Inhumane Weapons 

expands scope of application


The adoption in 1980 of the Convention on Certain Conven-tional Weapons (CCW), also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention, was a major step forward in marrying disarmament law and the humanitarian rules governing State behaviour in times of armed conflict or war. Conventional weapons are defined as all weapons excluding the known weapons of mass destruction—nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological. The weapons restricted or banned under the CCW include landmines and booby-traps, incendiary weapons, weapons leaving undetectable fragments in the body, and blinding lasers. The legal instruments covering each of these weapons are in the form of protocols attached to a framework convention. 

     The most familiar of the restrictions is protocol II, covering anti-personnel landmines (APLM) and booby-traps. The protocol restricted the use of APLMs, but was never adhered to widely by States after its adoption. Its provisions, such as reporting to the United Nations about the placement of mine fields, were also not frequently implemented. Humanitarian agencies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and public organizations such as the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) viewed the protocol as inadequate to stem the scourge of dying and suffering caused by these weapons after conflicts ended. United Nations peacekeepers and humanitarian aid workers were lost or injured on account of these remnants of war. 

     The protocol was amended in 1998 to plug some of the holes in the original accord. States agreed to prohibit so-called “dumb” mines, most of the mines in use until then. APLMs would thereafter be “smart” mines, that is, mines that were detectable for removal purposes and self-deactivating. 

     When protocol II was amended, a group of like-minded States, the ICBL and other organizations expressed their dissatisfaction at the outcome, believing that only a complete ban on all anti-personnel landmines would address the emergency situation caused by the millions and millions of APLMs deployed and still active. They began the “Ottawa process” and within one year produced the Mine Ban Convention, prohibiting the use, development, production, and stockpiling of any kind of APLM, and mandating the complete destruction of existing stocks. Some major weapon States such as China, India, Israel, Pakistan and the United States, are parties to Amended Protocol II, but not to the Mine Ban Convention. 

Internal conflicts now covered

     An important breakthrough was reached in the life of the CCW at the conclusion of the Second Review Conference of the States parties to the Convention in December 2001. Agreement was reached to amend Article 1 of the Convention so that the prohibitions and restrictions in the Convention will apply to internal (such as insurrections, rebel movements and terrorism) as well as international conflicts. The amendment is in recognition of the large number of intra-state conflicts, especially since the end of the cold war, which has given rise to serious humanitarian problems.

     Explosive remnants of war and anti-vehicle minesFurther, the States parties to the Convention agreed in December to establish a Group of Governmental Experts to address the two subjects of controlling the explosive remnants of war (ERW) and anti-vehicle mines (AVM). ERW include unexploded ordnance such as cluster munitions that represent a danger to civilian populations, especially to children attracted to their colorful appearance. They also include unexploded grenades, mortars and artillery shells. AVMs are substantially larger in size than anti-personnel landmines and powerful enough to cripple or destroy tanks and armoured personnel carriers. Similar restrictions to those imposed on anti-personnel landmines have been proposed for AVMS that would ensure that they self-destruct, self-neutralize or self-deactivate. The Group of Experts is open to all States parties to the Convention and will begin its work 20–24 May 2002. Two additional sessions will meet from 8–19 July and 2–10 December 2002. 

     Two questions remain outstanding. Proposals aimed at establishing mechanisms to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Convention did not command consensus. Consultations will continue on this issue during the course of 2002. Moreover, Switzerland, which has been promoting the restriction or ban of small caliber weapons and ammunition that cause excessive wounding to its victims, was not able to garner enough support for its proposals. Further consultations and technical workshops might be considered to advance agreement on an additional protocol to the Convention. The Final Declaration of the Second Review Conference of the States Parties to the CCW will soon be available on the ODA website. See www.un.org/disarmament/