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U.S. Wants Strengthened CCW Landmines Protocol
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At the first annual conference of states-parties to the amended landmines protocol (Protocol II) to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), the United States proposed strengthening protocol restrictions on the use of landmines, particularly anti-vehicle mines, and developing measures to resolve charges of non-compliance. The initiatives generated little reaction at the conference, held December 15-17 in Geneva, but Washington hopes to build support for the proposals before a 2001 CCW review conference.

The amended protocol, which was adopted in May 1996 and entered into force in December 1998, differs from the 1997 Ottawa Convention banning the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines (APLs), in that the protocol considers mines to be legal weapons. For that reason, some countries, including the United States, China and Pakistan, subscribe only to the protocol. U.S. policy is that it will sign the Ottawa Convention in 2006 if it can successfully identify and field suitable alternatives to its APLs and mixed anti-tank systems (a combination of anti-vehicle and APL devices).

Specifically, the amended protocol outlaws non-detectable APLs and prohibits non-self-destructing and non-self-deactivating APLs unless planted in monitored, perimeter-marked areas. Exporting mines to non-states-parties is proscribed, as is the use of mines that detonate in response to mine detectors and those that have anti-handling devices that remain active after the mine itself deactivates. Restrictions also apply to remotely delivered mines, such as those delivered by aircraft and artillery.

Current protocol requirements that mines be detectable and that remotely delivered mines have self-destructing or self-deactivating mechanisms apply only to APLs. At the conference, the United States proposed expanding these same criteria to anti-vehicle mines.

In addition, the United States called for increasing the "reliability" of the self-destruction and self-deactivation mechanisms on remotely delivered mines. Current technical specifications set a standard that only one in 1,000 mines can remain active after 120 days. Washington wants to raise this failure standard to one in 10,000.

Lastly, the United States proposed adopting a "regular procedure," including the possibility of on-site inspections, for handling non-compliance allegations. Rather than create a formal secretariat, the United States suggested a process similar to that in the Ottawa Convention. Under Ottawa, countries may raise compliance questions with the UN secretary-general, who can call for a meeting of states-parties, which can then authorize a fact-finding mission.

Charges of non-compliance were made at the conference. Canada accused Russia, a signatory, of indiscriminately using landmines in Chechnya-to such an extent that Russian mines were reportedly scattered in Georgia. Canada also sought clarification on reports that Pakistan, a state-party, attempted to sell mines to a private citizen in Britain. Pakistan, in a December 17 statement, reaffirmed its commitment to the protocol's export moratorium.

While voicing hope that having two APL instruments, the amended protocol and Ottawa, is a "temporary situation," Canada, which wants all countries to join Ottawa, endorsed improving the protocol's anti-vehicle mines and compliance provisions. Of the current 47 states-parties to the amended protocol, 42 are Ottawa states-parties or signatories.

Ottawa states-parties-now totaling 90 out of 137 signatories-are required to destroy stockpiled APLs in four years and all APLs in 10 years, though a renewable 10-year extension can be sought. On December 20, France joined a growing list of countries, including Canada, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Germany and the United Kingdom, that have completed destroying their stockpiles more than three years ahead of schedule.