Practice Relating to the Prohibition of Certain Types of Landmines
Belgium’s Law on Arms and Ammunition (1933), as amended to 2006, provides: “[The following] arms shall be considered as prohibited: antipersonnel landmines … or similar devices.”
The Law further provides:
3. … The use, stockpiling, acquisition and transfer of anti-personnel landmines … or similar devices by the State or public administrations is prohibited.
4. The foregoing prohibition does not apply to the use, stockpiling, sale, acquisition and transfer of such weapons for the purpose of contributing to the training and knowledge maintenance of specialists and military officers taking part in operations aimed at risk minimization in mined areas, demining, or effective destruction of the said weapons.
5. The State or public administrations are required to destroy the existing stockpiles of antipersonnel landmines … or similar devices within three years.
Belgium’s Law Regulating Economic and Individual Activities with Weapons (2006) provides:
For the purposes of the present law and its implementing decrees, “antipersonnel landmines and booby-traps or similar devices” are considered as … any devices placed on, under or near a surface area, and designed or adapted to be exploded or detonated by the mere presence, proximity or contact of a person, whether or not equipped with an anti-handling device intended to protect the mine and which is part of, linked to, attached to or placed under the mine and that activate when an attempt is made to tamper with or otherwise intentionally disturb the mine.
The Law further provides: “[The following] arms shall be considered as prohibited: antipersonnel landmines … or similar devices.”
In June 1993, the Belgian Government established a moratorium on the export of anti-personnel landmines, before enacting legislation in 1995 which modified the law of 3 January 1933 relating to the manufacture, trade and carrying of firearms and the trade of ammunition. The law of 9 March 1995, which now includes anti-personnel mines, booby traps or other devices of a similar nature, was amended by the law of 24 June 1996, which provides for a complete ban focusing on the use, stockpiling, manufacture and transfer of anti-personnel mines. Belgium was the first country in the world to declare de jure
a complete ban on anti-personnel mines.
Early on, Belgium supported the role of the United Nations as the coordinating forum for mine action and co-sponsored a number of related resolutions. In 1994, it proposed the idea, later taken up by the European Union, of creating the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action.
An international conference on humanitarian mine clearance was held in Geneva, Switzerland, in July 1995. In chairing the meeting, the Belgian Foreign Minister, Erik Derycke, emphasized the necessity of expressing a strong political commitment and to making available sufficient resources, both financial and in kind, to provide effective action against mines and to curb the humanitarian catastrophe. In his introductory speech, he also mentioned the need to ban landmines:
My third appeal will request everyone to give more comprehensive thought to mines. It seems to me that the time has come for an initial examination of the timeliness of an international convention banning antipersonnel mines following the example mutatis mutandis
of chemical and biological weapons.
The Belgian Government continued to back up its words with action – its representatives participated in meetings sponsored by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines during the final sessions of the Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1996. These sessions gave birth to what became the “Ottawa Process”, when Canada offered to host a meeting later that year to strategize as to how to reach a global ban. During the Ottawa conference in October 1996, the head of the Belgian delegation took a very firm position in favour of a total and global ban, stating:
[T]he first element should be the total and immediate ban on the production of all antipersonnel mines, the second essential element to be included in the convention is also of paramount importance because it bears upon the rapid destruction of our stocks.
In Oslo, Belgium actively participated in the negotiation of the entire text; its positions were very strong and one of the key elements in preventing the text from being weakened.
And in Ottawa, at the time of the signing of the Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines, Foreign Minister Derycke promised to continue to promote universal adherence, stating: “Belgium will continue its efforts to rally countries which still feel hesitant in support of the convention. My country will carefully examine each request for assistance by a State Party in the enforcement of the treaty.”
In 2005, in a speech given at the Opening Ceremony of the 6th Meeting of the States Parties to the 1997 Convention on Anti-Personnel Landmines, the Deputy Director General for Bilateral Affairs at the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former permanent representative of Belgium to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva stated:
I would like to reaffirm that there is no such thing as a responsible use of anti-personnel landmines and that there are no such things as “smart mines” or “dumb mines”. There are only indiscriminate, cruel and inhumane anti-personnel mines, which destroy the lives of thousands of innocent civilian victims each year.
In 2007, in his introductory remarks at the “New Perspectives for a World without Landmines” conference, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs stated:
Belgium was … the first country in the world to adopt national legislation banning landmines … and I would like to issue a strong, universal appeal today to adhere to the Landmine Convention …
We are convinced that every effort needs to be made to prevent the use of munitions that cause disproportionate harm to the civilian population and place a heavy burden on post-conflict reconstruction.