The Banning of Anti-Personnel Landmines: The Legal Contribution of the International Committee of the Red Cross

By Louis Maresca; Stuart Maslen | Go to book overview

21
An International Ban on Anti-personnel Mines:
History and Negotiation of the “Ottawa Treaty”
Stuart Maslen, Legal Adviser, and Peter Herby, Coordinator,
Mines-Arms Unit, Legal Division
Published in the International Review of the Red Cross, 325
December 1998

The background to the Ottawa process

As the First Review Conference of the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons( 1) (CCW) closed in Geneva on 3 May 1996, there was widespread dismay at the failure of the States Parties to reach consensus on effective ways to combat the global scourge of landmines. The CCW Protocol II as amended on 3 May 1996( 2) (Protocol II as amended) introduced a number of changes that were widely welcomed, but it fell far short of totally prohibiting these weapons, a move already supported by more than 40 States. Keen to sustain the international momentum that might otherwise have slackened, the Canadian delegation announced that Canada would host a meeting of pro-ban States later in the year to develop a strategy to move the international community towards a global ban on anti-personnel mines.

That meeting, the “International strategy conference: Towards a global ban on anti-personnel mines” (usually referred to as “the 1996 or the first Ottawa Conference”), was held in the Canadian capital from 3 to 5 October 1996; it set the scene for what would become known as the “Ottawa process”– a fast-track negotiation of a convention banning anti-personnel mines. At the closing session of the Conference the host country's Foreign Minister, Lloyd Axworthy, ended his address with an appeal to all governments to return to Ottawa before the end of 1997 to sign such a treaty. This bold initiative was immediately supported by ICRC President Cornelio Sommaruga, who was attending the Conference, by the UN Secretary-General and by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), but it came as a surprise to the governments taking part, and it was by no means certain that it would be successful. Indeed, at that stage only about 50 governments had publicly declared their support for a comprehensive, worldwide ban on anti-personnel mines,( 3) and Protocol II as amended was widely considered to be the most stringent international agreement possible in the prevailing climate.

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