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close this bookBanning Anti-Personnel Mines - The Ottawa Treaty Explained (International Committee of the Red Cross , 1998, 24 p.)
close this folder2. The Ottawa treaty
close this folder2.2 The elements of a comprehensive ban treaty
View the document(introduction...)
View the document2.2.1 An end to use
View the document2.2.2 A prohibition on development and production
View the document2.2.3 A prohibition on stockpiling
View the document2.2.4 A prohibition on transfer
View the document2.2.5 Other prohibited activities


The Ottawa, treaty is unique because it seeks to eliminate the anti-personnel mine as a weapon from the arsenal of fighting forces. In order to achieve this goal, the treaty identifies and prohibits a wide range of activities, specifically the development, production, stockpiling, transfer and use of the weapon. This comprehensive approach is a welcome innovation in international humanitarian law. Specifically, the treaty provides that:

Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances:

(a) to use anti-personnel mines;

(b) to develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone, directly or indirectly, anti-personnel landmines;

(c) to assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention (see Art. 1, para. 1).

Each of these elements is briefly explained below.

2.2.1 An end to use

Each country adhering to the Ottawa treaty obliges itself “never, under any circumstances” (emphasis added) to use anti-personnel landmines. This includes all situations of armed conflict - whether between countries (international armed conflict) or a civil conflict (internal armed conflict) - as well as troubles of a lesser intensity commonly referred to as internal unrest or civil disturbances. All offensive and defensive usage is prohibited. Moreover, any resort to the weapon during peacetime is also proscribed. A country cannot deploy anti-personnel mines to fortify its borders as a means of preventing unwanted persons from entering its territory or to protect important military or other installations. In ratifying the Ottawa treaty, a country accepts that mines are no longer a legitimate weapon to be used either in peacetime or in time of war. There are no exceptions to this rule.

2.2.2 A prohibition on development and production

The Ottawa treaty prohibits the development and production of anti-personnel mines (see Art. 1, para. 1 (b)). A country cannot manufacture the devices, nor can it initiate any projects intended to improve current models, develop new models, or generate any such weapons in the future.

2.2.3 A prohibition on stockpiling

In addition to prohibiting the development, production and use of anti-personnel mines, the Ottawa treaty precludes a country from stockpiling them (see Art. 1, para. 1 (b)). A country is not allowed to purchase, procure, or otherwise obtain the devices.

Furthermore, any existing stocks must be destroyed within four years of the date on which the treaty enters into force for a given country (see Art. 4). States requiring assistance in order to ensure the destruction of anti-personnel mines within the specified time period may apply to other States Parties to the treaty for such assistance (see Art. 6).

However, a country is permitted to retain or transfer a limited quantity of mines for training in mine-detection, mine-clearance, and mine-destruction techniques. The number of mines kept shall not exceed the minimum number absolutely necessary for such purposes (see Art. 3, para. 1). At the time of the adoption of the treaty in Oslo, a number of governments declared they would retain no more than a few thousand mines.

2.2.4 A prohibition on transfer

The final component of the comprehensive ban established by the Ottawa treaty is a prohibition on transferring anti-personnel mines. A country is not allowed, in any way or under any circumstances, to transfer anti-personnel mines either directly or indirectly. According to the treaty, the term “‘transfer’ involves, in addition to the physical movement of anti-personnel mines into or from national territory, the transfer of title to and control over the mines, but does not involve the transfer of territory containing emplaced anti-personnel mines” (see Art. 2, para. 4).

The prohibition on transfer covers import and export as well as transfer of ownership of mines. In order to facilitate mine detection, destruction and clearance, there are, however, a small number of narrow exceptions to this prohibition. First, countries are permitted to transfer anti-personnel mines for the purpose of destruction. Second, they may transfer the limited number of mines allowed to be retained for training purposes. Any other exchange of antipersonnel mines beyond these exceptions is forbidden. As the definition above makes clear, the transfer of territory containing anti-personnel mines does not constitute a “transfer” of those mines for the purposes of the treaty.

2.2.5 Other prohibited activities

In addition to the prohibitions discussed above, each country agrees never under any circumstances to assist, encourage or induce anyone, whether or not they are bound by the treaty, to engage in any prohibited activity. This reinforces the effectiveness of the treaty’s comprehensive ban on anti-personnel mines.