United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Practice Relating to the Prohibition of Certain Types of Landmines
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) states:
6.13. Parties to the Ottawa Convention 1997, including the United Kingdom, accept a prohibition on the possession or use of antipersonnel landmines as well as assistance, encouragement or inducement to any other person to possess or use these mines. Members of the United Kingdom armed forces will not, however, be guilty of an offence merely by reason of taking part in joint operations with forces of an ally not bound by the Ottawa Convention which deploy landmines.
6.14. The use of antivehicle landmines is permitted so long as:
a. they are not designed to be detonated by mine detectors; and
b. any antihandling device is deactivated when the mine deactivates; and
c. they are either -
(1) cleared before the area where they are laid is abandoned, or
(2) handed over to another state that assumes the responsibilities laid down in this paragraph;
In the case of remotely delivered antivehicle mines, they must be selfdeactivating and their location must be recorded.
6.14.1. The mines referred to in this paragraph are those used on land or laid to interdict beaches, waterway crossings and river crossings. This paragraph does not apply to anti-ship mines used at sea or in inland waterways. “Mine” means “a munition placed under, on or near the ground or other surface area and designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person or vehicle.” “Remotely-delivered mine” means a mine “not directly emplaced but delivered by artillery, missile, rocket, mortar or similar means, or dropped from an aircraft”. Mines laid from a land-based system from less than 500 metres are not considered remotely delivered. Anti-vehicle mines equipped with anti-handling devices are not considered to be anti-personnel mines as a result of being so equipped.
6.14.4. It is prohibited to use remotely delivered anti-vehicle mines “unless, to the extent feasible, they are equipped with an effective self-destruction or self-neutralization mechanism and have a back-up self-deactivation feature, which is designed so that the mine will no longer function as a mine when the mine no longer serves the military purpose for which it was placed in position.”
In its chapter on internal armed conflict, the manual prohibits the use of anti-personnel landmines.
The UK Landmines Act (1998) provides:
(1) Subject to sections 3 to 6, no person shall
(a) use an anti-personnel mine;
(b) develop or produce an anti-personnel mine;
(c) participate in the acquisition of a prohibited object;
(d) have a prohibited object in his possession; or
(e) participate in the transfer of a prohibited object.
(2) Subject to those sections, no person shall assist, encourage or induce any other person to engage in any conduct mentioned in subsection (1).
In 2008, in the BE (Iran) case
, which concerned a claim to refugee protection of an Iranian who deserted from the Iranian army in 1999 rather than continue to lay anti-personnel mines in a populated part of Iranian Kurdistan, the England and Wales Court of Appeal stated: “[T]here is neither a rule of customary international law forbidding the use of these weapons [anti-personnel mines] nor any simple reading across into peacetime of the restrictions placed on their use in warfare by international humanitarian law.”
The Court also held:
Customary international law
29. So far as concerns customary international law, Ms Webber [counsel for the appellant] is in our judgment entitled to rely on certain important aspects of the  Ottawa Convention [on Anti-Personnel Mines]. Three-quarters of the world’s states have signed and ratified it. Of those who have not, the United States in 1998 set out its condemnation of anti-personnel landmines, recognising them as the cause of a “global humanitarian crisis” reflected in the fact that whereas at the start of the 20th century 90% of wartime casualties were soldiers, by the end of the century 90% were civilians, and undertaking that the US would sign the Convention by 2006 “if we succeed in identifying and fielding suitable alternatives to our APL [anti-personnel landmines] and mixed anti-tank systems by that date”. Iran claimed in 2005 to have stopped using or making landmines and to be against the use of them, “but war in and occupation of two countries bordering Iran are not conducive to Iran joining the Mine Ban Treaty”. No state, in short, appears since 1998 to have contested the arbitrary and unjustifiable effects of anti-personnel landmines or to have advanced any but a temporary pragmatic reason for not repudiating their use. In this situation Ms Webber is in our view right to describe the outlawing of such weapons as an emerging norm of international law.
International humanitarian law: the law of war
30. International humanitarian law, as the AIT [Asylum and Immigration Tribunal] noted … , requires belligerents to minimise collateral harm to civilians. In particular common article 3 of the four 1949 Geneva Conventions on the Law of Armed Conflict unconditionally prohibits violence to the life and person of non-combatants. There is no doubt in our minds that any belligerent state or group which sows and leaves unmarked antipersonnel landmines in a populated area violates this fundamental rule of human conduct … [which] forms part of the law of war.
The Court also stated:
[W]e hold that what this appellant was seeking to avoid by deserting was the commission of what this country and civilised opinion worldwide recognises as an atrocity and a gross violation of human rights – the unmarked planting of anti-personnel mines in roads used by innocent civilians.
Upon ratification of the 1996 Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the United Kingdom declared: “Nothing in the present declaration or in Protocol II as amended shall be taken as limiting the obligations of the United Kingdom under the … [1997 Ottawa Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines] nor its rights in relation to other Parties to that Convention.”
In October 1996, the United Kingdom signed an EU Joint Action supporting a comprehensive global ban on anti-personnel landmines at the earliest possible date, supporting mine clearance and implementing a common export moratorium on all anti-personnel landmines.
The United Kingdom subsequently voted in favour of the UN General Assembly resolution in support of a ban on anti-personnel landmines in 1996.
Immediately after the election of a new government in May 1997, a new UK policy was announced. This policy consisted of several elements. First, the destruction of all anti-personnel landmine stocks and a ban on their use by 2005 at the latest. Second, a moratorium on landmine use until either 2005 or an “effective international agreement enters into force, whichever comes first”. Third, to negotiate “constructively” within the “Ottawa Process” for an international ban, while working in the Conference on Disarmament for a wider ban. Lastly, to retain use in “exceptional circumstances” authorized by ministers and reported to Parliament; this included the potential use of the JP233 airfield denial weapon (containing the HB876 air-scattered anti-personnel mines) and the L27 anti-tank mine.
In a written answer to a parliamentary question by Helen Jackson MP, the secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, Robin Cook, stated:
We shall implement our manifesto commitment to ban the import, export, transfer and manufacture of all forms of anti-personnel landmines. We will accelerate the phasing out of our stocks of anti-personnel landmines and complete it by 2005 or when an effective international agreement to ban their use enters into force, whichever comes first. In the meantime we have introduced a complete moratorium on their operational use, while we participate constructively in the Ottawa Process.
The United Kingdom was a full participant in the “Ottawa Process” which led to the adoption of treaty banning anti-personnel landmines. It defined its position for the Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in February 1995. First, it supported a ban on non-detectable anti-personnel landmines and the extension of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to cover civil wars and other internal conflicts. Second, it wanted clear definitions and standards for self-destructing mines, stipulating when and how minefields should be marked and ensuring mapping. Third, it called for an international code on the transfer of anti-personnel landmines, but also argued for such a code to allow for the export and use of self-destructing mines. Fourth, it sought to secure agreement on the provision of assistance to humanitarian agencies working in mined areas.
However, on 22 April 1996, before the final session of the Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the UK government announced a substantive change in policy “in order to make greater progress in achieving international agreement”. The main move was to back a total international prohibition on anti-personnel landmines. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom would destroy 46 percent of its anti-personnel landmine stocks; upgrade the rest of its stocks to be self-destructing; use anti-personnel landmines only in “exceptional circumstances” and in accordance with the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons; and seek alternatives to anti-personnel landmines and, if successful, cease to use them and destroy all its stocks. The United Kingdom repeated this policy as its opening statement at the International Strategy Conference “Towards a Global Ban on Anti-personnel Mines” in October 1996.
In 2003, in a written reply to a question in the House of Commons, the UK Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Ministry of Defence, stated:
The Landmines Act 1998 prohibits certain conduct, including using or possessing an anti-personnel mine, or participating in the acquisition or transfer of an anti-personnel mine, or assisting, encouraging or inducing such conduct. These offences apply to conduct in the United Kingdom and to conduct by United Kingdom nationals elsewhere. Any indication of illegal activity would be a matter for the law enforcement agencies.
In 2003, in a written reply to a question in the House of Commons, the UK Secretary of State for Defence stated: “The United Kingdom, as a State Party to the Ottawa Convention [on Anti-Personnel Mines], does not possess operational anti-personnel mines and will not use any in Iraq.”