation by a larger number of States, particularly in Africa, the ICRC is planning a series of four seminars, to be attended by representatives of all African governments, public figures and ICRC experts. The seminars will be prepared with the help of the Organization of African Unity and will be held in Addis Ababa (23-24 February and 11-12 April), Harare (2-3  March) and Yaounde (25-27 April).