Experts convening in Geneva to discuss Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War

The Mine Ban Treaty is not the only treaty to regulate the use of landmines, there is also the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW, also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention) and its three associated protocols: Protocol II (“Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby Traps and Other Devices”), Amended Protocol II (which updated and expanded Protocol II in 1996) and Protocol V (“Explosive Remnants of War”).  The CCW and its Protocols are not perfect and in fact, the loopholes and allowances in Amended Protocol II and Protocol V led directly to the drafting and signing of the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, respectively, which are both more comprehensive and represent total bans on anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions. Next week, April 8 – 12, two groups of experts will meet to discuss and advance issues related to Amended Protocol II (APII) and Protocol V.

Each of the Protocols to the CCW are considered separate treaties that require ratification or accession by the states.  As such, the Protocols are officially convening two separate groups of experts, but in fact, for the countries that have ratified both APII and Protocol V, the same individuals can be expected to attend which is why the meetings are happening back to back.  The week after, April 15 – 19, the intercessional meetings of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) will take place and many of the experts in Geneva for the CCW meetings will stay on the CCM intercessional meetings.  For many states affected by landmines and cluster munitions, the cost of multiple trips to Geneva would be prohibitive so by having all three meetings within two weeks will allow more states to participate at a high level.  For those deeply impoverished states, the United Nations does provide some assistance in the form of sponsorship to ensure attendance.

There are two topics under consideration at the APII group of experts meeting that I wish to discuss, universalization and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and one at the Protocol V meeting, reporting. 



Universalization is the process by which the states party to a treaty encourage non-signatories to sign and ratify or accede to a treaty.  There are 22 countries that have not ratified or acceded to Protocol II, APII or the Mine Ban Treaty and there are four (Cuba, Laos, Mongolia and Uzbekistan) that have ratified Protocol II and not APII.  One of the priorities for universalization is to encourage those four countries to accede to the more stringent APII. 

Universalization is also a priority for the parties to the Mine Ban Treaty and an official position, the “Special Envoy on the Universalization of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention” held by Prince Mired bin Ra’ad Al Hussein of Jordan, has been created to increase outreach.  But there are states who have in the recent past declared an opposition (or aggressive ambivalence) to joining the Mine Ban Treaty and for those countries, accession to APII (Protocol II is no longer available as an option) may be acceptable.  For example, every year at the United Nations General Assembly, a vote is taken on measure in support of and to encourage universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty and in 2012, several states abstained (no one voted against) from the vote.  Of those abstainers, some explained their reasoning which included recognizing a continuing military utility for anti-personnel landmines and concerns about the clearance requirements of the Mine Ban Treaty.  By encouraging those states to join APII which seeks to balance a perceived military utility of landmines with the humanitarian impact of those mines, the CCW becomes a stepping stone to accession to the Mine Ban Treaty and the United Nations’ goal of a mine-free world.


Improvised Explosive Devices

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are covered by APII under the definition of “Other Devices” which made specific reference to IEDs. IEDs have been a mainstay in irregular (or asymmetric) warfare for decades, from the car and truck bombs of the 1970s and 1980s, to the sophisticated cell phone-activated bombs of Iraq and Afghanistan. The group of experts has been tasked with finding ways to improve cooperation between states to combat IEDs.  A focus area for cooperation, based upon the “non-paper” drafted by the Australian government, is on tracking the trade and transport of 14 possible pre-cursors of explosive devices. The problem with this approach is the fact that some of these pre-cursors is that they are dual-use products, like nitrate-based fertilizer which was used in Oklahoma City and has been sought by the Taliban.  The same fertilizer could be used in an agrarian society like Afghanistan to boost crop yields and so the Australians are also careful to note that the monitoring of the pre-cursors must not hamper their legitimate trade and non-lethal use. 

The other problem with focusing on monitoring pre-cursors is the fact that many IEDs repurpose military ordnance.  In Iraq and Afghanistan, many IEDs are fashioned from artillery shells of which hundreds of thousands if not millions were stockpiled by the regimes in those countries.  When Saddam Hussein and the Taliban were toppled, little or no effort was made to secure these stockpiles which were looted and have since been used as anti-tank and anti-personnel IEDs. The same happened in Libya, although in Libya it was so much worse because the US and European governments focused on the threats of handheld surface to air missiles or man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) while ignoring all other ordnance.  The result was thousands of MANPADS were secured while hundreds of thousands of mortars, artillery shells and landmines were allowed to be looted. Those shells and landmines will likely turn up around Africa and the Middle East as IEDs.  Therefore, the group of experts must also address and provide for cooperation in securing stockpiles of failing regimes to prevent future proliferation, although frankly the amount of ordnance already available could fuel dozens of insurgencies for decades. 



Protocol V has substantial victim assistance obligations and in the reporting mechanisms that have been developed for the Protocol, states parties are now asked to report on their victim assistance activities and burdens. Similar requirements for reporting exist for parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, but not for parties to APII.  I feel that the victim assistance reporting requirements of the Mine Ban Treaty and Protocol V should be applied to APII, but the test case is Protocol V as the requirements are new.  However, because the cause of injury in explosions is often unclear (e.g., the US government reports all injuries from blasts in Iraq and Afghanistan as caused by IEDs when some were almost certainly caused by landmines), the reporting under Protocol V may necessarily cover all victims to be sure as to cover those injured by the ERW regulated by Protocol V.

Michael P. Moore

April 6, 2013

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