Anti-personnel mines and armed
Antipersonnel (AP) mines maim and kill civilians and combatants indiscriminately, even long after hostilities have ended. The injuries they cause, such as the loss of limbs, are particularly horrific, disable survivors for life, and require expensive and long-term assistance. In addition to their human costs, AP mines prevent communities from having safe access to land, water and infrastructure. Humanitarian relief, economic development and post-conflict reconstruction efforts are also severely hampered in mine-affected areas.
Armed non-State actors (NSAs) are involved in the AP mine problem in several ways. Due to their low cost and easy availability, AP mines have become a weapon of choice for many NSAs worldwide. conducted by Geneva Call identified at least 40 NSAs that used AP mines - including victim-activated IEDs - between 2003 and 2005. As argued in the 2008 “[u]se of antipersonnel mines by NSAGs [non-State armed groups] has declined modestly in recent years. However, NSAG use of antipersonnel mines still takes place in more countries than use by government forces.” Many NSAs also have effective control over territories that are affected by AP mines. Communities in such areas are often forgotten by the mine action community and receive little or no assistance.
Geneva Call refers to AP mines as devices which effectively explode by the presence, proximity or contact of a person. In other words, this definition encompasses a number of such “victim-activated” explosive devices, including:
- industrially-produced AP mines
- anti-vehicle mines that can be victim-activated (with or without anti-handling devices being placed on them)
- victim-activated improvised explosive devices (IEDs)
- explosive booby traps
The humanitarian crisis caused by AP mines in the early 1990s led the international community to support a ban on these weapons. In 1997, States adopted the (hereafter AP Mine Ban Convention), which completely prohibits the use, production or trade of AP mines, and requires the destruction of stockpiled AP mines, the clearance of mined areas, and assistance to AP mine victims. Today, more than three quarters of the States worldwide have joined the convention.
While international humanitarian law (IHL) - as defined, e.g., in customary IHL, the 1980 (known as the CCW) and its 1996 - already restricted the use of landmines (whether anti-personnel or anti-vehicle) by States and NSAs, the international community recognized that the indiscriminate and inhumane nature of AP mines required a total prohibition.
In spite of its significance, the AP Mine Ban Convention, like other treaties, provides no opportunity for NSAs to express their willingness to abide by its norms. NSAs cannot negotiate or become parties to international treaties, which limits their incentive to respect the norms of the AP Mine Ban Convention. It is also apparent that the mechanism provided under the Convention to enforce the ban - criminalization of prohibited acts - is not effective against NSAs. Furthermore, NSAs may undermine States’ ability to accede to or comply with the AP Mine Ban Convention. Some States cite conflict with NSAs as an impediment for joining this convention or for not being able to fulfill all their obligations as signatories.
In response to these challenges, Geneva Call engages NSAs into respecting the AP mine ban and cooperating with humanitarian organizations working to reduce the effects of AP mines. To this end, Geneva Call developed the (hereafter Deed of Commitment banning AP mines). This innovative mechanism allows NSAs, which are not eligible to enter into the AP Mine Ban Convention, to undertake to observe its norms. The Government of the Republic and Canton of Geneva is the custodian of the Deeds.
Under the Deed of Commitment banning AP mines, signatory NSAs agree, inter alia, to:
- prohibit under any circumstance the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of AP mines;
- undertake and cooperate, in stockpile destruction, mine clearance, victim assistance, mine awareness and various other forms of mine action in areas under their control;
- allow and cooperate in the monitoring and verification of their commitment by Geneva Call, notably by providing information and compliance reports as well as allowing field visits and inspections;
- issue orders and directives for the implementation and enforcement of this commitment;
- consider this commitment against AP mines as a first step towards a wider acceptance of IHL and international human rights law.
Geneva Call supports and monitors the implementation of the Deed of Commitment banning AP mines. Support from Geneva Call primarily takes the form of organizing training workshops on the AP mine ban, facilitating technical assistance for stockpile destruction, and promoting interventions from specialist mine action organizations in areas controlled by signatory NSAs. Geneva Call monitors closely NSA compliance with the Deed of Commitment and verifies allegations of violations through field missions, monitoring by partner and other organisations, and self-reporting by NSAs.
To date, in Burundi, India, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar/Burma, the Philippines, Somalia, Sudan, Turkey, and Western Sahara 42 NSAs have signed the Deed of Commitment banning AP mines. Overall, signatory NSAs are abiding to the core prohibitions on the use, production, acquisition and transfer of AP mines. Most signatories are also undertaking humanitarian mine action activities such as demining, stockpile destruction, mine risk education and victim assistance, often collaborating with humanitarian organizations.
In addition and as a result of Geneva Call’s efforts, several NSAs that have not signed the Deed of Commitment banning AP mines have nevertheless pledged to prohibit or limit the use of AP mines. They have done so either unilaterally or through a ceasefire agreement with the government, while some have undertaken mine clearance and victim assistance in areas under their control.
For further information:
Geneva Call, 2012, Geneva Call's experience engaging Armed non-State Actors on Improvised Explosive Devices and Explosive Remnants of War.
Geneva, Switzerland, 24 April 2012
Geneva Call, 2012, Statement at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Meeting of Experts on Mines Other Than Anti-Personnel Mines (MOTAPM) HUMANITARIAN IMPACTS Statement by Geneva Call.
Geneva, 4 April 2012
Geneva Call, 2011, Humanitarian Impact of Landmines in Burma/Myanmar.
[English Version ] [ Burmese Version]. Geneva, January 2011
Anki Sjöberg, 2007,
, Geneva Call and the Programme for the Study of International Organization(s) (PSIO), November. [
Geneva Call, 2007, , November. .
Anki Sjöberg, 2006, , Geneva Call and PSIO, November.
Geneva Call and ICBL (International Campaign to Ban Landmines), 2006, , Report of the workshop co-organized in November 2005 in Zagreb by Geneva Call and the ICBL Non-State Actors Working Group, September.
Anki Sjöberg, 2005, , Geneva Call and PSIO, 30 November. .
Signatory NSAs to the Deed of Commitment banning AP mines, 2004, , December.
Geneva Call, 2004, , Report of the First Meeting of Signatories to Geneva Call's Deed of Commitment, co-organized in Geneva on 31 October - 2 November by Geneva Call, PSIO, and the Armed Groups Project.
Swiss Campaign to Ban Landmines et al., 2001, , Summary report of the conference that established the basic framework for engaging non-State actors in a ban on anti-personnel landmines and launched Geneva Call, held in Geneva on 24-25 March 2000.