U.S. Ratifies Amended CCW Landmines Protocol

Wade Boese

ON MAY 20, the Senate approved the amended landmines protocol (Protocol II) to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), the 1980 accord that limits the use of fragmentation weapons, landmines and booby-traps, incendiary weapons and blinding laser weapons. After President Clinton signed the instrument of ratification four days later, the United States became the 37th country to deposit its ratification document. Current U.S. landmine policy is already in compliance with the new protocol, which will enter into force for the United States six months after its May 24 deposit.

Unlike the Ottawa Convention that bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines (APLs), which the United States has not signed, the CCW seeks to strengthen the 1980 treaty's original restrictions on the use, production and transfer of APLs by states-parties. The United States acceded to the earlier landmine protocol only in 1995.

The new protocol prohibits the use of non-detectable APLs and severely restricts use of remotely delivered mines. Use of non-self-destructing and non-self-deactivating mines are proscribed unless planted in monitored and perimeter marked areas. States-parties also undertake not to export mines to non-states-parties. To protect civilians and deminers, the amended protocol prohibits mines that are detonated by the presence of mine detectors, as well as mines equipped with anti-handling devices that operate after the mine, itself, deactivates.

Opposition by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to the original resolution language and an accompanying report prepared by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC) helped delay Senate advice and consent of the amended protocol for more than two years. Leahy, a proponent of the Ottawa Convention, never opposed the amended protocol itself, but objected to the two documents as attacks against the Ottawa treaty and Clinton's pledge that the United States would sign Ottawa by 2006 if "suitable alternatives" to APLs could be identified and fielded. After the offending language was watered down, Leahy consented to ratification.

A U.S. government official noted that the real value of the new protocol is that it imposes conditions on countries that have not signed the Ottawa Convention or have no immediate plans to sign the accord. China and Pakistan, for example, have already ratified the new protocol but refuse to sign the Ottawa Convention. Key Ottawa countries, including Canada, South Africa, Britain and France, are also party to the protocol.