Practice Relating to Rule 81. Restrictions on the Use of Landmines
South Africa’s Revised Civic Education Manual (2004) states that landmines “may only be used when placed in close proximity to military objects” and “when the tactical situation demands them”, and that warning signs must be posted.
South Africa’s LOAC Teaching Manual (2008) states:
3. Means and Methods of Warfare
Several specific weapons are governed by specific treaties. These treaties establish two categories of weapons, to wit[:]
- Weapons of which the use is totally prohibited; and
- Weapons of which the use is permitted under certain conditions.
Weapons of which the Use is Totally Prohibited
- Anti-personnel Mines (The International Treaty on the Banning of all Anti-Personnel Mines, 1997)
- This Treaty is also known as “The Ottawa Treaty”.
- This treaty bans the development, production, stockpiling, transfer and use of anti-personnel mines, and requires [their] destruction.
- This ban applies to all mines designed to kill or injure people, irrespective [of] whether they are placed in the ground, in marked minefields or are remotely delivered, or whether they self-destruct or self-deactivate.
- These mines include the so-called “dual purpose mines” which are designed to be detonated by either persons or vehicles, as well as anti-vehicle mines with an anti-handling or anti-lifting device.
Weapons of which the use is Permitted under Certain Conditions:
- Land Mines and Similar Devices (Geneva Protocol II [on] the Use of Mines, Booby-traps and Other Devices dated 10 October 1980)
- Definitions (Geneva Protocol II [on] the Use of Mines[,] Booby-traps and Other Devices dated 10 October 1980 Article 2)
- A “mine” means any munitions placed under or near the ground or other surface area and designed to be detonated or exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person or vehicle. (But note that the use of mines that can be detonated by a person has subsequently been totally prohibited.)
- “Other devices” means manually emplaced munitions and devices designated to kill, injure or damage and which are activated by remote control or automatically after a lapse of time.
- “Remotely delivered mine” means any mine delivered by artillery, rocket, mortar or similar means or dropped from aircraft.
- Conditions for Permitted Use
- Mines (not Remotely Delivered), Booby Traps, and Other Devices (Geneva Protocol II on the Use of Mines, Booby-traps and Other Devices dated 10 October 1980 Article 4).
Mines and other than remotely delivered booby-traps and other devices may be used in populated areas[:]
- When they are placed on or in the close vicinity of a military objective belonging to or under control of the enemy; and
- When measures are taken to protect civilian persons (e.g. Warning signs, sentries, issue of warnings, provision of fences, etc).
- Remotely Delivered Mines (Geneva Protocol II on the Use of Mines, Booby-traps and Other Devices dated 10 October 1980 Article 5)
Remotely delivered mines may be used:
- Only within an area which is a military objective or which contains military objectives;
- When their location can be accurately recorded or an effective neutralising mechanism is used on each mine; and
- Subject to the effective advance warning to the civilian population, when the tactical situation permits.
South Africa’s Prohibition or Restriction of Certain Conventional Weapons Act (2008) states:
Mines, booby traps or other devices –
6. (1) No person may use or direct any mine, booby-trap or other device –
(c) in any city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians in which combat between ground forces is not taking place or does not appear to be imminent, unless either –
(i) such mine, booby-trap or other device is placed on or directed against a military objective; or
(ii) measures are taken to protect civilians from their effects;
(d) either in offence, defence or by way of reprisals, against the civilian population or against individual civilians or civilian objects;
(e) in an indiscriminate manner –
(i) which is not on or directed against a military objective, and in case of doubt as to whether an object which is normally dedicated to civilian purposes, such as a place of worship, a house or other dwelling or a school, is being used to make an effective contribution to military action, it shall be presumed not to be [so] used; or
(ii) which employs a method or means of delivery which cannot be directed at a specific military objective; or
(iii) which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.
The Act defines a “mine” as
(a) … any munition placed under, on or near the ground or other surface area and designed to be detonated or exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person or vehicle; and
(b) includes mines laid to interdict beaches, waterway crossings or river crossings; but
(c) excludes anti-ship mines used at sea or in inland waterways.
Upon acceptance of the 1996 Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, South Africa stated:
The provisions of the amended Protocol which by their contents or nature may be applied also in peacetime, shall be observed at all times …
It is the understanding of South Africa that the word “primarily” is included in article 2, paragraph 3 of the amended Protocol to clarify that 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.
It is understood that article 5, paragraph 2(b) does not preclude agreement among the states concerned, in connection with peace treaties or similar arrangements, to allocate responsibilities under paragraph 2(b) in another manner which nevertheless respects the essential spirit and purpose of the article.