Landmines

MAPW policy adopted May 2004

Definitions:
In this policy statement, the term landmine is used to cover anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines. It does not apply to other unexploded ordinance or to booby traps.

Policy Text:
The Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia) notes that:

  • Sixteen countries are known to still manufacture landmines, and up to 200 million mines still lie in the ground around the world.
  • A landmine costs around $3 to make; yet it costs up to $1,000 to clear one.
  • Landmines (anti-personnel mines, anti-vehicle mines) are an abhorrent and indiscriminate weapon.
  • Landmines cannot be aimed, but can be triggered by adults, children and animals; they recognise no ceasefire and may go on maiming and killing decades after hostilities cease.
  • Those most likely to encounter landmines after hostilities have ceased are the rural poor who live far from adequate medical facilities. This makes abolition of landmines a most urgent humanitarian matter.
  • In many parts of the world, particularly the remote areas where most landmines are laid, facilities to adequately treat and rehabilitate victims of land mines are lacking.
  • The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (The Ottawa Convention) was signed at Ottawa in December 1997. The treaty has to date been ratified by 146 countries. Australia has signed, ratified and is implementing this treaty. However there is still no international agreement to ban or limit the destructive potential of anti-vehicle mines.

MAPW notes and applauds the foreign policy priority given to, and the efforts Australia is making in, landmine clearance internationally in regions such as Cambodia and Laos. However MAPW regrets that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) efforts in this area are being scaled back. The enormity of the problem is such that more needs to be done.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) continues to lobby for and monitor accession to and implementation of the 1997 Ottawa Convention.

Specific examples of the devastation caused by landmines include:

  • In 1977, Poland reported that since the end of World War II, over 15 million mines had been disposed of, almost 4,000 civilians had been killed and 9,000 injured by mines, 30-40 persons were still being killed each year and most of the victims were children.
  • In Cambodia alone at least 1,012 people were hurt or killed by landmines in 1999, a decrease of 41% from the previous year. There were 417 mine casualties reported in the first five months of 2000. As areas formerly held by the Khmer Rouge became accessible, whole villages of disabled people were being discovered. In 1999, about 11.9 square kilometers of land were cleared. In total in Cambodia, according to the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC Database, 3 May 2000), 644 square kilometers of land is mined, and another 1,400 square kilometers are suspected to be mined. About 155 square kilometers of land has been cleared so far.

Regarding anti-vehicle mines, MAPW specifically notes:

  • Anti-vehicle mines have the same injurious effects on people and access to land as do anti-personnel mines; in fact, being more powerful, they are more likely to kill rather than maim.
  • Anti-vehicle mines have an indirect effect on human activity by stopping or delaying movement of both local trade, essential goods and humanitarian aid by interrupting transport
  • By interrupting humanitarian aid, anti-vehicle mines increase costs of aid (eg by necessitating airlifting aid) and so increase the numbers of people who die and suffer in humanitarian crises
  • Like anti-personnel mines, anti-vehicle mines affect civilian as well as military personnel. For example, between January 2001 and January 2003, Landmine Monitor reported 159 civilians, peacekeepers and de-miners were killed and 83 injured by anti-vehicle mines.
  • Anti-vehicle mines can be set up to be triggered by pressures as light as children, so in effect making them anti-personnel mines.
  • Anti-vehicle mines can be fitted with anti-handling devices making them dangerous to mine clearance personnel.

The Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia) resolves:

To urge the Australian Government:

  • to seek to have use of anti-handling devices banned under international law,
  • to lobby nations which have not already done so to accede to the Ottawa Convention (1997)
  • to urgently work to raise the issue of the implementation of the Ottawa Convention in the UN Conference on Disarmament as an issue separate from other issues before the Conference,
  • to join with other states that believe anti-vehicle mines that can be detonated on contact by a person are in effect anti-personnel mines and therefore should be banned under the existing Ottawa Convention (1997), and
  • to work in appropriate fora to outlaw the production, transfer and use of anti-vehicle mines in the same manner as anti-personnel mines.
  • to continue to engage in efforts to ban the production, trade and use of anti-personnel mines as a priority foreign policy initiative

MAPW encourages the Australian Government to continue to support programs of assistance and training in the treatment and rehabilitation of landmine survivors and mine-affected communities, and specifically strongly urges the Australian Government to:

  • continue fostering Australian capabilities in mine-clearing as a needed activity which can be a valuable form of technical assistance to a large number of developing countries, including many in our region, such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. As with peace-keeping activities, this would be a particularly welcome and positive use of military forces and expertise.
  • to shift the cost of mine clearance operations from the overseas aid budget to the defence budget,
  • to pledge a further ten years funding commitment for mine clearance and victim assistance after the current funding period ends in 2005.

MAPW also calls on the Australian Government to implement, in so far as action is not already covered or is not contrary to MAPW's policy, the recommendations concerning landmines of the 5th Report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (Feb 1997).

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Refs: ICBL Australian Network Memoranda (various 2003 and 2004) and their website accessed last 2002.