Norway has long been concerned about the impact of anti-vehicle mines on civilians, in conflict as well as post-conflict situations. Anti-vehicle mines are victim-activated weapons that are designed to disable or destroy armoured vehicles. This means that when civilian vehicles – which do not have armoured protection - are involved in an incident, the potential damage of one single incident is large and may include multiple civilian casualties. In addition, the fact that weapons are victim-activated – or automated – is highly problematic with regard to the ability to distinguish between military targets and civilians. It is also a fact that when roads are contaminated or suspected to be contaminated with anti-vehicle mines, humanitarian access to vulnerable populations may be difficult. We are grateful to the many organisations that have provided background information for this meeting, including the ICRC and the Monitor.
The Monitor has prepared a fact sheet on the humanitarian impact of anti-vehicle mines, comprising information gathered since their reporting on landmines started in 1999. Even though the data presented is probably incomplete due to underreporting and the problem of disaggregation, the Monitor has identified more than 5000 casualties from anti-vehicle mines from 1999 to 2010. Moreover, more than 75% of these are civilians
The ICRC in its very useful background paper has highlighted that the problems caused by anti-vehicle mines arise both from the design of these weapons and the way that they are often used. Mainly this relates to the fact that mines are victim-activated and, according to the ICRC, cannot be aimed at military objects or vehicles alone. In addition, in many cases, marking, fencing, monitoring and removal have not taken place. To quote the ICRC – “the result is that in many contexts anti-vehicle mines remain a deadly and long-term danger endured by civilian populations”.
In our view the information provided by the Monitor and the ICRC clearly demonstrates that there are important issues to discuss when it comes to the implementation of international humanitarian law with regard to anti-vehicle mines, in particular in relation to the prohibition of indiscriminate and/or disproportionate attacks, the obligation to take all feasible precautions to spare the civilian population, the principle of military necessity etc.
A discussion on anti-vehicle mines and how to address the impact of these weapons can only be meaningful if we examine more closely in what kind of circumstances these weapons cause their damage. To be able to assess what kind of legal regimes that will adequately cover the issue it will be crucial to establish whether the incidents with anti-vehicle mines are caused by explosive remnants of war and conflict, or if anti vehicle mines are being laid and used actively. In short; are we talking about “old use” or “new use” of these weapons? Much evidence goes in the direction of anti-vehicle mines largely being a weapon of the past and that most incidents are caused by explosive remnants. This does not in any way undercut the need to have a humanitarian response, including clearance and victim assistance. However, it does change the way we should address the issue if the use of these weapons are a thing of the past and that the reality is that these weapons have limited military utility and a huge potential for creating civilian casualties. We need to assess what legal regimes and norms that would already, and perhaps sufficiently if implemented properly, provide adequate rules and regulations.
We would suggest that in addition to the general rules and principles of IHL that of course apply to anti-vehicle mines it would be relevant to look into the principles regarding victim-activated mines as established in the Mine Ban Convention. In addition the Amended Protocol II of the CCW could have some relevant provisions and on the issue of explosive remnants of war there is Protocol V of the CCW. In our view these frameworks have been furthering the notion that anti-vehicle mines are very problematic weapons from an IHL perspective.
To encourage a broader perspective and taking in to account the actual positive developments and strengthening of relevant IHL over the last decade is to us in line with the mandate of this meeting which is to discuss the implementation of international humanitarian law regarding mines other than anti-personnel mines, and to report to the meeting of the High Contracting Parties later in the year.
We would like to underline the usefulness of adhering to the actual mandate of this meeting of experts and not fall in to the trap of conclude too early that there should be a need to develop a new Protocol or further amend existing Protocol II. Before we have established what real value that could possibly be achieved from a legal perspective and what kind a problem we are to respond to from an operational perspective we would caution against embarking on yet another futile process in this forum. Previous experience in the CCW demonstrates the necessity of identifying a common objective amongst the High Contracting Parties. Such past experience including the long-lasting discussions on mines other than anti-personnel mines and the lack of any agreement in 2006 on neither the nature of any humanitarian impact of anti-vehicle mines; on their military utility; nor on how to adress such humanitarian impact. If current use of anti-vehicle mines represents a humanitarian problem and a violation of IHL, there is an obvious solution to the problem. That solution is not likely to found within the CCW.
We now have an opportunity to exchange views on anti-vehicle mines, and we particularly look forward to listening to humanitarian organisations and their experience and information regarding what impact the use of anti-vehicle mines has in the field. As always, realities in the field should inform and guide our discussions on adequate and appropriate responses to address the negative impact caused by anti-vehicle mines. We hope that discussions during this meeting will focus on factual evidence, on humanitarian issues, on principles – and not drown in technical details with little meaning for those facing the danger caused by anti-vehicle landmines. We expect to be enlightened, to learn more about the impact that anti-vehicle mines cause, and to move forward in our understanding of how international humanitarian law is implemented with regard to these weapons.
We expect that the report that will be submitted to the Meeting of the High Contracting Parties later this year will adequately reflect our discussions and include presentations, information and arguments presented by humanitarian organisations. We also hope that the report will demonstrate to what extent there is a convergence of views amongst the High Contracting Parties and a common wish to address the humanitarian impact caused by anti-vehicle mines, or whether positions remain as distant and irreconcilable as in the past.
In conclusion, we would also like to inform the High Contracting Parties that the Norwegian Armed Forces are currently conducting an assessment of its stockpiles of such mines, and a decision has already been made to destroy a significant number of the anti-vehicle mines currently in Norwegian stocks.