Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
November 3, 2006
The Case for New Restrictions on the Use of Anti-Vehicle Mines
The indiscriminate use of persistent and non-detectable landmines remains a serious humanitarian problem around the world. Persistent landmines are those mines that remain lethal indefinitely because they remain operational, posing a risk to civilians long after the military use of such mines has ended. Non-detectable mines are those mines with such minimal metal content that they cannot be located by the standard metal detectors used by most military and humanitarian deminers.
The dual threats of persistency and non-detectability apply to both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle landmines.
The humanitarian impact of anti-vehicle landmines, also known as "Mines Other Than Anti-Personnel Mines" (MOTAPM), is particularly significant in that, through their concentration along roads and within other infrastructure, these larger landmines can block delivery of humanitarian relief and medical services, prevent access to water and sustenance, and hinder peace-keeping and post-conflict reconstruction efforts.
A 2004 Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining report "Humanitarian Impact from Mines other than Anti-Personnel Mines" notes: "By denying access, MOTAPM contribute to the ‘structural vulnerability’ of affected communities, those deep-rooted vulnerabilities that cause other problems to persist or to reoccur. The overall cost of implementing humanitarian projects is also increased, meaning fewer people receive assistance from the money that is available."
Using mines that are detectable by commonly available means greatly reduces the time and cost of humanitarian demining operations, allowing access to blocked areas to begin more quickly. Equipping mines with self-destruct and self-deactivating mechanisms mitigates the threat they otherwise would pose to civilians after active hostilities have ceased. That is the reason the United States policy announced in February 2004 banned the use of any non-detectable mines by U.S. armed forces, whether anti-personnel or anti-vehicle, effective January 2005. That is also the reason why, under this policy, the potential use of the older, persistent landmines in its stockpiles was further restricted, so that U.S. forces are permitted to employ only relatively short-duration self-destructing and self-deactivating mines, after 2010.
Currently, there is no international instrument or treaty that adequately addresses the detectability or persistence of anti-vehicle mines. That is why the United States, with the support of other countries, proposed the negotiation of a protocol on this matter and has worked intensively during the past year to find a compromise text that all states could agree to adopt during the November 7 – 17, 2006 Review Conference on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons ("CCW"). Such a protocol would complement the CCW Amended Mines Protocol (Amended Protocol II), which contains relevant guidelines on the use of anti-vehicle mines.
The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, often referred to as the Ottawa Convention, does not address anti-vehicle mines at all.
The Second Review Conference of the CCW in 2001 established an open-ended Group of Government Experts to discuss this issue. After five years of discussion, led to a great extent by the United States, the November Review Conference provides what the United States believes to be a final chance to see if consensus can be achieved on a protocol on anti-vehicle mines, thereby saving more lives and assisting post-conflict renewal.