Practice Relating to the Prohibition of Certain Types of Landmines
Switzerland’s Aide-Memoire on the Ten Basic Rules of the Law of Armed Conflict (2005) states:
I remain fair:
- I shall deploy neither anti-personnel mines, poison nor booby traps[.]
Switzerland’s Regulation on Legal Bases for Conduct during an Engagement (2005) states:
16.1 Prohibited means of warfare
228 Prohibited are:
2 anti-personnel mines and booby-traps;*
(* = Convention not yet ratified by all States)
229 The production, stockpiling, import, export, transit and use of such means of combat are notably prohibited.
16.2 Means of warfare permitted under conditions
231 These include:
1 anti-tank mines: the details are regulated by the corresponding convention;
2 sea mines (not available in Switzerland)[.]
Switzerland's Federal Law on War Equipment (1996), as amended to 2013, states:
Article 8 Anti-personnel mines
1 It is prohibited:
a. to develop, produce, broker, acquire, transfer to anyone, import, export, carry in transit, or store anti-personnel mines or to possess them in any other way;
b. to incite any person to carry out an act mentioned in letter a;
c. to assist in committing an act mentioned in letter a.
2 For the development of procedures in mine detection, mine clearance, or mine destruction techniques and for training in such procedures, the retention or transfer of a number of anti-personnel mines is permitted. The number of such mines shall not exceed the minimum number absolutely necessary for the above-mentioned purposes.
3 Anti-personnel mines are explosive devices that are placed under, on, or near the ground or any other surface and which are conceived or modified so as to explode as a result of the presence, approach, or contact of a person, and which are intended to incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons. Mines designed to be detonated by the presence, proximity or contact of a vehicle as opposed to a person that are equipped with anti-handling devices are not considered anti-personnel mines as a result of being so equipped.
4 “Anti-handling device” means a device intended to protect a mine and which is part of, linked to, attached to or placed under the mine and which activates when an attempt is made to tamper with or otherwise intentionally disturb the mine.
[footnotes in original omitted]
On 24 November 1995, the Swiss Ministry of Defence decided to renounce completely the possession and use of anti-personnel landmines. The destruction of stocks was finalized on 2 December 1997.
Switzerland was an active member of the core group of countries that took responsibility for developing and promoting the mine ban treaty. During the “Ottawa Process”, Switzerland opposed dealing with the landmines question within the Conference on Disarmament (CD) both to avoid the risks both of undermining the mine ban treaty and because it feared that action in the CD would allow governments to not support the Ottawa Process in favour of a less restrictive regime. Switzerland opposed tackling the subject of a ban on the transfer of mines within the CD if the definition of the mines covered was not the same as that proposed in the Ottawa Process.
In 2007, in its Mine Action Strategy 2008 to 2011, Switzerland stated: “Anti-personnel mines and other explosive remnants of war continue to pose a serious threat, to mutilate and to kill without discrimination – even years after hostilities have ceased.”
The Strategy stated:
- Legal obligations
: In the course of the 1990s, the international community pursued significant efforts aimed at limiting the grave humanitarian consequences of the problems associated with landmines and explosive remnants of war. New legal instruments were created that restrict the use of landmines or introduce precise regulations facilitating demining and the clearance of affected zones. A breakthrough was achieved in 1999 when the Ottawa Convention entered into force, which called for a total ban on anti-personnel mines and has meanwhile been ratified by more than 150 states. This move led to the stigmatisation of the use of anti-personnel mines and succeeded in exerting a positive influence on states that have not yet ratified it, as well as on some non-state armed groups.
[footnote in original omitted]
The Strategy further stated:
During the period between 2008 and 2011, Switzerland will contribute substantially towards [the vision of a world without new victims of anti-personnel mines] … by actively campaigning for a world that is free of anti-personnel mines … As one of the first signatories of the Ottawa Convention and in line with its humanitarian tradition, Switzerland already renounced the use of anti-personnel mines and destroyed its last existing stocks in 1999.
The Strategy also stated:
4.3 Strategic goals:
Within the context of the existing challenges and its own lines of action, Switzerland has defined the following … strategic goals in mine action and related activities for the period between 2008 and 2011:
1. Implementation and universal application of the Ottawa Convention.
4.4 Political and operational objectives:
The Federal Government has set itself the following political and operational objectives based on the six strategic goals cited above:
1. Implementation and universal application of the Ottawa Convention:
- Active involvement in efforts to implement the Ottawa Convention within the scope of conferences organised by the States Parties …
- Promotion of efforts to incorporate armed non-state groups into the prohibition of anti-personnel mines, especially within the scope of the implementation of the Nairobi Action Plan. Switzerland will continue to support the efforts that have been made to date, especially within non-governmental organisations such as Geneva Call, to persuade armed non-state actors to renounce the use of anti-personnel mines.
Switzerland’s ABC of International Humanitarian Law (2009) states:
Mines are weapons that explode in direct or indirect contact with people (or animals) or vehicles (anti-personnel mines/anti-vehicle mines). They can be deployed on top of the ground, below ground or near the ground surface or on a different type of surface. The Second Protocol to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons regulates the deployment and transfer of all types of land mines. The so-called “Ottawa Convention” of 1997 prohibits the use, stockpiling, manufacture, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines. It also addresses such issues as mine clearance and destruction, as well as measures to help the victims of mines. The Ottawa Convention has yet to be ratified however by some of the most important military powers.
International humanitarian law imposes limitations, in some cases a total ban, on the use of weapons whose impact goes beyond the permissible purpose of weakening the enemy. Weapons are prohibited on the basis of three fundamental criteria: if their use inevitably leads to death; if they cause disproportionate injury or Unnecessary suffering
; if they strike indiscriminately. On the basis of these three criteria a number of specific weapons have been explicitly prohibited by international conventions, including Anti-personnel mines
, … Some of these bans are part of Customary international law
In 2009, in its Report on Foreign Policy, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated:
Switzerland supports international efforts for the global prohibition … of anti-personnel mines with financial and diplomatic resources.
The second mine action strategy of the [Swiss] Confederation covers the 2008 to 2011 period and defines six objectives:
1) implementation and global application of the  Ottawa Convention (Convention on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines and on their destruction);
2) implementation and global application … of the  Amended Protocol II to the  Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW);
One of the political and operational objectives of Switzerland is to promote the efforts aimed at involving non-state armed actors in the prohibition of mines. …
… Switzerland will seek to promote the universalization of the [Ottawa] convention.
[footnote in original omitted; emphasis in original]
In 2010, in its Report on Foreign Policy, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated:
Switzerland … endeavours to reduce armed violence in the world, in particular as regards anti-personnel mines …
Ten years after the entry into force of the  Ottawa Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines, the trend is towards the eradication of this type of weapon. There are however a number of important challenges to note: around forty countries have still not ratified the Convention … It is also necessary to enhance the protection of the civilian population against the use of anti-personnel mines by non-state armed actors.
From 2008 to 2009 Switzerland chaired the Meeting of the State Parties to the Ottawa Convention. During its mandate, it worked towards the universalization of the Convention, through the adherence of new States. In this regard, it carried out several representations to the potential candidates and facilitated negotiations on the treatment of delays for compliance with the provisions of the Convention.
… During the negotiations of the action plan of [the second Review Conference held in 2009 in] Cartagena, it called for the inclusion of the provisions aiming to protect the civilian population and to associate non-state armed actors to the prohibition of anti-personnel mines. Switzerland continues to support the work of the non-governmental organization Geneva Call, which seeks to engage non-state actors to comply with international humanitarian law.
In 2012, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport issued the Mine Action Strategy of the Swiss Confederation 2012–2015, which “defines the framework for political and operational activities with regard to anti-personnel mines, cluster munitions and other ERW [explosive remnants of war]”.
The Strategy states: “Switzerland will … continue to support activities aimed at banning anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions as well as to alleviating the humanitarian suffering and socio-economic consequences caused by mines and all types of ERW”.
The Strategy further states:
As at the end of 2011, 158 states had ratified the APMBC [1997 Ottawa Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines]. However, the ratification rate has been rather slow in recent years. Consequently, further action is necessary to convince the remaining 20 % of world states to accede to the APMBC. Since the norm was established, the use of anti-personnel mines has become very rare. Nonetheless, it is alleged that they have been used by four governments and in six countries, where use related to non-state armed groups in 2011.
The Strategy further states: “Switzerland aims to play a leading role in the fight against anti-personnel mines, cluster munitions and other ERW”.
The Strategy also states: “Over the long term, Switzerland will continue to pursue the vision of a world without new victims of anti-personnel mines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war”.
In 2012, in a statement before the First Committee of the UN General Assembly during a debate on conventional weapons, the permanent representative of Switzerland stated:
[T]he  Antipersonnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) … is making steady progress in achieving a mine-free world. However, these indiscriminate weapons have reportedly been engaged in various conflicts this year. We therefore urge all UN Member States to join this important instrument. We also appeal to all actors to refrain from using anti-personnel mines, which have grave consequences on civilian populations long after a conflict has ended.
In 2012, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs issued a press release entitled “Appeal by the Swiss authorities for compliance with international humanitarian law in Syria”, which stated: “Switzerland reiterates its condemnation of the use of anti-personnel mines and cluster weapons against civilian populations, and appeals to all parties to the conflict to renounce the use of such weapons, which have indiscriminate and serious long-term consequences.”
In 2012, in the report on Switzerland’s arms control and disarmament policy, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated:
Some types of conventional weapons pose specific humanitarian problems, due to their inherent characteristics. In some cases, rules must be developed to restrict their use and to ensure that the norms of international humanitarian law are respected. For other weapons, even specific rules regulating their use could not guarantee that international humanitarian law will be respected. It is therefore necessary to endeavour to prohibit these weapons, as it is with regard to anti-personnel mines or cluster munition weapons.
In the report, Switzerland’s Federal Council also stated:
In line with its humanitarian tradition, Switzerland has worked for long time on the complete prohibition of anti-personnel mines. In 1998, it was one of the first countries to ratify the  Convention on the Prohibition of use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mine and on their destruction (Ottawa Convention), which provides for a complete destruction of anti-personnel mine stockpiles. It destroyed its entire stockpiles in 1999. For the years 2012 to 2015, the Confederation’s anti-mine strategy has taken the form of an inter-departmental process. … The strategy identifies four goals:
1. To actively contribute to the strengthening, implementation and universal application of all international legal instruments in this area ratified by Switzerland.
The Confederation continues to dedicate some 16 million Swiss francs a year to political and operational activities linked to the fight against anti-personnel mines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war.
In 2012, in a speech at the 12th Meeting of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, the head of Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs stated:
The progress made … within the framework of the [1997 Ottawa] Convention [on Anti-Personnel Mines] is significant: close to 45 million of stockpiled anti-personnel mines have been destroyed, the trade in anti-personnel mines has virtually ceased to exist and these devices have consequently become almost universally stigmatized.
Getting the world rid of the scourge of anti-personnel mines is thus a question of joint willingness; it is also a question of the willingness of each State.
Switzerland’s willingness translates itself into three political priorities: universality, security and sustainability.
1. Universality: the Ottawa Convention must become universal. That is essential! States continue to produce and lay anti-personnel mines. 36 States have yet to sign the Convention.
It is therefore crucial to persevere with the effort to convince these States that on a human level, this is a just cause.
In 2013, in a statement at the Fourth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the ambassador of Switzerland stated: “[C]luster munitions have been now classified in Swiss law in the category of prohibited arms, which already include nuclear, biological and chemical weapons as well as anti-personnel mines.”
In 2013, in a statement at the Fourth Meeting of the States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the representative of Switzerland stated:
[W]e are concerned about continued information that cluster munitions are used in countries not party to the Convention. Switzerland has already and on several occasions expressed its concern about the use of cluster munitions (as well as of antipersonnel mines) by the various parties to the conflict in Syria. We call upon all the parties to the conflict to respect the basic norms of international humanitarian law and to refrain from using weapons with indiscriminate effect such as cluster munitions (This call also extends to the use of antipersonnel mines).
In 2013, in a statement at the 13th Meeting of the States Parties to the Convention on Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, the representative of Switzerland stated:
The [1997 Ottawa] Mine Ban Treaty has indeed had a tremendous impact in addressing the threats posed by antipersonnel landmines. Vast tracts of land have been cleared and there are fewer new victims every year. The trade in these weapons has virtually stopped. And anti-personnel mines have been stigmatized as an abhorrent and unacceptable means of warfare on a global scale. Nevertheless, the work is not done yet and we have to ensure that we pursue our goal with perseverance.
It is for this reason that we are concerned about information that antipersonnel landmines have been recently used in countries not party to the Convention. We cannot but condemn these acts, a condemnation that extends to the alleged use of anti-personnel mines by armed non-state actors.
We are even more concerned by different allegations of use of anti-personnel landmines by States Parties to the Convention. We urge that the States concerned by these allegations will swiftly address them, provide the necessary clarification based on thorough investigations and, take the appropriate legal measures.
Strengthening human security