Anti-Vehicle Mines, Still a Thing

Later this year, the Fifth Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) will take place and for another year, nothing will be done to curb or regulate the use of anti-vehicle landmines, or Mines other than Anti-Personnel Mines (MOTAPM) in treaty parlance. The humanitarian impact of these weapons is clear. In the first six months of 2016, 84 people were killed and 136 injured by anti-vehicle mines in 17 different states and territories (GICHD-SIPRI).

Photo 3-06 9 Mines

Anti-tank mines laid by the Angolan army and waiting demolition by the HALO Trust

From August 31 to September 2, the CCW members held a preparatory meeting for the Review Conference and anti-vehicle mines came up as an issue.  According to Reaching Critical Will, Ireland called for continuing work by a group of government experts to discuss the anti-vehicle mines and the applicability of international humanitarian law on these weapons, especially in terms of detectability and limiting the humanitarian harm they cause. Several states supported the Irish proposal, but several opposed the continuation of the group of experts.  The Russian delegation went as far as to say that a detectable anti-vehicle landmine would lose its military value and be pointless (Reaching Critical Will).  I don’t agree with the first part of the Russian statement, but I support the idea that anti-vehicle landmines are pointless, detectable or otherwise.

In advance of the preparatory meeting, GICHD published the report from a November 2015 meeting on anti-vehicle mines which served as some of the context for the meeting. One of the most interesting points to me from the November meeting was a statement from the HALO Trust about its demining work in Somaliland.  According to the Trust, many of the landmines in Somaliland are minimum metal content anti-vehicle mines which are very hard to detect and require slower, manual demining methods.  Had the mines been detectable, Somaliland could have been mine-free in 2012 and the international community would have saved US $30 million in additional clearance costs.  Instead, there are 180 hazardous areas remaining, most of which are roads which cover over a thousand kilometers.  Since 2012, 50 people have been killed or injured by landmines, including many anti-vehicle mines, which shows the continuing humanitarian impact of non-detectable anti-vehicle mines (Landmine Monitor 2014 and forthcoming).

Michael P. Moore

September 22, 2016

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

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