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The Ottawa Convention at a Glance

Press Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director; (202) 463-8270 x107

Updated: March 2013

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, typically referred to as the "Ottawa Convention" or "Mine Ban Treaty," seeks to end the use of anti-personnel landmines (APLs) worldwide. It was opened for signature on December 3, 1997, and it entered into force on March 1, 1999. As of February 2013, 161 states are party to the treaty.  One country, the Marshall Islands, has signed but not ratified it.  There are 36 non-signatories, including major powers such as the United States,[1] Russia, and China.  Few countries in key regions of tension, namely the Middle East and South Asia, have opted to participate.[2] There is some hope that because of the treaty new international norms have formed that discourage any country, signatory or not, from using mines.  Many non-signatories are in de facto compliance with the Ottawa Convention by refusing to use landmines and committing to voluntary destruction of stockpiles.[3] Still, millions of mines are estimated to be planted in the ground in 59 countries. Global APL stockpiles are thought to total more than 100 million mines.[4][5] Some of thecountries that suffer the most from the humanitarian impacts of landmines include Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Iraq and Laos.[6]

The Obama administration is currently undertaking a review of its policy towards the Ottawa Convention.  Thus far, the U.S. has maintained that it will not absolutely renounce its ability to right to use “smart” landmines – those that can be remotely deactivated – as a defensive mechanism to protect its own troops.[7] Another issue of concern is the remaining defensive U.S. landmines in the demilitarized zone of the Korean Peninsula.[8]

Prohibitions: States-parties commit to not using, developing, producing, acquiring, retaining, stockpiling, or transferring anti-personnel landmines, which are defined by the treaty as mines "designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person and that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons." APLs that are remotely triggered, such as claymores, are not proscribed, nor are anti-vehicle mines, including those equipped with anti-handling devices, which are designed to protect anti-vehicles mines from being tampered with or moved.  The treaty also forbids signatories from assisting or encouraging any other state or party from engaging in the activities outlawed by the treaty.

APL Destruction: Each state-party is expected to destroy all APLs stockpiled in arsenals, except those retained for demining training, within four years of becoming bound by the treaty. Within 10 years of its entry into force date, each country is required to destroy all APLs under its jurisdiction and control, including those planted in the soil. A country may request renewable extensions of up to 10 years to complete this destruction task. A majority of participants at a meeting of states-parties or review conference must approve an extension request. Twenty-seven state parties have been granted such extensions on destruction deadlines, but only one so far, Nicaragua, has formally completed its obligations before the mandated deadline.  States-parties are expected to mark and monitor all suspected or known mined areas until they are cleared. All told, states-parties have destroyed more than 46 million stockpiled APLs under the treaty.  However, as of November 2012, there are still 45 state parties with confirmed or suspected remaining landmines with obligations to destroy them under Article 5 of the treaty.[9] Currently three states remain in violation of the treaty – Belarus, Greece, and Ukraine – for failure to complete destruction of their stockpiles within the 4-year deadline.[10]

Cooperation and Assistance: The treaty calls on any state-party "in a position to do so" to assist other states-parties in aiding mine victims, providing demining assistance, and helping with mine destruction. States-parties are expected to be as helpful as possible in making sure all states-parties have access to equipment, material, and scientific and technological information for implementing the treaty without "undue restrictions."

Transparency: Each state-party is to provide the United Nations with a comprehensive report on the numbers, types, and locations of all APLs under its control as well as the status of all programs for destroying APLs. An initial report is required 180 days after the treaty becomes legally binding for each state-party, and thereafter reports are expected annually by April 30.

Compliance: The treaty did not create an implementation or verification body or outline punitive measures for noncompliance. A state-party may question the compliance of another state-party, and a special meeting of states-parties can be convened to address the allegation. States-parties can establish a fact-finding mission to investigate the alleged noncompliance and, if necessary, call on the state-party in question to address the compliance issue.

Amendment and Withdrawal: Treaty amendments can be proposed, and then approved by two-thirds of all states-parties attending a special amendment conference. A state-party may withdraw from the treaty six months after submitting an instrument of withdrawal, though it will not take effect if the country is engaged in armed conflict.

Updated by Alexandra Schmitt


 

ENDNOTES

1. The George W. Bush administration announced February 27, 2004 that the United States would not join the Ottawa Convention. U.S. landmine policy had been under review since the summer of 2001. The Clinton administration had stated that the United States would sign the Ottawa Convention by 2006 if the Pentagon could identify and field suitable alternatives to U.S. anti-personnel landmines and mixed systems, which are comprised of both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle components, by that time.

2. International Campaign to Ban Landmines, “States Not Party,” http://www.icbl.org/index.php/icbl/Universal/MBT/States-Not-Party.

3. International Campaign to Ban Landmines, “Treaty Basics,” http://www.icbl.org/index.php/icbl/Treaty/MBT/Treaty-Basics.

4. “Landmine Monitor 2012,” International Campaign to Ban Landmines, http://www.the-monitor.org/lm/2012/resources/Landmine_Monitor_2012.pdf.

5. “Landmines: FAQ,” Care, http://www.care.org/newsroom/specialreports/land_mines/facts.asp.

6. Ibid.

7. “Why hasn’t the U.S. signed an international ban on land mines?” Los Angeles Times, April 5, 2012, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/04/mine-treaty-us-ottawa-convention.html

8. For further discussion of U.S. landmines located in the demilitarized zone of the Korean Peninsula, see Los Angeles Times articles “In South Korea, land mines remain a threat,” and “Why hasn’t the U.S. signed an international ban on land mines?

9. “Landmine Monitor 2012,” International Campaign to Ban Landmines, http://www.the-monitor.org/lm/2012/resources/Landmine_Monitor_2012.pdf.

10. Ibid.

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