Implementing the Ottawa Treaty: Questions and Answers
1 June 1998
The 126 States which have signed the Convention on the Prohibition on the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction (commonly referred to as the Ottawa treaty) have taken an important step towards resolving the humanitarian crisis caused by these weapons. While the treaty is a remarkable achievement, much remains to be done if the global landmines epidemic is to be successfully addressed. The treaty has been endorsed by a large number of governments, but signing it only reflects the political commitment of the signatory State to be bound by it in the future. Every such State must now take action at the national level for the treaty to become legally binding upon it. The treaty will not come into effect until 40 States have taken such action, and at that time it will apply to them only. In addition, in order to reduce the threat that anti-personnel mines represent for civilians, States must ensure that the obligations contained in the treaty are fully implemented. Putting an end to the scourge of landmines is a process which will require concerted and long-term action.
Q. How does a State become legally bound by the Ottawa treaty?
A. Generally, a State becomes bound by a treaty by ratifying it (in some instances this is referred to as acceptance or approval). Ratification is normally a two-step process. First, a State must follow its own national procedures for adhering to international agreements. In many cases this means submitting the treaty to the national parliament or national assembly for approval. Once these national requirements are met, the government must then notify the United Nations Secretary-General, who is the depositary of the treaty. This is done by depositing an “instrument of ratification” with the United Nations in New York. The ICRC has prepared kits providing additional information on the ratification process and model instruments of ratification which States are welcome to use.
The Ottawa treaty will become binding on the first 40 consenting States six months after the 40th instrument has been deposited with the United Nations. After that time, each additional State will become bound six months after its instrument is deposited. At that point the State is considered to be a party to the treaty or a “State Party”. The treaty invites, and the ICRC encourages, States to