Landmines have a long history, dating back to the Greek and
Roman empires. However, it is
during the Second World War that antipersonnel and antitank
landmines started to be widely used for defensive and tactical
purposes and to achieve military objectives. Troops typically
placed the mines by hand, but first mapped the location of the
minefields for future clearance, even though many of the mines
laid were not immediately cleared. In many European countries,
a residual threat still exists from landmines placed during
the Second World War.
This antipersonnel mine is activated
by stepping on it.
Advances in technology in the 1960s made it possible to scatter mines
mechanically rather than planting them by hand.
This meant that hundreds of landmines could be deployed at the same
time using aircraft, rockets or artillery. While a troop of 30 men
could lay approximately 50 mines per hour, one remote delivery system
could scatter over 200 mines at the same time. During the Vietnam
War, vast areas of land in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were completely
saturated with mines using these delivery systems.
|As conflicts became more
brutal, the effect of landmines was no longer strictly limited
to military targets. In the 1980s,
mines quickly became a weapon of choice in many internal conflicts.
The low cost of antipersonnel mines made them particularly appealing
to guerrilla and military forces in developing countries. The
production of smaller and more sophisticated landmines and the
development of homemade devices prompted a huge increase in
the amounts placed in the field. Plastic mines, which cannot
be identified with metal detectors, also became common. Civilians
became targets because antipersonnel landmines were used intentionally
to harass and terrorize them, forcing them to leave their homes
and blocking access to important infrastructure like water and
electricity. All these factors led to a global crisis—but
the biggest contributing factor was the increase in the planting
of mines around the world.
The Yugoslav PMA-2 is a plastic mine
but also has a metallic component. It is amongst the smallest
type of anti-personnel mines.
||In 1992, six humanitarian organisations
joined together to create the International
Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). From their work in mine affected countries
they had seen first hand the horrendous toll landmines take
on innocent people in countries where conflict has already caused
so much pain. The work of the ICBL, which grew to a membership
of more than 1400 non-governmental organisations, in partnership
with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the
United Nations and governments worldwide, aims to make the history
of landmines a short one. In July 2002, more than two-thirds
of the world’s countries were party to the Antipersonnel
Mine Ban Convention, which bans the
use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of antipersonnel