Several international agreements regulate or ban the use of landmines and explosive remnants of war. These instruments are part of international humanitarian law. International human rights law protects the rights of persons affected by these weapons.
The UN's engagement in mine action is guided by relevant international law and it actively promotes full adherence to and compliance by States and parties to armed conflict, where applicable, with relevant treaties and international instruments, in particular, the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty, the Convention on conventional weapons and international human rights instruments. It is the policy of the UN to contribute to the UN's larger efforts to help ensure compliance with relevant resolutions and international legal norms and standards. Explore the body of international law that guides and informs mine action.
Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty
The most well-known treaty in the area of mine action is the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty ("Ottawa Convention"). The treaty, which imposes a total ban on anti-personnel landmines, resulted from negotiations led by a powerful and unusual coalition involving governments, the UN, international organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and over 1,400 nongovernmental organizations through a network known as the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). This unprecedented coalition used advocacy to raise public awareness of the impact of anti-personnel landmines on civilians and to rally global support for a total ban.
In December 1997, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and its coordinator, Jody Williams, won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty entered into force on 1 March 1999. As of December 2013, 161 countries had ratified or acceded to the treaty.
When a country becomes a "state party" to the treaty, it agrees never to use, develop, produce, stockpile or transfer anti-personnel landmines, or to assist any other party to conduct these activities; to destroy all stockpiled anti-personnel landmines within four years; to clear all laid anti-personnel landmines within 10 years; and, when it is within its means, to provide assistance for mine clearance, mine awareness, stockpile destruction, and survivors-assistance activities worldwide. Under Article 7, each state party is required to report to the UN Secretary-General on appropriate measures undertaken to fulfill its treaty obligations. For more information visit the Office of Disarmament Affairs' Article 7 report database.
Convention on Cluster Munitions
The Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted by 107 countries on 30 May 2008 in Dublin, Ireland. The Convention was opened for signature on 3 December 2008, and as of 28 March 2011 had 108 signatories, and had been ratified by 55 states. The Convention entered into force on 1 August 2010, six months after the 30th state submitted its instrument of ratification.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits all use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. It also provides countries with deadlines for clearance of affected areas and the destruction of stockpiled cluster munitions. It includes articles concerning assistance to victims of cluster munitions incidents.
Under the Convention on Cluster Munitions states parties will be obligated to:
- Destroy their stockpile of cluster munitions within eight years of entry into force (article 3);
- Undertake to clear and destroy cluster munition remnants located in cluster munition contaminated areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but no later than 10 years after becoming a state party (article 4);
- Provide age and gender-sensitive assistance to cluster munition survivors, including medical care, rehabilitation and psychological support; provide for their social and economic inclusion (article 5); and
- Submit annual reports on the Convention on Cluster Munitions implementation activities to the UN Secretary-General (article 7).
Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons – Protocols II and V
The 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons (formally known as the 1980 Convention on Prohibitions and Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects) has five parts, or "protocols." Only two of them are related to mine action. Amended Protocol II deals with landmines, booby-traps and other devices, and protocol V deals with the problem of explosive remnants of war (ERW).
Under Protocol V, states parties and parties to armed conflict are required to take action to clear, remove or destroy ERW (article 3), and record, retain and transmit information related to the use or abandonment of explosive ordnances (article 4). They are also obligated to take all feasible precautions for the protection of civilians (article 5) and humanitarian missions and organizations (article 6). States Parties in a position to do so should provide cooperation and assistance for marking, clearance, removal, destruction, and survivors' assistance, among other things (articles 7 & 8). Protocol V entered into force on 12 November 2006.
Watch "Before the Blast" documentary film about the CCW Protocol V.
For more information, visit the Office of Disarmament Affairs' Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons website.
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Some 650 million people in the world live with disabilities—about 10 percent of the world’s population. They encounter myriad physical and social obstacles that:
- Prevent them from receiving an education;
- Prevent them from getting jobs, even when they are well qualified;
- Prevent them from accessing information;
- Prevent them from obtaining proper health care;
- Prevent them from getting around;
- Prevent them from “fitting in” and being accepted.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol (A/RES/61/106) was adopted on 13 December 2006 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and was opened for signature on 30 March 2007 and entered into force on 3 May 2008. It is the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century and is the first human rights convention to be open for signature by regional integration organizations.
The Convention has particular significance for mine action as it details the rights of survivors of mines and ERW. While the Convention does not identify new rights, it provides guidance on how to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise their existing rights without discrimination. It provides a solid legal framework for the provision of assistance to survivors of mines and ERW.
You can download both the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the toolkit designed to support efforts to advocate for the ratification and implementation of the convention. The toolkit was developed by UNMAS with the assistance of OHCHR, UNHCR, UNICEF and other UN Inter-Agency Coordination Groups on Mine Action Members in coordination with Survivor Corps. It will familiarise field practitioners with the content of the Convention, and guide efforts to encourage ratification and to contribute to implementation and monitoring.
Human Rights Law
International human rights law establishes the rights of persons, including those affected by mines and ERW. Mines and ERW can affect the exercise of a number of political, economic, social, civil and cultural rights, including the right to life and to personal integrity, freedom of movement, the right to food, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to health care, and the right to education. Five of the core human rights treaties all contain relevant provisions in these areas.
For more information on the international human rights treaties and treaty bodies, visit the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) website.
The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees adopted on 14 December 1950, and its 1967 Additional Protocol establish the legal framework for the protection of refugees. The UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement identify the rights and guarantees relevant to the protection of internally displaced persons and provide a framework consistent with international human rights law, humanitarian law and refugee law. Refugees, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) or returnees often lack traditional protection coping mechanisms, and are inherently mobile and hence especially vulnerable to the consequences of landmines, ERW and cluster munitions. Apart from the real and imminent threat of harm, the presence of these weapons restricts free movement and consequently seriously risks limiting access to basic means of survival, including water and food, farmland, and medical services. For refugees who opt to return home, land mines, ERW and cluster munitions continue to pose serious restrictions on the returnees' ability to re-establish themselves and render their reintegration process sustainable.
These challenges are at the forefront of many of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) protection programmes extant today. In close cooperation with its operational partners, UNHCR is committed to mine action advocacy and ensuring that harm to refugees, IDP's and returnees is reduced.
For more information visit UNHCR's website.
Other International Humanitarian Law
In addition to restricting the means and methods of warfare, international humanitarian law protects persons who are not or are no longer participating in the hostilities. The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are international treaties that contain the most important rules limiting the most deleterious effects of war. They protect people who do not take part in the fighting (civilians, medics, aid workers) and those who can no longer fight (wounded, sick and shipwrecked troops, prisoners of war).
For more information on international humanitarian law, visit the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) website.