Anti-personnel Mines: Not an Indispensable Weapon of High Military Value
28 March 1996
There is no clear evidence that anti-personnel landmines are indispensable weapons of high military value. On the other hand, their use in accordance with military doctrine is time-consuming, expensive and dangerous and has seldom occurred under combat conditions. These are some of the main conclusions of the study “The Military Use and Effectiveness of Anti-personnel Mines” commissioned by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which was released today. The conclusions, based on a survey of the actual use effectiveness of these weapons in conflicts over the past 55 years, were drawn up by Brigadier Patrick Blagden, a former combat engineer and weapons researcher with the British Royal Army, and a group of high-ranking military experts from eight countries.
The military use of anti-personnel mines in actual conflict has so far received almost no attention in published military studies. Therefore the ICRC took the initiative to commission an expert study that presents a compelling set of conclusions on the actual use of anti-personnel mines since 1940. These conclusions were unanimously supported by senior commanders with broad experience in landmine warfare at an ICRC expert meeting in February 1996 and are being endorsed by a growing number of senior military officers from around the world.
The ICRC study concludes that properly establishing and maintaining an extensive border minefield is time-consuming, expensive and dangerous and has rarely occurred in actual conflicts. In order to have any efficacy at all they need to be under continuous observation and direct fire, which is not always possible and is often not done. Under battlefield conditions the use, marking, and mapping of mines in accordance with classical military doctrine and international humanitarian law is extremely difficult, even for professional armed forces.
The commanders who have endorsed this report found that the use of antipersonnel mines in accordance with the military doctrine which has justified their use has occurred infrequently and only when certain conditions were met: (a) both parties to the conflict were disciplined professional armies with high sense of responsibility and engaged in a short-lived international conflict; (b) the tactical situation was fairly static; (c) forces possessed adequate time and resources to mark, monitor and maintain minefields in accordance with law and doctrine, (d) mined areas were of sufficient economic or military value to ensure