Practice Relating to the Prohibition of Certain Types of Landmines
Australia’s LOAC Manual (2006) states:
Parties to the Ottawa Convention 1997, including Australia, accept a prohibition on the possession or use of anti-personnel landmines as well as assistance, encouragement or inducement to any other person to possess or use these mines. Members of the ADF [Australian Defence Force] 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.
The LOAC Manual (2006) replaces both the Defence Force Manual (1994) and the Commanders’ Guide (1994).
Australia’s Anti-Personnel Mines Convention Act (1998) provides:
A person is guilty of an offence if:
(a) the person places an anti-personnel mine under, on or near the ground or other surface area; or
(b) the person is knowingly in the possession of an anti-personnel mine; or
(c) the person develops, produces or otherwise acquires an anti-personnel mine; or
(d) the person stockpiles anti-personnel mines; or
(e) the person physically moves an anti-personnel mine; or
(f) the person transfers ownership or control of an anti-personnel mine, whether directly or indirectly, to another person.
The Decision-Making Principles Governing the Retention of Anti-Personnel Mines by the Australian Defence Forces (ADF), made by Australia’s Minister for Defence on 6 February 2006 under authority of subsection 8(3) of the Anti-Personnel Mines Convention Act (1998), states:
Pursuant to Australia’s obligations as a State Party to [the Ottawa Convention] … the following decision making principles would apply when determining whether anti-personnel mines may be used by the ADF:
The retention of anti-personnel mines within the ADF is to be limited to:
Maintaining a demining and countermine capability;
Maintaining a capability to demolish anti-personnel mines as part of demining, countermine, Explosive Ordnance Demolition (EOD) or Demolition of Malfunctioned Explosive Ordnance (DMEO) capabilities;
Demonstrating anti-personnel mines’ effects as part of mine awareness and countermine training; and
Research into anti-personnel mines’ effects on in-service and trial equipment.
…Any Australian Defence Force, Force Element participating in a coalition operation is not to engage in any activity prohibited by the Ottawa Convention and the Anti-Personnel Mines Convention Act 1998 and the Declaration of Understanding deposited with Australia’s instrument of ratification to the Convention, unless Australia has withdrawn from the Ottawa Convention and the relevant domestic legislation has been repealed. Mere participation by Australian forces or personnel in a coalition operation involving partners not party to the Ottawa Convention would not constitute a violation by those forces and personnel.
In 1995, during a debate in the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, Australia stated that it was “committed to the elimination of all anti-personnel land-mines as an ultimate goal”.
In a media release dated 15 April 1996, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, and Minister for Defence, Ian McLachlan, announced “Australia’s support for a global ban on the production, stockpiling, use and transfer of anti-personnel landmines (APL) and a unilateral suspension on the operational use of APL by the Australian Defence Force”. Announcing that these measures would come into immediate effect, Mr Downer stated:
By joining the small but growing number of countries which have suspended the use of landmines by their national defence forces, Australia hopes, by the example it sets, to add its weight to the international campaign for a global ban on the use, transfer, production and stockpiling of landmines – that is, their total elimination as a weapon of war. Australia will work internationally for the achievement of such a ban.
Mr McLachlan added that “Australia did not produce and would not export landmines, and that the ADF stocks of landmines would be used for training and research purposes only”.
At the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 1999, Australia stated that it would “promote the achievement of increased adherence to the Ottawa Convention [on Anti-Personnel Mines], [and] the commencement of negotiations for a transfer ban on landmines”.
At the Second Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in 2001, Australia reiterated its “commitment to universal adherence both to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and its annexed protocols, and to the Ottawa Convention [on Anti-Personnel Mines]” and urged “all States which had not yet done so to accede to those important instruments”.
In 2009, in a ministerial statement before the House of Representatives on Mine Action Strategy, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs stated:
Australia was one of the original signatories of the mine ban convention when it opened for signature in December 1997 in Ottawa. Australia ratified the treaty in December 1998 …
Australia is committed to a world free from landmines … Australia has long supported action to eradicate landmines … and to ease the suffering of adversely affected people and communities.