Campaigns to Ban Anti-Personnel Mines: What Progress?
by Humanitarian Practice Network September 1994

A number of international campaigns have been initiated over the last few years with the objective of curtailing the use of anti-personnel mines. These have spawned numerous national campaigns. In addition a number of publications on the effects of anti-personnel mines have appeared over the last year or two. Rather than duplicate this informative and shocking literature, this article is intended to inform members of the results of the various campaigns and the problems that lay ahead.

In response to the UN General Assembly’s 1993 resolution and pressure from the various campaigns, many countries have now enacted export moratoria on the export of all anti-personnel mines. The states in this category include the USA, France, Belgium, South Africa, Israel, Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, South Africa and Argentina.

Other states have only agreed to partial moratoria. In the UK the export moratoria announced in July only covers anti-personnel mines that do not self-destruct or self-neutralise. UK NGOs characterised this as a cynical move as the UK has not exported the type of mine covered by its moratoria since 1985. Switzerland and the Netherlands will allow the export of mines but only to those countries which have ratified Protocol 2 of the UN’s 1980 Inhumane Weapons Convention.

In Italy much attention has focused on the Valsella Meccanotecnica plant at Brescia which produces most of Italy’s landmines. Trade Unions at the plant have indicated their support for the campaign to ban landmines and Fiat appears to be trying to distance itself from the plant by selling its shares in Valsella to another company Borletti, though it has to be said that Fiat owns 50% of Borletti.

In August the Italian Senate passed a motion instructing the Government to ratify Protocol 2 of the 1980 Convention, introduce a moratoria and cease production of mines by Italian companies and companies operating in Italy and support workers in the affected plants. During the debate it emerged that the Government has not been issuing export authorizations for antipersonnel mines since November 1993.

Though export moratoria are valuable in marking out anti-personnel mines as an unacceptable type of weapon, many of those involved in the various campaigns believe that export moratoria alone will not reduce the toll of landmines on civilians and are pressing for a complete ban on production, stockpiling and use of anti-personnel mines. They point out that if Western countries continue to argue that anti-personnel mines are legitimate defensive weapons then so will poorer countries. If poorer states are unable to import anti-personnel mines because of the export moratoria or because they are unable to afford to varieties which self-destruct or self-neutralise, they will simply develop their own capacity for producing cheap, unsophisticated anti-personnel mines.

An advantage of a total ban on production, stockpiling, sale and use is that any breach will be immediately obvious and it will serve to stigmatise any state or group which continues to use them.

Whilst a total ban on production, stockpiling, sale and use will be difficult to achieve and enforce it appears that unless the debate move on to focus on the such issues the civilian deaths and injuries from landmines are unlikely to be reduced.

In the US the debate, lead by Senator Leahy, appears to be moving on to the next stage concerning the military utility of anti-personnel mines. In June Senator Leahy entered a bill that would require a one-year moratorium on the production of anti-personnel mines and their procurement by the US Government.

The information for this article was obtained from the Landmines Update for September 1994 produced by the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) and from Ian Woodmansey of Oxfam-UK’s Policy Department.

Those wishing to subscribe to Landmines Update should contact:

VVAF
2001 `S’ Street N.W.
Suite 740
Washington DC 20009
USA

Oxfam-UK has produced a manual for development and humanitarian agency personnel entitled Landmines: A Legacy of Conflict written by Rae McGrath who is Director of the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) a UK NGO. The book presents an overview of the problems caused by landmines, describes the most common type of mine and how they are deployed and provides practical guidance and advice to fieldworkers. Copies can be obtained from:

Oxfam
274 Banbury Road
Oxford OX2 7DZ
UK
Tel: (44) 865 311311
Fax: (44) 865 312417

Those seeking information on the trade in anti-personnel mines should obtain copies of a seven page article: The Market for Anti-Personnel Landmines: A Global Survey by Steve Askin and Stephen Goose in the September 1994 issue of Jane’s Intelligence Review, London. The contact address for the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) is:

MAG
54a Main Street
Cockermouth Cumbria CA13 9LU
UK
Tel: (44) 900 828580
Fax: (44) 900 827088

Handicap International
14 avenue Berthelot
69361 Lyon Cedex 07
France
Tel: (33) 78 69 7979

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