Review Conference on prohibitions or restrictions
on the Use of certain Conventional Weapons

The full title of the conference is : "Review Conference of the States Parties to the 1980 Convention on prohibitions or restrictions on the Use of certain Conventional Weapons which may be deemed to be excessively injurious or have indiscriminate Effects"

Over hundred million anti-personnel landmines are presently scattered around the world (and in the spite of efforts at great risk, their number is growing), affecting more than 60 countries. Landmines kill or maim an average of 70 people every day or 26'000 each year. The majority of them are the most vulnerable members of society, mainly the rural poor. Landmines render land uninhabitable, prohibit the safe return of refugees to their homes, to productive lives and economic reconstruction. Dangerous even many years after hostilities, they prevent or endanger agricultural development, stop or delay humanitarian aid, needlessly endanger relief agency staff and severely hamper a country's recovery from armed conflict. Landmines are at least ten times more likely to kill or injure a civilian after a conflict than a combatant during hostilities.

On the other hand, even when used on a massive scale, landmines had so far very little or no effect on the outcome of hostilities; a fact underlined by highly respected senior officers.

Landmines can be very difficult to clear. It has been estimated that the clearance of one landmine which costs $3.00 to purchase, and almost nothing to lay, costs between $200 and $1'000. In 1994 only some 85'000 landmines were removed, but 2.5 million new landmines were laid.

The economic value to mine producer countries is negligible without even considering the moral aspect.

In response to this, Governments, Relief Agencies, Non Governmental Organizations and Media-Sources around the world have been seeking to toughen existing international restrictions on the production, use, transfer and stockpiling of landmines and other weapons which strike indiscriminately.

Consistently with the crystal clear position the Sovereign Order of Malta has publicly and repeatedly expressed from the very beginning of landmines-discussions, the Order fully agrees with the message of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros Ghali to the resumed session of the States parties to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the use of Certain Conventional Weapons delivered by the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Vladimir Petrovsky : "We must ban the use of landmines. We must ban their production. We must destroy those that are stockpiled. We must eliminate landmines once and for all".

A growing number of international bodies, particularly the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), National Red Cross Associations, the Sovereign Order of Malta and Relief Organizations have been actively working together for a total ban on the use of anti-personal landmines as the only ultimate goal.

It is encouraging that more and more Countries are supporting the total ban of landmines as the only viable solution to this humanitarian crisis. The continued availability of landmines as a legitimate weapon would result in their further indiscriminate use and with consequent death and injuries to civilians.

Many steps have been taken by National Governments by suspending or permanently renouncing the use of anti-personnel mines by their own armed forces or by supporting the total prohibition of these weapons.

But the negociations of the Review Conference in the previous sessions centred predominently on military and economic considerations. The necessity to find a solution to the many humanitarian problems caused by landmines has not benefited from sufficient attention, although international public opinion and the information campaign of ICRC is bearing fruit in its pressure on governments.

The Review Conference concentrates on strenghtening restrictions on the use of anti-personal landmines. In order to make a considerable step forward in this direction, we need an unambigous definition of an anti-personal landmine, as it was clearly said by the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mr. Cornelio Sommaruga, in his 22 April 1996 statement.

The Sovereign Order of Malta also fully agrees with and supports the other issues mentioned in this statement :

  • Only the complete prohibition of anti-personal mines is easily implemented and far more readily verified than other proposals being considered, will be effective. If this cannot yet be achieved by consensus in this forum States should consider taking unilateral action, which should not be seen as a security concession, but as a means of fulfilling their humanitarian obligation to protect their own population and territory in the event of armed conflict.
  • In keeping with existing moratoria in most mine-producting countries the transfer of anti-personal mines should be prohibited within the framework of the 1980 Convention.
  • Other amendments should enter into force in the shortest possible period. Transition periods of years or decades could compound the landmine crisis and add many decades to the hundreds of years which clearance of existing mines will require.
  • To protect civilians and humanitarian workers anti-tank mines must be made detectables and anti-handling devices not permitted.
  • The strongest protections should be provided to missions of humanitarian organizations. In the case of ICRC, these provisions are an essential expression of the comitment, which States have undertaken by adhering to the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols, to provide access to war victims.
  • The scope of the Convention must be extended to non-international armed conflicts and effective measures for implementation added.
  • To ensure further development and effective implementation of the Convention future Review Conferences should be held on a regular basis every five years.

The Sovereign Order of Malta hopes that the review Conference will add to the growing momentum in support of a total nas of landmines and that consensus can be achieved in clear steps forwards to this ultimate goal.

Several links to the landmines problem can be found here.

Copyright © July 1997 / Museum of the Order of Malta