United States of America
Practice Relating to Rule 81. Restrictions on the Use of Landmines
The US Air Force Pamphlet (1976) states:
Aerial dropped mines … are not prohibited under international law, provided that they do not in their design or inherent characteristics cause unnecessary suffering. The manner of use of such weapons, however, is regulated by the rules of armed conflict … Necessary precautions must be taken in the use of all weapons, including delayed action weapons, to avoid or minimize incidental civilian casualties. Also mines must not be used for the purpose of preventing rescue of or protection to wounded or sick persons or to deny other humanitarian protections.
The US Air Force Commander’s Handbook (1980) states:
The main legal problem raised by mine warfare is to make sure that civilian persons and property are not unnecessarily endangered, both during and after the conflict, and the parties to the conflict should take reasonable measures to this end. Depending on the circumstances, these measures might include warning civilians, using mines that self-destruct after a period of time and clearing minefields after the end of hostilities.
The US Naval Handbook (1995) states:
As with all weapons, to be lawful, land mines must be directed at military objectives. The controlled nature of command detonated land mines provides effective target discrimination. In the case of non-command detonated land mines, however, there exists potential for indiscriminate injury to noncombatants. Accordingly special care must be taken when employing land mines to ensure non-combatants are not indiscriminately injured.
The US Naval Handbook (2007) states:
As with all weapons, to be lawful, land mines must be directed at military objectives. The controlled nature of command-detonated land mines provides effective target discrimination. In the case of noncommand-detonated land mines, however, there exists potential for indiscriminate injury to civilians. Accordingly, special care must be taken when employing land mines to ensure civilians are not indiscriminately injured.
Under the US War Crimes Act (1996), wilfully killing or causing serious injury to civilians in relation to an armed conflict and in violation of the provisions of the 1996 Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons is a war crime.
In 1976, during discussions in the Ad Hoc Committee on Conventional Weapons established by the CDDH, the representative of the United States stated:
35. It was clearly desirable to place certain restrictions on the use of land mines and other devices … Her delegation supported reasonable and feasible requirements for recording the location of minefields. In that respect she agreed with the statement of the United Kingdom representative at [another meeting of the Committee on Conventional Weapons] that the nature and extent of the recording would depend on the type of minefield in question and the circumstances and method of its emplacement.
36. She also supported a prohibition on the use of remotely delivered mines unless such mines were fitted with a neutralizing mechanism or the area in which they were delivered was clearly marked. Furthermore, her delegation welcomed and shared the concern evidenced in the various proposals for the protection of the civilian population against the effects of mines and similar devices.
Upon ratification of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the United States declared:
With reference to the scope of application defined in article 1 of the Convention, … the United States will apply the provisions of the Convention, Protocol I, and Protocol II to all armed conflicts referred to in articles 2 and 3 common to the Geneva Conventions for the Protection of War Victims of August 12, 1949 [international and non-international armed conflicts].
Upon acceptance of the 1996 Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the United States declared:
(2) EFFECTIVE EXCLUSION. – The United States understands that, for the purposes of Article 5(6)(b) of the Amended Mines Protocol, the maintenance of observation over avenues of approach where mines subject to that Article are deployed constitutes one acceptable form of monitoring to ensure the effective exclusion of civilians.
(5) PEACE TREATIES. – The United States understands that the allocation of responsibilities for landmines in Article 5(2)(b) of the Amended Mines Protocol does not preclude agreement, in connection with peace treaties or similar arrangements, to allocate responsibilities under that Article in a manner that respects the essential spirit and purpose of the Article.
(6) BOOBY-TRAPS AND OTHER DEVICES. – For the purposes of the Amended Mines Protocol, the United States understands that –
(B) a trip-wired hand grenade shall be considered a “booby-trap” under Article 2(4) of the Amended Mines Protocol and shall not be considered a “mine” or an “anti-personnel mine” under Article 2(1) or Article 2(3), respectively; and
(C) none of the provisions of the Amended Mines Protocol, including Article 2(5), applies to hand grenades other than trip-wired hand grenades.
Following a decision by the US President in 1996, the United States unilaterally undertook
not to use, and to place in inactive stockpile status with intent to demilitarize by the end of 1999, all non-self-destructing [anti-personnel landmines] not needed for (a) training personnel engaged in demining and countermining operations, and (b) to defend the United States and its allies from armed aggression across the Korean demilitarized zone.