Why Ted Bromund and the Heritage Foundation are wrong about landmines

Ted Bromund is the Margaret Thatcher senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation and dropped this little piece of coal in my stocking just before Christmas. This is not the first article critical of the Mine Ban Treaty published by Mr. Bromund and the Heritage Foundation.  They also published this piece in December 2010, this one in September 2014 and this article in December 2014.  Mr. Bromund’s colleague at the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, Daniel Kochis, published this piece in June 2014 in response to the Obama Administration’s change in landmine policy announced at the Mine Ban Treaty Review Conference in Maputo, Mozambique. There are a few major fallacies in the most recent piece which was a response to the release of this year’s Landmine Monitor report, a report I had a hand in writing so I feel a bit more sensitive to this critique than previous ones.

First, the picture accompanying the article shows a truckload of anti-tank mines which are not regulated by the Mine Ban Treaty.  The photo below would have been a far more appropriate picture which shows several South African-made R2M2 anti-personnel mines.  Mr. Bromund is welcome to use this photo with proper attribution.

15, Collected

Second, Mr. Bromund points out that “U.S. land mines are not responsible for any of these casualties.”  He goes on to say that “a ban on U.S. land mines won’t help, for the simple reason that U.S. mines aren’t killing anyone.” And technically he may be right: US-made landmines probably didn’t kill anyone in 2014, but US-bought landmines almost certainly did. As a small example consider Angola which reported 11 landmine casualties in 2014 (a number which almost certainly does not reflect the true number of casualties).  Those casualties were the result of landmines laid by government forces and UNITA rebels during the course of the three-decades long civil war in Angola.  During the war, the government was supported by the Soviet Union and Cuba and the Soviet Union sent many landmines to the government as part of military aid packages.  These mines would have been made by the Soviet Union or its allies including East Germany, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.  UNITA was supported by the United States government and received military and logistical support, but not through direct channels.  Much like other clients of the US during the Cold War, UNITA received arms and weapons made not by the US, but by NATO allies like Italy and Belgium or geographically closer allies like South Africa and Zaire.  This allowed the US to retain “plausible deniability” for supporting rebel groups against internationally-recognized governments.  Now, can I prove that any of the 40 landmine victims in Angola were injured by a US-made landmine?  No, but the possibility is very strong and Mr. Bromund knows this.

Third, Mr. Bromund says “a U.S. ban offer any kind of moral lesson to others.”  Wrong again.  Only two countries in the Western Hemisphere maintain stockpiles of anti-personnel landmines, the US and Cuba.  And Cuba has explicitly said it will continue to retain landmines as long as the US does. Also, the former Soviet republic of Georgia has said that if the United States feels anti-personnel landmines are a necessary part of its arsenal, then Georgia would view them the same way.  Therefore, if the US were to ban landmines, at least two countries would lose their justification for not doing the same.

Fourth, Mr. Bromund claims “Repeated studies have found that no other weapon can protect U.S. forces and civilians as reliably as land mines.”  The studies Mr. Bromund cites are from 1999, but a 2002 Government Accountability Office (GAO) study, GAO—2-1003, “U.S. Use of Land Mines in the Persian Gulf War,” which specifically looked at US military landmine use in the first Persian Gulf War (Mr. Bromund’s studies looked at models and theories of landmine use, not actual use). According to the GAO, the US military only used 118,000 “self-deactivating” mines in the Gulf War despite having access to millions of persistent mines.  Of those 118,000 mines, there is no evidence that any of them “actually caused or contributed to enemy losses.”  Also, Iraqi forces were not “aware of or have actually encountered” landmines used to protect defensive positions.  So, US mines were completely ineffective and 81 US soldiers were confirmed killed or injured by Iraqi or “unknown” landmines.  And while no evidence was found that US landmines caused US casualties, the Department of Defense confirmed that US-made and used cluster munitions caused 80 casualties among US service members; other unexploded US ordnance caused 16 more US casualties.  So, as the GAO report points out: more US casualties were caused by US cluster munitions and UXO than Iraqi landmines.  The GAO report goes on to highlight significant reliability issues with self-destructing mines which had a dud rate in the Gulf War of 100 times that reported by the Department of Defense.  So while Mr. Bromund suggests that US landmines protect soldiers and civilians reliably, the actual evidence is otherwise.

Lastly, Mr. Bromund in his December 2010 commentary trotted out the tired chestnut that eliminating landmines from the US arsenal “would seriously degrade the ability of the U.S. to defend itself and its allies, particularly in Korea.” The Korean Peninsula remains the one place where the US will continue to allow use of anti-personnel landmines even though, get this: the US does not have a single landmine in Korea.  All of the landmines on the Korean Peninsula belong to North Korea or South Korea.  The US maintains this exception because, in the case of an attack on South Korea by North Korea, the US would assume military control of South Korean forces and therefore South Korea’s landmines.  The US commander in Korea has said that the one million South Korean landmines prevent a North Korean invasion, but that claim represents a serious failure to comprehend the dynamics of the conflict.

Landmines are not what prevent the North Korean army from marching across the Demilitarized Zone; the threat of a US nuclear strike does.  North Korea’s government allowed as much as a tenth of its population to starve to death in the 1990s.  A government so callous would think nothing of sending a division of troops to act as human mine-clearers in advance of a mechanism invasion.  And what was North Korea doing while its people starved? Developing atomic weapons to use as a deterrent in case they did make an assault on South Korea.  Pyongyang’s pursues nuclear capability (and the means to reliably deliver warheads) to counter the perceived US threat that exists as long as South Korea remains under US protection.  The Korean conflict is a nuclear one, not a conventional one and any general, US or otherwise, who doesn’t realize that and relies on landmines to sleep well at night is mistaken.

I don’t know why the Mine Ban Treaty and efforts to eliminate landmines bother Mr. Bromund so.  Any military usefulness for these weapons is dwarfed by their humanitarian impact which extends way beyond just the immediate casualties of landmines.  More than 12 million people live in areas affected by landmines, limiting their access to water, agricultural land and markets.  Most of these people are not in active conflict zones are suffering the after effects of wars that ended a generation or more ago. Mr. Bromund and the Heritage Foundation should be applauding the US’s leadership on this cause, as the US is the single-largest donor to mine clearance around the world, not trying to undermine it with flawed and specious arguments.

Or perhaps there’s a simpler explanation.  South Korea’s Hanwha Group was, in 2014, one of ten donors to give at least US $1 million to the Heritage Foundation (2014 Annual Report).  Hanwha Corporation was founded as an explosives company in the 1950s and remains one of the world’s largest producers of defense munitions (Hanwha Profile).  Those munitions include cluster munitions and landmines (The Monitor; Plunkett Research; IDEX). Just saying.

Michael P. Moore

December 29, 2015

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org



SPLA Officer Claims South Sudan used Banned Anti-Personnel Landmines

(updated 3/30/15, 12:15 pm EST)

On March 12, 2015, an officer in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the Army of the Republic of South Sudan, admitted that the SPLA violated the Mine Ban Treaty when he “stated clearly that anti-personnel mines has been deployed in the area around Nassir,” in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State.  The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which is tasked with monitoring the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement signed by the Republic of South Sudan and the rebel movement known as the SPLA In Opposition (SPLA / IO) and loyal to South Sudan’s ousted vice president, Riek Machar, documented this admission and has reported it to the Peace and Security Department of the African Union (IGAD).  This admission by the SPLA corroborates claims made by the SPLA / IO in February (Sudan Tribune) and early this month (Nyamilepedia) that the SPLA has been using anti-personnel landmines around Nassir (also spelled Nasir and Nasser).

Political Map of South Sudan showing States. Upper Nile is the northeastern-most state, and Nassir is in the south of Upper Nile State.

Political Map of South Sudan showing States. Upper Nile is the northeastern-most state, and Nassir is in the south of Upper Nile State.

IGAD has called on the government of South Sudan to clarify the claims of anti-personnel landmine use and asked the Special Envoys to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement to “issue a strong statement against the use of any sort of landmines by the Parties to the present conflict” (IGAD).

In response, the SPLA’s spokesperson, Army information director Malaak Ayuen, denied any use of banned weapons saying that only barbed wire is being used.  Ayuen also invited IGAD officials to travel to Nassir to verify for themselves (Bloomberg).

This admission is not the first suspected violation of the Mine Ban Treaty by the Republic of South Sudan.  In the course of the current conflict between South Sudan and the SPLA / IO, the use of anti-tank landmines and cluster munitions have been documented, but South Sudan has denied the claims, blaming rebel forces for their use (AP Mine Ban Convention; The Monitor) and falsely accused the United Nations peacekeeping mission of using landmines (Landmines in Africa).  On March 16th, Machar wrote to the United Nations headquarters to request a verification mission alleging more than 80 landmine and cluster munition related incidents; 20 of which have caused human casualties (Bloomberg).

If the SPLA has used banned anti-personnel landmines, there is the question of where the mines would have come from.  The SPLA renounced the use of anti-personnel landmines in 2001 when it signed Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment, more than four years before the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ended decades of civil war in Sudan and allowed for the creation of South Sudan as an independent country (Geneva Call).  South Sudan acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty within five months of becoming an independent state in 2011 and shortly thereafter declared that all known stockpiles of anti-personnel landmines had been destroyed (The Monitor).  The destruction of all anti-personnel landmines in South Sudan has been re-confirmed several times.  Therefore, if anti-personnel landmines were used by the SPLA in Nassir, the mines would have either been newly imported, or from previously unreported stockpiles.

Also, Nassir has previously been identified as a suspected hazardous area likely contaminated with anti-personnel landmines (AP Mine Ban Convention).

Known areas of anti-personnel landmine contamination in 2013. From the South Sudan Mine Action Strategy, 2012 - 2016.

Known areas of anti-personnel landmine contamination in 2013. From the South Sudan Mine Action Strategy, 2012 – 2016.

It is possible that the earlier landmine contamination would cause the injuries reported in February, which also injured a naturalized US citizen fighting with the SPLA / IO, but would not explain why an officer of the SPLA would admit to new usage.

The Republic of South Sudan needs to respond to the claims of its officers.  If the claim cannot or is not repudiated, then a verification mission should travel to the site of admitted use and document what mines, if any were used.  If banned anti-personnel landmines were used by the SPLA, the origin of those mines must be determined.  At this point, it is up the Republic of South Sudan to prove its innocence after the admission of its officer on March 12.  This week marks the annual observation of International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action (Saturday, April 4th); it would be very poor form of the Republic of South Sudan to raise awareness of landmines by actually using them.

Michael P. Moore

March 30, 2015

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

When language gets in the way of good news: Is Zambia “landmine-free”?

In recent months, we’ve discussed Zambia and noted that there appears to be confusion over whether or not there are any landmines in Zambia.  Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Bob Mtonga, a Zambian physician and disarmament advocate, and he explained to me the situation which is this: to the best of anyone’s knowledge, all known landmines have been cleared from Zambia.  However, because landmine use in Zambia was “nuisance” mining without any specific pattern, there remains the possibility that previously unknown and undocumented landmines could be found in Zambia.  This possibility prevents the Zambian government from making any statements, definitive or otherwise, about whether or not Zambia is landmine-free.  Which is understandable.  If Zambian officials declared the country landmine-free and someone where to discover or be injured by a mine, then the credibility of the government and the landmine clearance process could be called into question.

However, the government’s equivocation on the subject and silence when asked directly leads to fears that the country still has a landmine problem.  Already, in response to the uncertainty, the British government has revised its travel advice for Zambia which could impact tourism in the country.  So, what can a country do in this situation?  And, can a country ever announce that it is truly landmine-free?

To be clear, there is no reason to believe that there are any landmines in Zambia.  There have been no confirmed reports of landmine incidents for five years and the government maintains an explosive ordnance disposal unit to respond to any potential issues.  But what Zambia’s situation shows is the problem with how we talk about landmine clearance and what it means to be “landmine free.”

Allowing my inner lawyer out, there are really three standards that can be applied to a country: “landmine-free,” “landmine impact free,” and “compliant with Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty.” “Landmine-free” means just that: there are absolutely no landmines in a given area, usually a country. It is an absolute and probably only reflects countries in which landmines have never been used.  It also encompasses all landmines, anti-personnel and anti-vehicle.  “Landmine impact free” and “compliant with Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty” have very specific definitions which may or may not meet the absolute standard of “landmine-free.”

Compliance with Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty means that all known anti-personnel landmines have been cleared from a country.  A country can still have known anti-vehicle mine contamination and be compliant with the Article 5 because the Mine Ban Treaty’s obligations are specific to anti-personnel landmines.  Compliance only affects the 162 countries party to the Mine Ban Treaty.

Landmine impact free (as defined in the International Mine Action Standards) can mean that a country may still have landmines, anti-personnel or anti-vehicle, but such mines do not have a negative socio-economic effect on communities.  Countries not party to the Mine Ban Treaty can (and often do) aspire to being landmine impact free.

“Compliant with Article 5” and “landmine impact free” are both time-specific descriptions.  Because compliance with Article 5 means only known landmines are cleared, a country that has previously declared itself compliant with Article 5 can identify previously-unknown minefields and still be compliant.  This happened in Burundi and Germany and the governments then proceeded to clear the newly discovered minefields.  Because landmine impact free refers to the absence of negative socio-economic effects on communities, there is the possibility that changes in a community would change the effect existing landmines have on that community.  For example, a particular community could exist for some time next to a marked and known minefield but when that community grows in population and begins to need additional agricultural land to support itself, the community might encroach upon the minefield because there is no other available land for farming.  By definition, a country that has completed landmine clearance under Article 5 is landmine impact free.

So where does that mean for Zambia?  Zambia is in compliance with Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty.  Zambia is landmine impact free.  Is Zambia absolutely landmine free?  Maybe, maybe not; but Zambia should be proud of clearing all known landmines and fulfilling its obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty and should not be silent about it.  Zambia’s foreign minister Harry Chiluba has been traveling throughout the country to reassure Zambians that there are no known landmine dangers in the country and that should any threats be discovered, the government will respond swiftly and fulfill its obligations to survivors and victims of mines.  Thus, Zambia is doing everything it can to live up to the aspiration of being landmine free.

Michael P. Moore

November 17, 2014

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

The Imperative to Ban Anti-Vehicle Landmines

Anti-personnel landmines are specifically banned by the Mine Ban Treaty, which 162 countries have agreed to be bound by, and regulated by Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which key Mine Ban Treaty hold-outs China, India, Pakistan, Russia and the United States are party to. The dramatic reduction in casualties from anti-personnel landmines is largely due to these two treaties which were negotiated and came into force in the late 1990s.  However, both treaties specifically avoided regulation or restriction on the production, transfer and use of anti-vehicle (or anti-tank) landmines.  As a result, anti-vehicle landmines probably present a greater humanitarian threat than anti-personnel landmines.

Over the last decade or so, a group of countries, led in large part by the United States, has pushed for a new protocol for the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) that would specifically address the humanitarian impact of anti-vehicle mines, or “mines other than anti-personnel mines” (MOTAPM) as they are referred to in the CCW. Recently, the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) published a report on the humanitarian and development impact of anti-vehicle mines.  The report compiled existing research conducted by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and added in three country case studies to demonstrate the findings reported by the ICBL and the ICRC.  The report showed that the impact of anti-vehicle mines may actually be increasing as post conflict countries like Cambodia develop as well as the fact that new mine usage in South Sudan appears to be entirely anti-vehicle mines.  The report recommended regulating the use of anti-vehicle mines to reduce their humanitarian impact and regulating the production of the mines to ensure detectability.

As of today, the only restriction on the production of anti-vehicle is that they cannot be designed so as to detonate in the presence of a metal detector or similar mine detection equipment. The only regulations on their use is they cannot be used “indiscriminately” or to deliberately target civilians.  There are no regulations on their transfer, except those imposed by individual nations (e.g., the US will not export any “persistent” anti-vehicle mines).  Since 1997, anti-personnel mines have been required to contain a certain amount of metal to ensure detectability by metal detectors or similar devices; anti-vehicle mines have no such requirement.  The Arms Trade Treaty, when it comes into force later this year, will restrict transfer of anti-vehicle mines (and a host of other military equipment and items) to countries in conflict or where gross violations of human rights, including gender-based violence, are occurring.  That’s a good start, but the damage has been done.

When the Gaddhafi regime in Libya fell, hundreds of thousands of stockpiled anti-vehicle mines were looted by various militias.  Other countries, like the Central African Republic, which had eliminated their stockpiles of anti-personnel landmines in accordance with the Mine Ban Treaty have been revealed to have stockpiles of anti-vehicle mines.  In South Sudan and Mali, humanitarian relief is hampered by the presence of newly laid anti-vehicle mines in roadways. But it’s the old anti-vehicle mines that really demonstrate the horror of these weapons. Earlier this year, in Guinea-Bissau which has cleared all of its anti-personnel landmines, a minibus struck an anti-vehicle mine that had been laid three or four decades earlier killing 22 people.  In Egypt, the western desert is polluted with millions on anti-vehicle mines left over from the tank battles of World War II; less than a week ago, eight Egyptians were injured by one such mine.  In Cambodia, as the country develops and tractors are introduced to improve agricultural output, farmers are finding anti-vehicle mines in areas that were known to be free of anti-personnel mines, often with tragic consequences.

The success of the Mine Ban Treaty has meant that the number of people injured and killed by anti-personnel landmines.  But as we see in places like Angola, where deminers find one anti-vehicle mine for every 15 to 20 anti-personnel landmines, the number of incidents involving death or injury from anti-vehicle mines (196) is almost as high as the number from anti-personnel mines (247).  A ban on the use of anti-vehicles mines would complete the promise of the Mine Ban Treaty.

Next month, the parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons will convene for their annual meeting.  One of the major points on the agenda for the CCW is the continued discussion about lethal autonomous weapons (or “killer robots”), but another issue will be the humanitarian impact of anti-vehicle mines.  The governments of the United States and Ireland previously supported attempts to address the dangers poses by anti-vehicle mines and reduce their negative humanitarian impact. The government of Russia has been one of the strongest opponents to any new protocol to the CCW that would limit anti-vehicle mines saying that such weapons have military utility and any protocol would not prevent the “irresponsible use” of anti-vehicle mines by “terrorists” and non-state actors, which are the cause of any civilian injuries.  The Russian government also feels continued discussion about anti-vehicle mines to be “hopeless” because the “humanitarian concerns regarding these mines have not been substantiated.”  The difference in opinions is simple: the Irish have stated that anti-vehicle mines “have clear indiscriminate effects and that these are not adequately addressed in existing IHL [international humanitarian law]” and the regulations imposed by Amended Protocol II of the CCW are insufficient.  The Russians state that “full compliance with the IHL norms” and Amended Protocol II are sufficient to prevent any “’specific’ humanitarian threat” from anti-vehicle mines.

The GICHD-SIPRI report clearly demonstrates that the humanitarian impact of anti-vehicle mines to civilian populations is significant and persists for decades after the conclusion of conflict.  This report can serve as a basis for new discussions about anti-vehicle mines and the need for their regulation.  It is my sincere hope that the US, Ireland and their partners will push for a new protocol that would ban these weapons as the Mine Ban Treaty banned anti-personnel mines.  I would hope that any regulation of anti-vehicle mines would at the very least require the following:

  1. Change production standards of anti-vehicle mines to ensure they are detectable by the same means as anti-personnel mines;
  2. Require the destruction of any anti-vehicle mines, in the ground or in stockpiles that do not meet this detectability standard;
  3. Restrict the trade, transfer and export of anti-vehicle mines to the same standards as described under the Arms Trade Treaty;
  4. Recognize the humanitarian impact outweighs any military utility;
  5. Requires states and deminers to differentiate between anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines in clearance reporting.

Michael P. Moore

November 3, 2014

The Choices We Make: How Chad Uses its Demining Capacity

Article 5.1 of the Mine Ban Treaty commits States Parties to clearing all known anti-personnel landmines from their territory. In full, the clause reads:

Each State Party undertakes to destroy or ensure the destruction of all anti-personnel mines in mined areas under its jurisdiction or control, as soon as possible but not later than ten years after the entry into force of this Convention for that State Party.

Too many countries have not met this obligation.  Some have missed the deadline due to the extent of contamination, e.g., Cambodia and Afghanistan, but others have simply failed to put forth the effort to clear their minefields despite having the capacity to do.  Blaming mismanagement and shortfalls, Chad has requested an additional ten years to clear its minefields; a request that has been granted despite the country’s ability to complete the task faster.

Chad’s minefields, almost exclusively found in the northern area of the country, come from the 1973 invasion of Chad by Libya and decades of internal conflicts and cover some 128 square kilometers, about double the size of Manhattan Island in New York City.  Unexploded ordnance (UXO) is found in the north, east and west of the country, but only covers a little more than 3 kilometers.  Despite this limited area of contamination, roughly 0.01% of the country, Chadian officials have talked about minefields covering “vast swathes of territory” (AP Mine Ban Convention; The Monitor).

The limited landmine contamination in Chad has had an outsized impact on the population.  More than a hundred people are killed or injured by mines every year due to the highly mobile nature of Chad’s population, many of whom are pastoralists.  Chad also has a very large refugee population with nearly half a million refugees, equivalent to almost a tenth of the country’s population, fleeing conflicts in Sudan and the Central African Republic, and refugees are one of the most at-risk groups for landmine injuries (IRIN News; ACAPS).  In the past, Chad has explained its inability to address the landmine issue as the result of mismanagement and absence of central leadership on the issue.  While there may be some truth to that and certainly the changes in ownership of the mine action issue in Chad would affect the government’s ability to prioritize landmine clearance, it doesn’t not explain the whole story.

The United States government, as part of its counter-terrorism and regional security initiative has identified Chad as a key partner.  Since 1993, the US government has provided US $11 million to Chad to address its landmine problem and beginning in 2010, AFRICOM has helped “to build capabilities within Chad by instructing local forces on demining, stockpile management, and medical first response.”  As a result of that training, “the Chad National Demining Authority assists their American instructors in teaching demining operations to personnel from other countries in the Sahel and throughout the African continent” (State Department). Therefore, the government of Chad has used its newly increased capacity not to address its own landmine contamination, but to train other countries.  Instead of first getting its own house in order, Chad has decided to deploy these valuable assets elsewhere.

The government of Chad is obligated by its ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty to clear all anti-personnel landmines “as soon as possible.”  The training from the US government should be used to meet that obligation before helping other countries to meet their obligations.  With a determined effort, Chad could complete its landmine clearance long before its current deadline of January 1, 2020.  The US, as a prime supporter of Chad’s landmine clearance work and trainer of its deminers, should encourage Chad to focus on its mines before asking Chad to help neighboring countries.

Michael P. Moore

October 3, 2014


One Step Closer…

Yesterday the Obama Administration announced another change in the United States’s landmine policy (Washington Post).  This change, which bans most uses of anti-personnel landmines by the US, builds upon previous policy announcements while specifically carving out an exception for use on the Korean Peninsula to defend South Korea from a North Korean invasion.

In his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative where he discussed the policy change, Obama also quoted Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  In the history of the US effort to ban landmines, that arc is very long, more than two decades and counting and spanning four presidencies.  Yesterday’s announcement was another small step towards a complete ban on landmines.  To quickly cover that history, here’s a summary of the steps to date:


1992 – George H.W. Bush bans export of anti-personnel landmines (legislation written by Sen. Patrick Leahy)

1994 – Bill Clinton calls for the eventual elimination of anti-personnel landmines (address to the United Nations General Assembly)

1996 – Bill Clinton bans use on non-detectable (“low-metal” or plastic) anti-personnel landmines (Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons)

2004 – George W. Bush bans use of all persistent (“dumb”) landmines, anti-personnel and anti-vehicle (published US Landmine Policy)

June 2014 – Barack Obama ends all procurement and production of anti-personnel landmines (announcement at Maputo Review Conference)

September 2014 – Barack Obama bans all use of anti-personnel landmines outside of the Korean Peninsula, pledges to destroy all mines not needed for the defense of South Korea (White House announcement)


At this point, the US could now be fully compliant with the Mine Ban Treaty except for the Korean reservation.  Until that reservation is removed, the US cannot achieve the stated goal of accession to the Mine Ban Treaty.  One more step, Mr. Obama.  The world is waiting.

Michael P. Moore

September 24, 2014

Responses to the Obama Administration’s landmine policy announcement

On June 27th, the Obama Administration, via its Ambassador to Mozambique, pledged to end the purchase and stockpiling of anti-personnel landmines and put the United States on a path to joining the Mine Ban Treaty (Reuters).  Since that announcement, many statements have come out for and against the new policy.  Or rather, many statements are cautiously for the policy, but also call on the administration to do more and those against are firmly against, citing the risk of war on the Korean Peninsula.  Here is a round-up.

Cautiously For:

Sen. Patrick Leahy, “Reaction Of Senator Patrick Leahy To The White House Announcement Of Changes To U.S. Landmine Policy,” June 27, 2014 and “Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On A Step Toward A Landmine Ban,” delivered on the Senate Floor, July 8, 2014

The New York Times, “Still Further to Go on Land Mines,” July 4, 2014

Pittsburgh Post Gazette, “Heavy toll: Land mines meant to deter troops still kill civilians,” July 14, 2014

Matthew Bolton, “Obama’s New Landmine Policy: Change I Can Believe In, Tentatively,” July 9, 2014

LTG Robert G. Gard, Jr. (Ret), “Disappointing U.S. Statement on Anti-Personnel Landmines,” Huffington Post, July 9, 2014

Rachel Stohl and Shannon Dick, “Good News, Bad News Story From US Landmines Announcement,” Stimson Center, July 07, 2014

Daryl G. Kimball, “U.S. Pledge Not to Produce Landmines Positive, But Falls Short: It Is Time to Accede to Mine Ban Treaty,” Arms Control Association, 27, 2014

MAG America, “U.S. Declares That It Will No Longer Produce Anti-Personnel Landmines – Good First Step,” June 27, 2014

Handicap International, “Handicap International Welcomes Tentative, U.S. Steps Towards Mine Ban Treaty Accession.” June 27, 2014

Human Rights Watch, “United States: Back on Path to Landmine Ban? A Pledge Not to Produce or Acquire More Stocks,” June 27, 2014

US Campaign to Ban Landmines, “Positive Changes in U.S. Landmine Policy Stop Short of Immediate Ban: Commitment to No Longer Produce Antipersonnel Mines,” June 27, 2014

National Catholic Reporter, “Editorial: Why won’t the US sign a land mine treaty?” July 16, 2014

Lloyd Axworthy, “Another chance to bury the scourge of land mines,” The Globe and Mail, July 18, 2014

Nora Sheets, “Land mines are a scourge that we must eliminate,” Pittsburgh Post Gazette, July 21, 2014

Joe Cirincione, “A Good Step Towards Ending Landmines,” Defense One, June 27, 2014.


Solidly Against:

Wall Street Journal (subscription required), “Obama Hedges on Land Mines: In the name of arms control, the U.S. heightens the risks of war in Korea,” June 29, 2014

Lamont Colucci, “Obama is Playing Politics with Landmines: Landmines, believe it or not, save lives.” U.S. News and World Report, July 18, 2014.

Rep. Buck McKeon, “McKeon Statement on President Obama’s Land Mine Announcement,” June 27, 2014

Carl J. Asszony, “Opinion: U.S. shouldn’t join land-mine treaty,” The Daily Record, July 5, 2014  (added 7/24/14)

Special recognition goes to Tim Lockette of the Anniston Star covering Anniston, Alabama (population 22,666) for his article covering the landmine policy announcement and the ongoing, already-planned, destruction of the landmine stockpile at the Anniston Army Depot.  If you read only one article about the new landmine policy, this is the article to read. Lockette corresponded with Navy Commander Amy Derrick-Frost who confirmed the US landmine stockpile of 3 million “smart” mines but Derrick-Frost also confirmed the existence of “dumb” mines – exactly those banned by the Mine Ban Treaty – but noted that those mines were scheduled to be “demilitarized.” An official at the Anniston Army Depot reported that over 125,000 anti-personnel landmines were at the Depot, but “by some definitions, the number of anti-personnel mines in stock could be higher.”  Anniston Army Depot has a history of storing weapons “the U.S. is reluctant to acknowledge” including chemical weapons and landmines which released nerve gas which were incinerated between 2003 and 2011 (Anniston Star)

Michael P. Moore

July 22, 2014 (updated July 24, 2014, August 8, 2014)

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

Four Takeaways from the Maputo Conference on a Mine-Free World

States, advocates and survivors came together in the Mozambican capitol of Maputo to review the progress of the Mine Ban Treaty after 15 years of implementation and agree upon an agenda for the next five years. From June 23rd to the 27th nearly one thousand delegates participated in formal sessions and dozens of side events celebrating the Treaty’s accomplishments and preparing for the next phase of work. (Round-ups of each day’s activities, as reported in social media, can be found here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4.) While there were entirely too many moments of note to try and summarize, from the United States’s announcement that it will no longer procure anti-personnel landmines (3rd Review Conference) to the continued confirmations from the host country of its desire to be mine-free by the end of the year (3rd Review Conference), there were four items that particularly stood out for me despite only observing the Conference from a distance of more than 8,000 miles away. These items include challenges from deminers, a defense of the use of landmines, and the continuing challenge of survivor assistance.

“Doing the Math on Clearance Rates”
Co-founder of the HALO Trust and current president of HALO-USA, Guy Willoughby, addressed the Conference’s attendees on Day 3 (The HALO Trust). With over 25 years of experience in humanitarian demining and over 7,000 employees employed in 17 countries clearing landmines, Mr. Willoughby challenged the attendees to “aspire to making landmines history” and reminded states that they had agreed to a ten-year deadline to clear all landmines. The HALO Trust’s forecasting shows that with modest increases in donor funding, all landmines could be cleared from Afghanistan, Angola, Armenia, Cambodia, Colombia, Georgia, Sri Lanka, Somalia and Zimbabwe by 2025. But, if mine action contributions decline, “Angola will take 28 more years to clear instead of ten… and Zimbabwe 48 more years.” Those delays would mean “thousands more human and livestock casualties, thousands of hectares left uncultivated.” The HALO Trust is widely respected within the mine action community and Mr. Willoughby’s intervention generated the momentum needed for the participants to agree upon 2025 as the goal for a landmine-free world.

“Persistent Failure”
Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) presented a report during a side event on June 26th which assessed the scope of the landmine clearance challenge that remained. NPA listed 40 countries, 24 of whom are party to the Mine Ban Treaty and 16 which are not, that are fully capable of clearing all known minefields by 2019. However, NPA’s report stated that “the primary obstacle to effective and efficient clearance of mined areas is not funding per se, as is sometimes alleged, much less the weather or difficult terrain, but lack of political will to get the job done. In particular, when we look at the Article 5 waifs and strays, such as Chad, Senegal, Turkey, and the United Kingdom (discussed below), it is has been lack of political will that is the major cause of persistent failure to implement Article 5, not the availability or otherwise of adequate funding.” The report goes further to critique the United Nations’ role in mine action saying the UN’s focus on capacity building of mine action centers was “a strategic mistake” with “petty squabbles about ‘who gets the overhead’ between UNDP, UNMAS, and UNOPS.” A better role for the UN would have been “to focus on generating political will at the higher levels of government, creating an enabling environment for mine action.” A further critique of the UN agencies was the fact that they “never sought to gather basic mine action data about contamination, progress in clearance, and victims.” The data problems are evident as mine action operators and mine action centers “are unable to disaggregate land release into cancelation of mined areas by non-technical survey, release by technical survey, or release by clearance, or even to distinguish battle area clearance from mine clearance.”

NPA’s report then lists the criteria for an effective mine action program that is fully able to address any existing landmine contamination. In NPA’s assessment: “The best performing mine action program in 2013 among 30 affected States Parties was Algeria, followed by Mauritania and Cambodia. The most improved mine action program in 2013 was Zimbabwe. The least performing mine action program in 2013 was Chad, slightly below Turkey and then, equally, Ethiopia, Senegal, and South Sudan.”

I love, love, love both of these interventions. The HALO Trust and NPA have decades of on-the-ground experience in landmine clearance and have born witness to what countries are capable of when those countries have the political will to act. Guy Willoughby challenged the donor community to step up and commit the necessary resources to deliver a landmine-free world and NPA called out those countries who have been negligent in their obligations. NPA’s report reflects what I have heard many people say in private conversations and I’m so happy to see them come out and say it out loud. Long overdue. On the flip side, here are the two things that I did not like so much:

“Harmonizing Military Necessity with Humanitarian Concerns”
I do not envy the Indian and Chinese delegations at the Maputo Conference which participated as observers since neither country has signed or acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. The Indian delegation stated that the Mine Ban Treaty was unnecessary as “the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons provides the appropriate legal framework for harmonizing military necessity with humanitarian concerns” and defended the need for anti-personnel landmines as part of “the legitimate defence requirements of States, particularly those with long borders.” Despite its support for “a world free of the threat of landmines,” India’s “national security concerns oblige us currently to stay out of the Convention” (3rd Review Conference).

The Chinese delegation admitted to keeping “a very limited number” of anti-personnel landmines in its stockpile “for defence purpose.” These mines are compliant with the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons but absolutely banned by the Mine Ban Treaty. Also, in a challenge to the Mine Ban Treaty’s Article 5 which obligates States to clear known minefields within their territory, China advocated for “the principle of ‘user to clear’” to “accelerate the elimination of the landmine scourge.” The “user to clear” principle would relieve States of any obligation to protect their own citizens from landmines (3rd Review Conference).

By defending the use of landmines and reiterating their “legitimate” use, India and China continue to provide cover to states like Egypt, Morocco and Israel which remain outside the Mine Ban Treaty. As the Special Envoy for the Universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty said, the decision to ban landmines is not a military one, it is a humanitarian one. There is no balance between military utility and humanitarian costs when it comes to anti-personnel landmines; the humanitarian costs so far outweigh any possible military utility as to render the mines mere “weapons of cowards” as Pope Francis described them.

The “user to clear” principle is just wrong and let me offer two examples to show why.  1) In Zimbabwe there are over 1 million landmines that were laid by the Rhodesian government in the 1970s.  Rhodesia has not existed since 1980 so who would be responsible for clearing its landmines if “user to clear” were the rule?  2) In current conflicts, most landmine users are rebel groups, not governments.  Who would be responsible for clearing rebel-laid mines under “user to clear”?

“The Solemn Promise to Mine Victims”
In the Maputo Action Plan, the States Parties recommitted themselves to the “full, equal and effective participation of mine victims in society.” The Plan then goes on to say that each State Party with landmine victims “in areas under its jurisdiction or control… will do its utmost to assess the needs of mine victims… [and] will do its utmost to communicate to the States Parties… by April 30, 2015, time-bound and measurable objectives it seeks to achieve… that will contribute to the full, equal and effective participation of mine victims in society” (emphasis added) (Maputo Action Plan). Why, oh why, have States Parties not already conducted these needs assessments and why couldn’t States Parties come to Maputo prepared to discuss their objectives and activities to respond to these needs? Why will States Parties only do their “utmost” to meet these commitments? Why not have the commitments be binding? Because the commitments are not binding – a State can always say that it tried, but could not meet the deadline and still have fulfilled the obligation of the Action Plan – I am afraid that we are kicking the can down the road yet again. If we have made a “solemn promise to mine victims,” why can’t we keep it? How much longer will survivors trust the States when they make pledges that are not adhered to? The Maputo Action Plan says all of the right things, but in the end, there is nothing binding there on survivor assistance and we have once again let down this group that has led the charge for a mine-free world. I wish I was surprised and not just disappointed.

On the whole, the Conference was extremely positive, the Maputo Action Plan can be an aspirational document and hopefully the goal of a mine-free world in 2025 will be achieved. Let’s get to work.

Michael P. Moore
July 9, 2014
moe (at) landminesinafrica.org

Responding to Violations of the Mine Ban Treaty

In just under four weeks governments, civil society and landmine survivors will gather in Maputo, Mozambique for the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty.  During the Conference, the attendees will review progress in landmine action since the last review conference in 2009 in Cartagena, Colombia and lay out the plan for the next five years.  In the last of four weekly posts, I discuss some of the issues I would like to see addressed in Maputo and beyond.


In Ukraine in recent weeks, Russian forces (or local militias allied with Russia) have laid landmines along the Crimean and eastern borders of the country.  Russia has rightly been called out for placing landmines in the territory of a country – Ukraine – which has signed and ratified the Mine Ban Treaty.  What has not been mentioned is the fact that Ukraine has been in violation of the Mine Ban Treaty since 2010 because Ukraine has failed to destroy its stockpile of anti-personnel landmines as required by the Treaty.  Ukraine still has millions of mines that require destruction and while NATO and the European Union have provided assistance to Ukraine to destroy these mines, but the obligation is Ukraine’s (The Monitor). Each year, the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty have requested updates from Ukraine on the status of stockpile destruction and continue to note Ukraine’s ongoing violation of the Treaty, but no further actions have been taken beyond the public shaming.  Within the Treaty itself there is no provision for sanctions against a state party in violation of the Treaty.  The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) will issue press releases about violations when they occur and in conjunction with Meetings of States Parties which reminds all of the violations, but the ICBL has no sanctioning power.  There are, however, provisions for addressing violations of the Treaty by individuals.

All States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty are required to have national legislation which provides for the “imposition of penal sanctions, to prevent and suppress any activity prohibited” (Article 9, AP Mine Ban Treaty).  In Afghanistan, New Zealand soldiers were allegedly instructed to set “booby traps” and “trip wires” which would have violated the Mine Ban Treaty.  The soldiers who were so instructed refused the orders, and while charges were filed against the commanding officer, those charges were dropped due to lack of evidence.  If the charges were true, this would have represented a significant violation of the Mine Ban Treaty by one of the Treaty’s strongest proponents (New Zealand Herald).  In response, the States Parties could activate investigation under Article 8 of the Treaty, but no matter the outcome of the investigation, the States Parties could do little to punish New Zealand.  However, New Zealand has passed the Treaty-mandated national legislation, the 1998 Anti-Personnel Mines Prohibition Act, which may have provisions for punishing individuals who would violate the Mine Ban Treaty.  Thus, the individuals who violate the Treaty may be punished, but States are not subject to any penalty.

The Article 9 “National Implementation Measures” are only effective if they are in fact implemented and punish Treaty violations.  In Turkey, whose existing laws were deemed sufficient to comply with the requirement of national implementation measures, a general who ordered the use of anti-personnel landmines was convicted after seven soldiers were killed by one of the emplaced mines, but “No mention was made of a violation of the ban on antipersonnel mines in the court’s proceedings, findings, or judgment” (The Monitor).  Thus the crime was not landmine use, but negligence on the part of the general; Turkey’s national implementation measures failed to punish the illegal use of mines.

For states and individuals that violate the Mine Ban Treaty, there should be a standard sanction.  The Treaty’s supporters (of which I am certainly one) will point to the stigma against landmine use that has emerged over the last two decades, but a stigma against use has not been enough to end all landmine use.  As long as soldiers (whether part of a nation’s formal armed forces or member of a rebel group) continue to see a military utility in landmines, we can expect to see new use of mines.  Something stronger than the stigma is needed to prevent and deter use.  An official sanction might be to only allow a state in violation to participate in official Treaty meetings as an Observer and not as a full State Party.  This would prevent a state in violation from having any decision-making authority over other States Parties.  It would also highlight the existence of the violation at Meetings.  For individuals that violate the Treaty, the State Party whose citizens had violated the Treaty would be forced to make a formal statement of the violation at a Meeting of States Parties and declare what punishment was meted out.  These sanctions would complement the stigma against landmine use while also increasing transparency about violations.

Michael P. Moore

May 27, 2014

The Future of Survivor Assistance, Again.

In just under five weeks governments, civil society and landmine survivors will gather in Maputo, Mozambique for the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty.  During the Conference, the attendees will review progress in landmine action since the last review conference in 2009 in Cartagena, Colombia and lay out the plan for the next five years.  In the third of four weekly posts, I discuss some of the issues I would like to see addressed in Maputo and beyond.


The survivor assistance obligation is one of the revolutionary elements of the Mine Ban Treaty and has set a global standard for inclusion of survivor assistance provisions in all succeeding disarmament treaties (the Cluster Munitions Convention, the Arms Trade Treaty and Protocol V to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons).  It is also the most complicated facet of mine action and the one that will endure long after the last mine is cleared from the ground.

In conversations with US government officials, I have heard what amounts to a “rising tide lifts all ships” argument about how development assistance focused on poverty alleviation and health sector reform addresses the needs of landmine survivors.  That is simply wrong.  Mozambique has had years of impressive GDP growth and made astonishing reductions in mortality and morbidity due to preventable causes, but landmine survivors will say that they have not benefited from those national-level improvements.  Measuring progress by GDP growth and mortality and morbidity rates misses out on the needs of the individuals and specific groups (I think it is important to note that many marginalized groups have been excluded from economic and health gains, witness China where hundreds of millions of people have been lifted into a “middle class” but millions remain desperately poor).  To address the needs of landmine survivors, especially in countries where landmine clearance is complete or nearly complete, programs need to target survivors and be outcome-driven.  Unfortunately, these facts have been known and recognized for many years. At the First Review Conference, 2004’s Nairobi Summit for a Mine-Free World, the States Parties recognized that:

[Survivor assistance] does require that a certain priority be accorded to health and rehabilitation systems in areas where landmine victims are prevalent…

Assistance to landmine victims should be viewed as a part of a country’s overall public health and social services systems and human rights frameworks. However, within those general systems, deliberate care must be taken to ensure that landmine victims and other persons with disability receive the same opportunities in life — for health care, social services, a life-sustaining income, education and participation in the community — as every other sector of a society. Health and social services must be open to all sectors of society, including landmine victims and other persons with disabilities. (AP Mine Ban Convention).

And to ensure that survivors receive the assistance they need, “The States Parties have come to recognize the value and necessity of accurate and up-to-date date on the number of new landmine casualties, the total number of survivors and their specific needs, and the extent / lack of and quality of services that exist to address their needs in order to use limited resources most effectively.”

At the Second Review Conference to the Mine Ban Treaty, the 2009 Cartagena Summit for a Mine-Free World, the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty agreed that,

Victim assistance should be integrated into broader national policies, plans and legal frameworks related to disability, health, education, employment, development and poverty reduction, while placing particular emphasis on ensuring that mine victims have access to specialised services when needed and can access on an equal basis services available to the wider population.

And pledged to:

Collect all necessary data, disaggregated by sex and age, in order to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate adequate national policies, plans and legal frameworks including by assessing the needs and priorities of mine victims and the availability and quality of relevant services, make such data available to all relevant stakeholders and ensure that such efforts contribute to national injury surveillance and other relevant data collection systems for use in programme planning (AP Mine Ban Convention).

In preparation for the Third Review Conference, Colombia’s Vice President hosted the “Bridges Between Worlds” conference in April 2014 to highlight the linkages between disability-inclusive development and survivor assistance.  In the Summary report from that conference (AP Mine Ban Convention), the Chairperson called for:

All humanitarian and development efforts, and assistance for these efforts, should be inclusive of, and accessible to, persons with disabilities, including mine and other explosive remnants of war survivors. This means a twin-track approach of integrating disability into development programmes, supporting disability-specific programmes to address targeted needs, and promoting and enabling the active participation and contributions by persons with disabilities in these efforts.

And in my report on victim assistance in Mozambique published last year, I wrote specifically about the data problems that face landmine survivor assistance programming and called on the participants of the Third Review Conference to leverage the “data revolution” proposed by the Post-2015 development agenda:

The delegates to the Review Conference can take the opportunity to describe how survivor assistance specifically and mine action more broadly will support [the Post-2015 development] framework and craft the Maputo Action Plan to align with the framework. An aligned action plan would focus on the outcomes of survivor assistance, namely the escape from poverty and inclusion in society, and the mine action community can assume a monitoring and advising role on the inputs necessary to achieve those outcomes. The sea-change will be the shift from focusing solely on those inputs however, and tracking the outcomes. The mine action community can, through existing and emerging monitoring systems, also track outcomes for survivors and persons with disabilities. In order to track those outcomes however, a comprehensive baseline is needed: who are the survivors and persons with disabilities and what is their current economic position? The mine action community has recognized the need for a comprehensive baseline and the data revolution proposed under the Post-2015 framework creates the opportunity to push states to develop that baseline.

So really when we talk about the future of victim assistance at the Third Review Conference, what we are doing is fulfilling the promise made a decade ago in Nairobi and re-affirmed five years ago in Cartagena: that survivor assistance is part of a broader development program with targeted interventions for landmine survivors and other persons with disability and that these interventions will be tracked with accurate data and monitoring systems. If in 2019 we are still talking about the twin-track interventions and the importance of data, we will have missed an important opportunity to fulfill the pledge made to survivors in 1997.  Again.  The States Parties in Maputo must act on survivor assistance and not merely re-hash past pledges which have already been re-hashed.

Michael P. Moore

May 20, 2014