CCW Negotiators Set New Limits on Landmine Use, Transfer

By Walkling, Sarah | Arms Control Today, May/June 1996 | Go to article overview
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CCW Negotiators Set New Limits on Landmine Use, Transfer


Walkling, Sarah, Arms Control Today


NEGOTIATORS AT the resumed first review conference for the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) overcame a host of differences on further limiting the use and transfer of anti-personnel landmines and agreed to a number of new amendments to the 15-year-old treaty's landmine protocol. The meeting, held April 22 to May 3 in Geneva, was re-established as a result of the early collapse last year of the convention's first review conference in Vienna, largely due to Russian, Chinese, Pakistani and Indian opposition to Western attempts to strengthen the accord. (See ACT, November 1995.)

However, loopholes in the new restrictions will likely limit their effectiveness in reducing civilian casualties in the near term.

Signed in 1980, the convention's four protocols limit the use of fragmentation weapons, landmines and booby-traps, incendiary weapons and blinding laser weapons. Although 57 states have ratified the convention (the United States ratified the protocols on landmines and fragmentation weapons in 1995), most countries with serious landmine problems have not signed the treaty. The State Department estimates that as many as 110 million antipersonnel landmines lie scattered in 64 countries, and that 26,000 people-mostly civilians-are killed or wounded by landmines each year.

The CCW's original strictures against landmine use, contained in Protocol II, outline "responsible" practices to minimize civilian casualties, including the use of fences and warning signs around mines planted near civilian populations, recording the location of mines, using remotely delivered mines (such as those dispersed from aircraft or artillery) with "effective neutralizing" mechanisms, and taking "necessary measures" to protect civilians from mines after a conflict ends.

At the Geneva conference, representatives from 50 states-parties agreed to new limits on the use and transfer of antipersonnel mines, and to expand the scope of the convention to include internal armed conflict. Negotiators also agreed to enforcement mechanisms to improve compliance with the treaty.

The protocol's new limits now require that all remotely delivered mines and mines used outside of marked and monitored areas must include self-destruct mechanisms that will detonate within 30 days after the mines' emplacement. (These mechanisms cannot have a failure rate greater than 10 percent.) The mines must also include back-up, self-deactivation features (batteries, for example) to ensure that the mines will not operate longer than 120 days after their emplacement. Each stateparty will have up to nine years from its entry into force date for Protocol II's new limits to convert its stocks of anti-personnel landmines produced before that date to meet these specifications. During this conversion period, each state-party will minimize its use of mines that do not meet these technical specifications "to the extent possible."

To protect civilians from non-remotely delivered anti-personnel mines, Protocol II now requires that these mines be placed in marked and monitored areas. Military personnel must monitor the area and markings must be "distinct and durable" and visible to a person about to enter the area.

The Geneva negotiators also agreed on several measures to increase the detectability of landmines. Under the new protocol, all anti-personnel mines produced by CCW parties after January 1, 1997, must include material or devices that provide response signals to "commonly available" detection equipment equivalent to a signal from 8 grams or more of iron. For mines produced before January 1, 1997, parties that cannot "immediately comply" with this detectability requirement will have up to nine years to modify their stockpiles.

To protect deminers, Protocol II now prohibits devices "specifically" designed to detonate mines when a mine detector is brought near, and self-deactivating mines with anti-handling devices that last longer than the mines themselves and thus pose a threat to individuals trying to dig up the inactive mines.

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CCW Negotiators Set New Limits on Landmine Use, Transfer
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