United States of America
Practice Relating to the Prohibition of Certain Types of Landmines
The US Naval Handbook (2007) states:
The 1997 Ottawa Convention imposes a ban on the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of antipersonnel land mines (APLs), which are designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity, or contact of a person and that will incapacitate, injure, or kill one or more persons. … The United States is not a party to the Ottawa Convention, however, many of its allies and coalition partners are, and this may, depending on the circumstances at the time, impact operational planning regarding shipment, resupply, and placement of landmines.
The United States is a party to Amended Protocol II to the Conventional Weapons Convention. This Protocol does not ban APLs, but imposes requirements on State parties regarding use, maintenance, and removal of mines and minefields. Overall, U.S. policy on landmine use recognizes that both APLs and AVLs [antitank/vehicle landmines] are necessary and effective weapons when properly employed, and that the primary danger of incidental and or indiscriminate injury to noncombatants and civilians from landmines is a factor of whether or not a particular mine (whether APL or AVL) is “persistent” or “nonpersistent” (i.e., designed to either automatically de-arm or self-destruct or capable of being controlled). To that end, it is U.S. policy to:
1. Continue to develop nonpersistent APLs and AVLs that meet or exceed international standards for self-destruction and self-deactivation.
2. Remove nondetectable mines of any type (APL and AVL) in its arsenal.
3. Stockpile persistent APLs only for use by the United States in fulfillment of treaty obligations to the Republic of Korea.
4. Employ persistent AVLs outside the Republic of Korea only when authorized by the president, and only until 2010. After 2010, the United States will not employ persistent landmines.
5. Begin the destruction of those persistent landmines that are not needed for the protection of Korea.
In 1995, during a debate in the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, the United States stated: “We must renew our commitment to clear, control and eventually eliminate these indiscriminate killers and we must act on this commitment now.”
In 1996, in a White House fact sheet announcing its anti-personnel landmine policy, the United States stated that it would “aggressively pursue an international agreement to ban use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines with a view to completing the negotiation as soon as possible”.
This policy also meant the United States would no longer use so-called “dumb” mines, except on the Korean Peninsula. It would no longer produce such “dumb” mines and would destroy most of its stockpile of “dumb” mines. But it would maintain the right to use so-called “smart” mines anywhere in the world, until an international ban took effect. The United States would also continue producing smart mines without limitation and would keep all existing stocks of smart mines.
In October 1992, the United States enacted a one-year moratorium on the export of anti-personnel landmines. This was the first significant measure by any country to control anti-personnel mines. In 1993, the US State Department produced the report “Hidden Killers: The Global Problem with Uncleared Landmines”, the first comprehensive study of the landmine crisis. In September 1994, President Bill Clinton became the first world leader to call for the “eventual elimination” of anti-personnel mines, and the US sponsored a UN General Assembly resolution endorsing the eventual elimination of mines adopted in December 1994. In 1995, the US Senate passed an amendment requiring a one-year moratorium on the use of anti-personnel mines, except along international borders and in demilitarized zones. It was signed into law in February 1996 and was to take effect three years later, but in 1998 Congress gave the president the authority to waive the moratorium.
In November 1996 the United States introduced a UN General Assembly resolution urging nations “to pursue vigorously” an international ban treaty “with a view to completing the negotiation as soon as possible”. The resolution also called on governments unilaterally to implement “bans, moratoria or other restrictions” on production, stockpiling, export and use of anti-personnel landmines “at the earliest date possible”.
On 17 January 1997, the United States announced that, instead of full support for the “Ottawa Process”, the United States would seek negotiations on a worldwide mine ban treaty in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Other major elements of the policy announcement were that the United States would observe a permanent ban on the export of anti-personnel landmines (moving beyond the existing temporary moratorium) and that the United States would cap its anti-personnel landmine stockpile at the current level of inventory.
At the same time, the United States attended as an observer all of the preparatory meetings for the adoption of a treaty banning anti-personnel landmines. The United States participated fully in the Oslo negotiations in September 1997. However, it also laid out a series of demands, or prerequisites, for its support of the treaty: a geographic exception for continued use of anti-personnel mines of all types in Korea; a change in the treaty’s definition of anti-personnel mine so that US anti-personnel mines contained in “mixed” systems with anti-tank mines would not be banned; and an optional nine-year deferral period for compliance with the treaty’s key prohibitions. During the negotiations, these demands were rejected by the other governments.
On 17 September 1997, the closing day of the treaty negotiations in Oslo, US President Bill Clinton announced that the United States would not be signing the treaty, but that the United States would unilaterally stop using anti-personnel mines everywhere but Korea by 2003, and in Korea by 2006. Other officials clarified that this would not apply to anti-personnel mines contained in mixed munitions, because the United States no longer considered them to be anti-personnel landmines but rather submunitions.
In 1998, US Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 64 stated that the United States would sign the 1997 Ottawa Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines by 2006 if it succeeded in developing suitable alternatives to anti-personnel mines and mixed anti-tank systems by that time. It also stated that the United States would end the use of anti-personnel landmines outside Korea by 2003.
In February 2004, the US administration announced a new US policy on landmines. This policy stated in part:
Elements of the new policy
To reduce these humanitarian hazards to the lowest possible level, while at the same time protecting our ground forces and the civilians they may be sent to defend, the United States will now implement the following policy:
• Persistence: After the year 2010 the United States will no longer use persistent landmines of any type, anti-personnel or anti-vehicle. Every landmine we use will meet or exceed the specifications for self-destruction and self-deactivation of the Amended Mines Protocol to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (AMP/CCW).
• Non-detectable mines: After one year the United States will no longer use non-metallic or low-metallic landmines of any type, anti-vehicle or anti-personnel. This completes a process the United States started years earlier, by converting non-detectable anti-personnel landmines into detectable ones. Every landmine we use will meet or exceed the specifications for detectability in the CCW’s Amended Mines Protocol.
Significance of the New Policy
• These commitments do not depend on any future contingencies. This policy recognizes that persistent anti-vehicle mines as well as persistent anti-personnel mines can cause humanitarian problems. Therefore it treats anti-personnel (APL) and anti-vehicle mines equally. It is not merely an “APL” policy. It is a comprehensive landmine policy.
In January 2005, the US State Department issued a media release announcing that the United States had banned the use of non-detectable landmines:
The United States has become the first major military power to terminate its use of any landmines that cannot be located with the standard metal detectors used by military and humanitarian deminers around the world.
“The U.S. landmine policy recognizes that non-detectable landmines pose a particularly insidious threat to humanitarian deminers as well as innocent civilians in a post-conflict environment,” remarked Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr., the Special Representative of the President and Secretary of State for Mine Action who also serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs. “Our action meets the first major goal in our new policy, which forswears the use by the United States of non-detectable mines now and all persistent mines after 2010.”
This prohibition on the use of non-detectable landmines covers both anti-personnel as well as anti-vehicle mines. The United States action surpasses the detectability requirements of both international landmine treaties: the Amended Mines Protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to which the United States is a party, and the “Ottawa Convention” which relates to anti-personnel mines.