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close this bookICRC Overview 1999 - Landmines Must Be Stopped (International Committee of the Red Cross , 1999, 40 p.)
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View the documentLegal background
View the documentVictim assistance
View the documentMine awareness
View the documentMine clearance
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The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) acts to help all victims of war and internal violence, attempting to ensure implementation of humanitarian rules restricting armed violence. The ICRC is committed to a worldwide ban on the production, stockpiling, transfer and use of all anti-personnel mines.

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19, avenue de la Paix CH-1202 Geneva, Switzerland Tel: +41 22 734 60 01 Fax: +41 22 733 20 57 E-mail: [email protected] Web:

Publication Division
Geneva, March 1999


In 1997, the anti-landmine work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and various governments concerned culminated in the successful adoption of a new international humanitarian law treaty banning anti-personnel mines. Subsequently signed by 123 States by the end of 1997, the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (more commonly known as the “Ottawa treaty”) represents a true victory for humanity in the continuing struggle to alleviate the humanitarian suffering caused by the use of millions of antipersonnel mines in dozens of countries around the world.

The ICRC became heavily involved in the mines issue at the beginning of the 1990s as a result of the experiences of its field staff, especially surgeons who were treating increasing numbers of mine victims, including an appalling proportion of civilians. An international symposium on landmines, held in Montreux in April 1993, brought together legal, medical and military experts from interested governments, agencies and organizations. In February 1994, following my public call for a total ban on anti-personnel mines, the ICRC launched its first ever public advocacy campaign against landmines using the slogan “Landmines must be stopped”. Using a combination of public and private lobbying supported by powerful images and data on numbers of mine victims, the campaign has worked with interested National Societies to raise awareness of the mines problem and to persuade governments that the only effective solution to the epidemic of mine injuries is the total prohibition of anti-personnel mines.

The strength and effectiveness of the international effort against landmines has largely derived from the close cooperation between the Movement’s landmines campaign and the ICBL, with a number of National Societies playing an active role in both. It was through this remarkable effort that the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction entered into force on 1 March 1999. The treaty’s universalization and full implementation remains a priority for the entire Movement, and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have a key role to play in providing advice on national legislative measures needed to implement the treaty’s provisions. Each State adhering to the Convention will incur specific obligations that will become formally binding from the date of entry into force of the Convention for that State. In particular, National Societies can actively promote the practical implementation of the obligation which will be faced by States in a position to do so to support assistance to mine victims and mine awareness programmes. Furthermore, in order to make the prohibition of anti-personnel mines truly universal, continuing efforts will be required by all components of the Movement to convince non-signatory States to adhere to the Convention as soon as possible. The ICRC and the Movement must also continue to address the impact of anti-personnel mines by implementing preventive and curative programmes.

It is my profound hope that the collective efforts of governments, international and regional organizations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and non-governmental organizations will ensure that future generations are spared the horrors of anti-personnel mines.

Cornelio Sommaruga
President International Committee of the Red Cross


Powerful images and hard-hitting text back up the Movements landmine campaign.


If this boy had been injured by someone there would be an investigation to find the person responsible.

Unfortunately there will be no investigation.

No-one will be brought to justice.

Because this boy was injured by a landmine.

Just another victim of a weapon that claims dozens of new victims every day.

A weapon that cannot identify its target (the vast majority of its victims are innocent civilians).

A weapon that, once detonated, will drive dirt and fragments deep into the wound so that further amputations are often needed.

A weapon that is particularly cruel on children whose bodies, being smaller and closer to the blast, are more likely to sustain serious injury.

But the suffering doesn’t stop there. The repercussions of a landmine explosion can spread far beyond the victim.

The severe disabilities and psychological trauma that follow the blast mean these children will have to be looked after for many years.

The economic cost is also high.

A child injured at the age of ten will need about 25 artificial limbs during their lifetime.

That is why the International Committee of the Red Cross is working so hard to help victims and eradicate the scourge of landmines.

Huge steps have been taken towards a total ban.

In December 1997, 123 countries signed the Ottawa Treaty.

This treaty prohibits the development, production, stockpiling, transfer and use of anti-personnel mines.

More countries are still being urged to sign, while those that have signed are being encouraged to ratify the Ottawa Treaty so that it becomes international law.

As long as there are landmines out there, this work will continue.

The landmine isn’t being ignored. Neither must its victims.





John Rodsted/ICRC

Legal background

Anti-personnel landmines are regulated under international humanitarian law both by existing custom and by treaty. A fundamental principle of the customary rules of international humanitarian law is that, in any armed conflict, the right of the Parties to the conflict to choose methods or means of warfare is not unlimited. Derived from this general principle is the prohibition in customary law of the use of weapons “of a nature to cause superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering”. Thus, for example, expanding dum-dum bullets were outlawed long ago because they inflicted injuries that went beyond those militarily necessary to remove a soldier from combat.

General agreement does not yet exist, however, on how to determine objectively whether a given weapon violates this prohibition.1

1 R.M. Coupland FRCS (ed), The SIrUS Project: Towards a determination of which weapons cause “superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering”, ICRC, November 1997.

Customary law also prohibits the use of weapons that are inherently indiscriminate. Thus, the preamble to the Ottawa treaty declares that the agreement is based on the principle, inter alia, that a distinction must be made between civilians and combatants. Moreover, 1977 Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 declares that indiscriminate attacks include those which employ a means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective.2

2 Art. 51, para. 4(b), Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I, 8 June 1977),


Why the need for a treaty?

Although international humanitarian law and traditional military doctrine have laid down clear requirements for the “responsible” use of anti-personnel mines, all too often these rules have not been implemented. Research conducted on behalf of the ICRC by military experts has shown that in 26 conflicts since the beginning of the Second World War, anti-personnel mines have only rarely been deployed in accordance with existing legal norms and military doctrine.3 Even well-trained professional armies have found it extremely difficult to use anti-personnel mines correctly in combat situations. Furthermore, mines have increasingly been used as part of a brutal and systematic war against civilians, especially in the bitter internal conflicts that have come to characterize warfare in the late 20th century.

3 Anti-personnel landmines: Friend or foe? A study of the military use and effectiveness of anti-personnel mines, ICRC, March 1996.

It is these tragic realities which make anti-personnel mines a particularly abhorrent weapon and which have led the ICRC and many other organizations and individuals to call for their prohibition and stigmatization. The use of poison gas and exploding bullets, has already been stigmatized and condemned by the international community. Both are weapons of war that are considered to violate the most basic principles of humanity however and whenever they are used. Now, with the adoption of the Ottawa treaty, anti-personnel mines will also be considered as a weapon of which the humanitarian costs far outweigh their limited military value.


The material which is available on the use of anti-personnel mines does not substantiate claims that they are indispensable weapons of high military value.
Establishing, monitoring and maintaining extensive border minefields is time-consuming, expensive and dangerous. In order to have any efficacy at all, they need to be under continuous observation and direct fire, which is not always possible. Because of these practical difficulties, some armed forces have entirely refrained from using such minefields, which have also proved unsuccessful in preventing infiltration.
Under battlefield conditions the use, marking, and mapping of mines in accordance with classical military doctrine and international humanitarian law is extremely difficult, even for professional armed forces. History indicates that effective marking and mapping of mines has rarely occurred.
The cost to forces using anti-personnel mines in terms of casualties, limitation of tactical flexibility and loss of sympathy of the indigenous population is higher than has been generally recognized.
Although the military value of anti-tank mines is acknowledged, the value of anti-personnel mines is questionable. The protection of anti-tank mines is generally claimed to be an important function of anti-personnel mines, but there are few historical examples to substantiate the effectiveness of such use.
Remotely-delivered anti-personnel mines are not solely defensive weapons. In practice they are likely to be used in huge quantities to saturate target areas. Even so, the mobility of professional armies will not be significantly hindered.
Remotely-delivered anti-personnel mines will almost certainly cause vastly increased civilian casualties, even if such mines are designed to be self-destructing and self-deactivating.
Some barrier systems and other tactical methods offer alternatives to anti-personnel mines. Additional alternatives, rather than further development of any new anti-personnel mine technologies, should be pursued. Developments which further increase the lethality of anti-personnel mines are to be deplored and are unnecessary.
Improved mine-clearance technologies for military, humanitarian and civilian agencies should be vigorously developed with the goal of making anti-personnel mines progressively less useful.
The limited military utility of anti-personnel mines is far outweighed by the appalling humanitarian consequences of their use in actual conflicts. On this basis their prohibition and elimination should be pursued as a matter of the utmost urgency by governments and the entire international community.


Following widespread disappointment at the failure to agree to substantial restrictions on anti-personnel mines within the framework of the Review Conference of the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons, the Canadian government hosted an international strategy conference, Towards a Global Ban on Antipersonnel Mines, which took place in Ottawa in October 1996 with the active support of 50 governments, the ICRC, the ICBL and the United Nations. At the conclusion of this Conference, the Canadian government again seized the initiative by inviting all governments to come to Ottawa in December 1997 to sign a treaty prohibiting the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines. The “Ottawa process” had been officially launched.

International support for a ban on landmines continued to build. In December 1996, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 51/45S, which called upon all countries to conclude a new international agreement totally prohibiting antipersonnel mines “as soon as possible”. A total of 157 countries voted in favour of this resolution, none opposed it, and only 10 abstained from the Voting. To support the Ottawa process, the Austrian government prepared a draft text of a ban treaty and circulated it to interested governments and organizations. This draft, which was subsequently revised a number of times, was the basis of the ban treaty concluded in Oslo in September 1997.

International discussion on the draft text began in Vienna in February 1997 at a meeting hosted by the Austrian government. In April 1997 the German government hosted a special meeting to discuss possible verification measures to be included in a total ban treaty. The formal follow-up to the 1996 Ottawa conference took place in Brussels from 24 to 27 June 1997. The Brussels International Conference for a Global Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines was attended by representatives of 154 countries, the largest gathering of governments to date for a conference devoted specifically to the issue of landmines. On the closing day, 97 governments adopted the Brussels Declaration, calling for formal negotiations on a comprehensive landmine ban treaty, greater international cooperation, assistance for mine clearance and the destruction of all stockpiled and cleared anti-personnel mines. The Declaration called for the convening of a diplomatic conference in Oslo to negotiate such a treaty on the basis of the draft prepared by the Austrian government.

In accordance with the Brussels Declaration, which was soon signed by a total of 107 countries, formal treaty negotiations took place from 1 to 18 September 1997 at the Oslo Diplomatic Conference on an International Total Ban on Antipersonnel Land Mines, hosted by the Norwegian government. Ninety-one countries took part in the negotiations as full participants and 38 countries were present as observers, as were the ICRC, the ICBL, and the UN. The Oslo Diplomatic Conference proved to be a tremendous success. On 18 September, under the impetus of its South African Chairman. Ambassador Jakob Selebi, the Conference formally adopted the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction - the Ottawa treaty.


Adherence to the treaty

In accordance with Article 15, the treaty was open for signature from 3 to 4 December 1997 at a specially convened conference in Ottawa, Canada, and thereafter at the United Nations headquarters in New York until its entry into force on 1 March 1999. On that date 133 States had signed the treaty, and 67 had ratified it. By signing the treaty, States commit themselves to adhering to it in the future. Each State must also formally ratify its provisions and subsequently deposit an instrument of ratification with the United Nations Secretary-General in New York to become legally bound by it. The 40th such instrument was deposited on 16 September 1998, thus triggering entry into force on 1 March 1999, only 15 months alter the treaty was first opened for signature. This was the first time a multilateral arms-related treaty had entered into force so rapidly.

Treaty provisions

States party to the Ottawa treaty undertake never under any circumstances to use, develop, produce, stockpile or transfer antipersonnel mines, or to help anyone else to do so.4 Anti-personnel mines are mines designed to be placed under, on or near the ground and detonated by the presence, proximity or contact of a person.5 On the basis of the negotiations, this definition is understood to include “ improvised” anti-personnel mines, namely other munitions, for example grenades, which are adapted to serve as anti-personnel mines. Specifically excluded, however, are anti-vehicle or anti-tank mines, including those equipped with “anti-handling devices” that detonate the mine when an attempt is made to tamper with it or otherwise intentionally disturb it.6

4 Art. 1, para. 1.
5 Art. 2, para. 1.
6 Ibid.

Under the Ottawa treaty a claymore mine is deemed to be an anti-personnel mine if tripwire-actuated, but not if command-detonated by remote control.

Thierry Gassmann/ICRC

Each State Party must destroy all its stockpiled anti-personnel mines within four years of the date the treaty enters into force for a particular State, except for a few hundred or a few thousand mines that can be retained for the development of and training in mine-detection, mine-clearance or mine-destruction techniques. Emplaced anti-personnel mines must be destroyed within ten years of the treaty’s entry into force for a particular State and measures taken to protect civilians until mine-clearance work is completed.7 Severely mine-affected States, however, may ask the other States Parties to grant extension periods of up to ten years at a time if they are unable to complete the clearance and destruction process in the time allowed.8 Such a request also enables mine-clearance work to be appropriately supported by other States.

7 Art. 5, paras 1 and 2
8 Art. 5, paras 3 and 6

There is a general obligation on States in a position to do so to provide international support for mine clearance, mine awareness programmes and assistance to mine victims, including for their care and rehabilitation, and social and economic reintegration.9 Assistance for mine victims may be provided through the ICRC, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and their International Federation, as well as bilaterally or through other organizations.10

9 Art. 6
10 Art. 6 para 3


In addition to the Ottawa treaty, Protocol II to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) regulates the use and transfer of all landmines. It represents a minimum international norm for belligerents who have not adhered to the Ottawa treaty and continue to use anti-personnel mines. Other protocols annexed to the CCW regulate or prohibit three other types of weapons. As a result of an intergovernmental review process initiated in 1993, Protocol II was amended by the States Parties on 3 May 1996.

Protocol II as amended, which applies in internal as well as international armed conflicts, prohibits the use of remotely-delivered anti-personnel mines without effective self-destructing and self-deactivating mechanisms, and requires that manually emplaced antipersonnel mines must either be placed in a marked, fenced and monitored area or must self-destruct and self-deactivate. All antipersonnel mines must be detectable. Transfers of non-detectable mines and transfers of any mines to non-State entities are prohibited, A clear obligation is placed on those using mines to clear them after hostilities have ended. Finally, a new provision offers protection from landmines to Red Cross, Red Crescent, and other humanitarian workers.

Protocol II as amended, while allowing continued use of certain anti-personnel mines, restricts the use of anti-vehicle/anti-tank mines and directional fragmentation munitions (when command-detonated by remote control), and prohibits the use of any mines that are specifically designed to detonate as a result of the use of electromagnetic mine detectors. In addition, at the end of an armed conflict, States party to Protocol II as amended are obliged to remove or assist in the removal of all mines laid by them.

Although universalization of the Ottawa treaty is a high priority, adherence to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and its annexed Protocols must continue to be actively promoted. As at 1 March 1999, 73 States had adhered to the 1980 Convention. Of these, 68 have accepted to be bound by Protocol II in its original form and 32 by the strengthened version of Protocol II as amended in 1996. The amended version entered into force as binding international law on 3 December 1998.

In accordance with the final declaration of the first Review Conference of the CCW, the second Review Conference will be held no later than 2001, with expert groups beginning in the year 2000 if necessary. It is expected that the mines issue will again be a major feature of the discussions.



Max Deneu/ICRC

Victim assistance

As mentioned above, the Ottawa treaty requires that international assistance be provided to mine victims, with the specific possibility of channelling such assistance through the components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. No one knows exactly how many mine victims there are already in the world, though estimates run into the hundreds of thousands.


By using data gathered by ICRC hospitals and limb-fitting centres in several countries, referring to internal reports, and extrapolating from published epidemiological studies, the ICRC estimated in 1995 that, on average, 24,000 people were being killed or injured by landmines every year worldwide. However, no one really knows the total number of casualties.

Statistics gathered by the ICRC in 1997, in Afghanistan, paint a bleak picture. The ICRC admitted over 1,900 mine-injured patients at seven of Afghanistan’s hospitals in one year alone. Bearing in mind that only a minority of victims would reach these hospitals in Afghanistan, and that Afghanistan is just one of the many countries affected by mines, the number of people killed or injured by landmines every year must be far greater than the 24,000 previously suggested.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, another severely mine-affected country, in the six months immediately after the war ended, an average of 50 people were killed or injured by mines every month. Since mid-1996, this number has gradually decreased. From August 1996 to August 1997, the ICRC estimates that there were 30 to 35 casualties per month. The typical mine victim in the post-conflict period is the male farmer.11

11 The silent menace Landmines in Bosnia and Herzegovina, published by the ICRC in collaboration with UNHCR, Geneva, 1998

The aim of direct assistance for mine victims is to enable amputees to become fully integrated and productive members of society once again. To meet this challenge means providing the requisite transport, first aid, surgery, safe blood for transfusions, prostheses, psychological counselling and social services.

Mine victims cannot receive the care they need if basic health facilities and social structures are inadequate, have been disrupted or have collapsed altogether owing to poverty or war. A strong commitment must therefore be made to multilateral and bilateral partnerships aimed at funding community-based reconstruction programmes in post-conflict societies.


Name: Dervisa Covic
Age: 51
Sex: female
Status: civilian and displaced person
Place of injury: Grivici, Bosnia and Herzegovina


(Ian Woodmansey/ICRC)

Dervisa’s house on the outskirts of Sarajevo was badly damaged in the war. During a visit to the ruined house on 18 August 1996, Dervisa was picking plums in the garden when she stepped on a blast mine. Neighbours who witnessed the accident rushed to her rescue. Hearing the explosion, her husband, who was in the house at the time, told his son: “Don’t worry, it isn’t your mother; I walked that way yesterday and there are no mines”.

Fully conscious, Dervisa applied her headscarf to her leg as a tourniquet and shouted over to her neighbours: “I’ve lost my leg”. They rushed her by car to the nearest health centre where she received first aid. She was then transferred by ambulance to Kosevo hospital in. Sarajevo, where she was operated on within 20 minutes of arrival. Her lower leg was amputated. After four days her wound was closed and within two weeks she left hospital. She received no further treatment, rehabilitation or therapy.

In May 1997, Dervisa bought an artificial leg from a prosthetics company in Sarajevo. Having tried unsuccessfully for months to get a prosthesis, she was eventually promised one through a personal contact. However, it soon became clear that it would cost her US$ 1,200. Dervisa and her husband turned to friends, relatives and former colleagues to raise the necessary funds.

Her artificial leg has changed her life. At first, she found it painful to wear, but now she declares that she couldn’t live without it. She doesn’t suffer from any flashbacks or nightmares, but does have terrible phantom pains in her leg when it rains. At times they are so bad she cannot stop crying.

Prior to her accident Dervisa used to work a lot in the garden and the fields. Now she can no longer participate. She receives a disability benefit of US$ 9 a month. She feels strongly about the use of mines in her country: “They must all be removed. I’ve been injured but others shouldn’t be. If I could, I would pay deminers myself to remove them all”.

Printed with permission.


Anti-personnel mines cause severe injury. The injuries resulting from mines can lead to death, amputation, severe disability and psychological trauma. Treatment of mine victims requires rapid evacuation, the effective application of first-aid measures and time-consuming surgery. ICRC surgeons who treat such injuries daily consider them to be among the worst of war injuries and the most difficult to treat.

a) Diagram showing how an injury, apparently confined to the foot, is associated with proximal compartmental muscle damage.

b) Diagram of explosive injury with traumatic amputation of the lower leg. The mechanism of proximal compartmental injury with skin and gastrocnemius preservation is shown.

c) Diagram showing how, when the skin has returned to position, the extent of proximal damage is hidden.


· Pattern 1: caused by a blast mine, results in the foot or leg being blown away (traumatic amputation), with varying degrees of injury to the other leg, genitalia, arms or chest. Very few survive blast mines with a larger explosive charge.

· Pattern 2: caused by a fragmentation mine, or wounds similar to those caused by other fragmentation devices (grenade, mortar shell, etc.); can affect any part of the body.

· Pattern 3: caused by accidental detonation whilst handling a mine, results in severe wounds of the hands, arms and face and, in some cases, blindness.

12 The worldwide epidemic of landmine injuries The ICRC’s health-oriented approach, ICRC, Geneva, 1995


Many victims are alone and in isolated places when injured. They may be collecting wood or fetching water, working in a rice paddy or herding sheep. Victims lie for hours with shattered limbs waiting for help and many die before help can arrive. When help does come, the rescuers must take care not to put their own lives at risk. Evacuation may involve transport without treatment or anaesthetics, and may mean a bumpy ride in a truck or horse-drawn cart through mountains, desert or paddy-fields. Based on data gathered by ICRC hospitals, it is estimated that only 25% of mine victims arrive at hospital within six hours of injury; 15% travel for more than three days to reach the hospital.13

13 R. M. Coupland, Assistance for victims of anti-personnel mines Needs, constraints and strategy, ICRC, Geneva, 1997

The most ordinary of activities may put civilian lives at risk.

Stefan Trappe/ICRC

First aid

The most effective way of preventing later complications, disability and death is the application of prompt first-aid measures: stopping the bleeding by applying a firm dressing, immobilizing wounded limbs and relieving pain. Care must be taken not to misuse first-aid measures: a tourniquet applied too high on a limb or left on for too long can mean that a traumatic amputation of the foot results in a surgical amputation of the whole limb. Most of the ICRC’s hospitals are served by first-aid posts where local employees and soldiers receive basic first-aid training.


Mine wounds require skilled surgery, large amounts of blood for transfusion, antibiotics and other drugs, and prolonged hospitalization. The surgeon’s task is to remove dead and contaminated tissue, as well as any foreign materials (dirt, plastic casing from the mine, bone) that may have been driven into the wound, and in many cases to amputate severely damaged limbs. Few surgeons in civilian practice have experience and skill in dealing with mine injuries, as they are rarely seen. The ICRC has produced teaching videos and brochures on the proper surgical management of war wounds for interested surgeons.


· Anti-personnel mines account for a disproportionate number of amputations amongst war-wounded: 82.5% of all amputations performed in ICRC hospitals are for victims of landmines.14

· The average hospital stay for patients with bullet wounds is 18.1 days; for a patient having sustained injuries from a buried mine it is 32.3 days.15

· While patients with a bullet wound will require on average 1.9 operations and 0.5 units of blood, patients with a blast mine injury will require 4 operations and 3.2 units of blood.16

· The cost per patient per day in an ICRC hospital is around US$ 120 (excluding salaries of expatriate staff). Therefore, the average cost of treating a mine injured patient is between US$ 3,000 and US$ 4,000.17

A young woman with blast injuries is admitted to Kompot Hospital, Cambodia.

Serge Corrieras/ICRC

Double leg amputation at an ICRC hospital in Kabul.

Robert Semeniuk/ICRC

14 A Molde, H Samnegard, Med. Orth. Tech, “Amputationen unter Knegsbedingungen - Erfahrung des Internationalen Komitees des Roten Kreuzes”, 1997, Vol. 117, pp 205-208

15 R.M. Coupland FRCS (ed), The SIrUS Project Towards a determination of which weapons cause “superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering”, ICRC, November 1997.

16 R.M. Coupland, Medicine and Global Survival,The effect of weapons: Defining superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering”, 1996, Vol. 3, p A1.

17 Ibid.


Many mine victims do not have access to physical rehabilitation facilities. Prostheses are expensive and the cost of the technology used in wealthier countries to manufacture them is beyond the means of war-disabled victims, and of the authorities, in most post-conflict countries. Each prosthesis must be individually fitted and replaced every three to five years; a child’s artificial limb must be replaced every six months. The cost of a prosthesis varies greatly from country to country. In countries where average per capita income is about US$ 10-15 a month, it is easy to understand why crutches are all people can afford.

Since 1979, the ICRC has been assisting mine victims by establishing and providing support for prosthetic workshops and training local technicians in the production of artificial limbs. The ICRC’s main goal is to set up rehabilitation programmes tailored to each country’s social and economic needs, which can in the long run be taken over by a local organization or a governmental body. To eliminate the need to import expensive ready-made components from abroad, special moulds have been developed for the local or regional manufacture of prosthetic components using polypropylene, a thermoformable plastic. The advantage of this system is that it gives the amputee a light and individually-fitted artificial limb. It is cheap and can be readily replaced or repaired. Polypropylene is also easy to transport and work with, and can be recycled.

Through the use of polypropylene, amputees are given light and inexpensive new limbs.

Luz Luzemo/ICRC


· In early 1999, the ICRC was running 25 physical rehabilitation programmes in 13 countries: Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia, Iraq, Kenya, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan and Uganda. Twenty-four ICRC projects in 12 other countries have now been handed over to local or NGO control. Many of these still receive financial and technical support from the ICRC.

· Between 1979 and the end of 1998, the ICRC manufactured more than 130,000 prostheses, over 175,000 pairs of crutches and close to 9,000 wheelchairs.

· In 1998 alone, the ICRC manufactured over 11,500 prostheses; of these, more than 6,500 were for mine victims. During the same year it produced over 17,200 pairs of crutches and more than 700 wheelchairs.

· Many amputees find employment in ICRC limb-fitting centres. This not only helps them regain their dignity but also has a positive impact on patients who are still coming to terms with their disability, as they are able to see with their own eyes that life can go on. In the Kabul centre, 60% of the workers are disabled.


In most settings, psychological assistance and social integration of mine victims have largely been neglected. Many mine victims are unable to find employment after their accident and are forced to turn to begging on the streets to support their families. In most agrarian societies, the loss of a limb makes it impossible for a person to plough fields, carry heavy loads or help in other ways to contribute to the household income. Divorce and social ostracism may ensue, and in societies where cultural and religious stigma may be attached to amputees, young, female mine victims may have substantially reduced chances of marrying as a result of their disability. Child mine amputees may be prevented from going to school or may be at too shamed to leave the house.


There is therefore a need to reinforce community based support for the recovery and reintegration of the survivours of mine blasts of the survivors of mine blasts. Such support should include vocational training and psycho-social assistance, where needed, to help landmine survivors to become self-supporting and should aim to tackle problems of discrimination faced by amputees.


Banteay Prieb, or the Centre of the Dove, in Kandal Province, Cambodia, is a vocational skills centre run by the Jesuit Refugee Service for people disabled by landmines, war, polio and accident. It is a place where the disabled can tell their own story, gather strength and hope, and learn a new skill that will enhance their sense of dignity and self-worth and increase their chances of finding permanent or part-time employment. The underlying philosophy of the centre is that of normalization, focusing on abilities rather than disabilities.

At the centre, students live together in small cottages in groups of eight and cook and care for themselves. Training in agricultural skills, carpentry, electronics, machine repair, sculpture, sewing, weaving and welding is provided. Wheelchairs and furniture are manufactured by the disabled. The centre runs a three-month intensive programme for students lacking basic literacy and numeracy skills. Shorter courses are held in agriculture and business management. Since the first students graduated in November 1992, an average of 70 people a year have completed the various training courses. On leaving the centre, some students have set up their own workshops, some have found full-time employment, others have returned to their rice fields equipped with new skills to mend and manufacture new tools for their work, and others have had to take whatever job has come along.


During or after a war, the treatment and rehabilitation of mine victims will in most cases reflect the general availability or lack of basic health and social services for all. Much needs to be done to reinforce these services in mine-infested countries, particularly where there are large numbers of victims, as the care of amputees places enormous demands on medical resources and often overburdens an already fragile health-care system. In other words, the rehabilitation of mine victims depends on the rehabilitation of the country’s health and social sectors. Security is another major constraint. Many organizations will not work in certain areas because they are unwilling to risk the lives of their staff. Lack of cooperation from the political and administrative authorities may further hinder the work of those wanting to assist victims. The availability of donor funds may be conditional on agencies working in one area rather than another, or on treating one specific category of victim. These are just some examples of the numerous constraints that may result in mine victims receiving inadequate care, an issue that must be addressed urgently and coherently.

A further obstacle to dealing with the human and socio-economic consequences of landmines is the lack of hard data available on the severity of the mine problem. The ICRC believes that there is an urgent need to standardize and systematize the collection of data by the various players concerned (UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, the ICRC and political and military authorities). To this end it has proposed an integrated approach towards the analysis of data, a “Mines Information System”, to allow for the planning of priorities in any country, one province and one district at a time, and enable operational programmes to be implemented effectively. Addressing these constraints is also a prerequisite for implementing effective preventive measures, such as mine awareness and mine-clearance programmes.


· Mortality and morbidity
· Capacity of the health care system to deal with the needs
· Extent of the civilian areas mined: residential, agricultural, industrial
· Percentage of population affected in socio-economic terms
· Public or community programmes disrupted because of mines

· Population density compared to density of mines laid
· Transportation infrastructure affected
· Indigenous demining capacity
· Security concerns
· Method of mine laying

18 The Mines Information System (MIS) and factors determining the seventy of mine infestation, ICRC, Geneva, 1997.


Teun Anthony Voeten/ICRC

Mine awareness

Even with the best will in the world, it will be many years before all emplaced anti-personnel mines are successfully cleared and destroyed. For this reason, mine awareness programmes will remain an importan element of mine-related activities for some time to come.



Mine awareness programmes aim to reduce the risk of death and injury by promoting safe behaviour and facilitating appropriate responses to the problem. In general, programmes provide information on the identification of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) and the dangers they represent, and seek to teach safe behaviour to civilians living in or moving into mine-affected communities. This includes guidance on how to recognize that an area may be contaminated by mines and UXO as well as what to do if someone accidentally finds himself in the middle of a minefield. Instruction in basic first aid for mine victims will often be part of the programme.

Programmes are also increasingly aiming to facilitate solutions to high-risk be behaviour. In many post-conflict settings, economic necessity is such that returning refugees or internally displaced persons knowingly venture into mined areas search of food, water or wood. For example, to minimize the risk involved in collecting firewood from a mined area, a programme may try and encourage the community to contribute jointly to fuel costs, or may prioritize a wooded area for mine clearance, or even implement an income-generating programme to enable people to purchase firewood with their additional income. The development of participatory strategies to enable mine-affected communities to find solutions that are best tailored to own is, to reducing the number of deaths


Before establishing a mine awareness programme, a needs assessment should first be undertaken. The assessment should seek to obtain information on the scale of the mine problem and collect any hospital statistics or anecdotal reports indicating the causes of mine incidents. It should also identify available or potential resources in-country - human, financial and logistical - which could be mobilized to establish a mine awareness programme.

Once the need is identified, plans can be drawn up for a programme. Planning a mine awareness programme is much more than designing an attractive poster or TV spot: the areas to be covered by the programme must be identified, the numbers and profiles of instructors to be trained must be defined, and local and national partners to be included in the programme must be approached. This planning stage is best undertaken in close collaboration with the target communities: imposing solutions from outside is unsustainable and almost invariably ineffective.


In 1999, the ICRC continued its mine awareness programmes in Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, and was planning to develop programmes in a number of other mine-affected countries.


Launched in 1996, the ICRC’s programme in Azerbaijan is directed towards those living in front-line areas and in settlements for the displaced, seeking to provide information that will prevent people from being killed or maimed by mines or unexploded ordnance.

The first phase of the programme has alerted the population to the danger of mines and to the fact that a problem actually exists. Ten different relief agencies took part in the distribution of mine awareness material, and information was also handed out through the armed forces. Over 28,000 leaflets were distributed seed kits between 1996 and 1998, than 110,000 families received mine awareness information during spring and summer 1997. So far, 18,000 posters have been displayed in front-line villages and in settlements for displaced people.

The second phase aims at bringing more specific information and knowledge to the community. Since early autumn 1997, schoolchildren in front-line schools and in schools for the internally displaced have been targeted through mine awareness training given by their teachers. They have also received stickers, posters, timetables and exercise books bearing a mine awareness message. By early 1999, ICRC mine awareness officers had trained more than 9,000 teachers in eight districts along the front-line and in areas throughout the country where internally displaced people had settled. More than 120,000 children will eventually be reached. Mine awareness training and the distribution of posters and copybooks will continue throughout 1999. In late 1998 an animated cartoon was produced on the subject of mine awareness. It will serve as an additional tool for mine awareness training.

Warning of the dangers: some of the posters in use.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Launched in the spring of 1996 with an emergency public awareness campaign, the programme consists of four compliments

· a community-based approach which seeks to encourage local communities to initiate mine awareness activities in their yeas tailored to their own needs For example, local Red Cross volunteers have organized summer camps focusing on mine awareness and first aid, theatre shows for children, Today a dozen paid staff and more than 120 volunteers are implementing activities throughout the country;

· a mass media campaign which involves the distribution of leaflets, posters and brochures, plus 11 new radio spots and six TV spots Supported by local media which broadcast or publish mine awareness messages, it is backed up by mass distribution of information materials in the communities at risk,

· a data-gathering component, in which the ICRC - the only organization to do so systematically gathers information on mine victims, including data on age, gender and activity at the time of injury The data gathered should ICRC to improve targeting of future activities;

· a school-based programme which, thanks to nearly universal school attendance, reaches the majority of children through the classroom. The ICRC has developed a school curriculum which is currently being implemented in Bosnian schools in cooperation with the Ministry of Education. In addition, it launched a nationwide drawing and essay competition in January 1997. The competition was intended to raise children's awareness of the dangers of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) and mobilize local communities, including Red Cross branches. Schools located in mine-affected areas and schools attended by children living in mine-affected villages were given priority the competition. Thanks to the development of their structures, the Red Cross organizations in the two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina are playing an increasingly important role in implementing the programme and ensuring its sustainability, thus boosting the ICRC’s efforts in this area.



The Croatian mine awareness programme (MAP) was jointly launched in March 1996 by the ICRC and the Croatian Red Cross (CRC). This community-based programme works through the network of CRC branches to reach population groups most at risk - such as returnees, children and farmers. It specifically aims to change people's behaviour in order to prevent mine and UXO-related accidents. It is planned to hand the MAP over gradually to the CRC, which will continue coordinating the programme in all affected areas of Croatia until mines are no longer a threat. Information remains an important component of the MAP. In 1998, over 50.000 people were reached through mine awareness presentations. Fruitful cooperation is ongoing with the print and broadcast media, as are the production and distribution of new generations of mine awareness publications and materials. In a repeat of 1996, when 115.000 leaflets and 10,000 posters were distributed and info-spots were broadcast nation-wide on television and 25 radio stations, 1998 saw the distribution of some 100,000 pocket-sized leaflets on security. An illustrated brochure, calendar and fact sheet were also produced. In addition, during 1999 all CRC personnel working in mine-affected communities will participate in workshops aimed at strengthening their communication skills, with representatives of the regional media attending as facilitators and observers.


The MAP is constantly evolving and adapting to changing needs. Recruitment and training programmes for volunteer instructors now include modules on presentation techniques, interactive skills, community participation and cooperation with demining experts. Volunteers from the mine-affected communities are coordinated by local CRC branches: they are key to the MAP’S long-term sustainability.

Since autumn 1998, in the spirit of the MAP’S community-based approach, the Red Cross has been supporting and facilitating local initiatives in many mine-affected communities. Such projects typically evolve from within the community. With the assistance and collaboration of the ICRC and local Red Cross branches, ways are sought of promoting mine awareness in a medium appropriate to the local situation. These often involve imaginative approaches such as community theatre and multimedia performances.

Painstaking and expensive: enabling local people to cultivate their land again.

Luz Luzemo/ICRC

Mine clearance

Mines continue to inflict injuries and suffering everyday. One of the solutions to reducing the risk of accidents is demining. Mine clearance is required both by amended version of Protocol II to the CCW (anti-tank and anti-personnel mines) and by the Ottawa treaty (anti-personnel mines only).

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is not directly involved in undertaking or funding mine-clearance operations, but strongly supports the need for humanitarian demining efforts that take account of the real needs of affected communities. The United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is the new focal point within the United Nations system for mine clearance. A number of dedicated specialist non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Halo Trust and the Mines Advisory Group from the UK and Norwegian People’s Aid from Norway are active in clearing mines in many countries. In addition to supporting indigenous mine-clearance capacities, a number of governments are also financing research activities to develop improved mine-detection and mine-clearance techniques.


A humanitarian mine-clearance operation aims to remove all mines from an area in which civilians are already living or are planning to resettle, while minimizing the risks for demining personnel. Clearance operations usually include the following phases: minefield location and marking, detection of individual mines, disposal and/or demolition.


· In 1998, the United Nations had mine-clearance programmes in eight countries: Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Croatia, Iraq, Laos and Mozambique. These programmes were run under the auspices of a mine action centre which carries out clearance operations, training programmes, awareness activities and assistance to victims. Close cooperation with the governments concerned and with NGOs involved in mine-related work is crucial in order to ensure sustainable national mine-clearance capacity and effective coordination of activities.

· The Mines Advisory Group (MAG) is a British NGO which has a global policy of establishing an indigenous capacity to respond to the long-term problem of mines. It trains selected local people from affected communities, including mine amputees, to survey, mark and clear minefields, and to set up community awareness programmes. MAG seeks first to clear the land that is most important to the community, which may not necessarily be in the areas where the greatest number of mines are to be found. Its work began in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1992, and has expanded rapidly with the establishment of programmes in Angola, Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam.

· Based on its experiences gained in mine-related activities, Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) has developed a complete programme to address the many challenges that a country with a serious mine problem faces. It is designed so that the local authorities are able to continue the projects, both economically and technically, within five years. The programme includes the following elements: mapping minefields; training and organizing local deminers; demining, manually and using dogs; mine awareness programmes; developing new methods of demining; and international and national lobbying for a total ban on antipersonnel landmines. Active since 1992, NPA is currently involved in operations in Algeria, Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Iraq, Laos and Mozambique.

Locating minefields

Locating minefields involves delimiting and marking an area suspected of having mines, without necessarily finding them. The fact that in many conflicts mines are seldom laid in accordance with military doctrine means that mined areas are rarely demarcated and no records are available. Mine clearers often resort to local intelligence, asking the villagers where mine incidents have occurred and whether any livestock has been killed by mines, to identify areas likely to be mined. Once unmarked minefields are found, they must be demarcated. This task is often complicated in areas where marking signs may be valued as building materials or firewood. The fact that no mines are found in 90% of a suspected area does not necessarily mean that none will be discovered in the last 10%; the smallest “minefield” is of course a single, isolated mine.

Mine-clearance techniques

In many situations, the most effective and reliable detection technique remains the painstaking use of a hand-held prodder by a crouching deminer. However, more and more a “tool box” approach is used, which consists in combining different detection methods: mechanical means, to unearth or explode the devices; metal detectors (these do not react to mines containing very little or no metal), to locate the devices; trained dogs, to smell out explosives; and finally, manual search methods using prodders, such as bayonets or screwdriver-like instruments to probe the ground for the mine casing.


Once a mine has been detected, it needs to be disarmed and disposed of or destroyed on the spot. A mine can be neutralized by reinserting the safety pin, or by removing the detonator. Once neutralized, the mine can be disposed of safely. Because of anti-handling devices, booby-traps or unstable detonators, mines are often destroyed on the spot with an explosive, without ever being touched. Many experienced deminers have been killed or injured while trying to clear booby-trapped mines.

Better detection technologies would considerably increase the safety and efficacy of demining operations. Present technologies being developed include ground-penetrating radars, artificial noses and thermal imaging techniques.

Main sources

ICRC publications

Anti-personnel landmines: Friend or foe? A study of the military use and effectiveness of anti-personnel mines, 1996.

Banning anti-personnel mines: The Ottawa treaty explained, 1997.

Coupland, R.M. Assistance for victims of anti-personnel mines: Needs, constraints and strategy, 1997.

The silent menace: Landmines in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1998. (Published in collaboration with UNHCR.)

Coupland, R.M. (ed), The SIrUS Project: Towards a determination of which weapons cause “superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering”, 1997.

The worldwide epidemic of landmine injuries: The ICRC’s health-oriented approach, 1995.

General publications

The Arms Project of Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, Landmines: A deadly legacy, Human Rights Watch, New York, 1993.

The Arms Project of Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, Landmines in Mozambique, Human Rights Watch, New York, 1994.

The Arms Project of Human Rights Watch, Still killing: Landmines in southern Africa, Human Rights Watch, New York, 1997.

Asia Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, Landmines in Cambodia: The coward’s war, Asia Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, New York, 1991.

Cahill, K.M. Clearing the fields: Solutions to the global land mines crisis, Basic Book and the Council of Foreign Relations, New York, 1995 (contribution by Y. Sandoz, Director for International Law and Communication at the International Committee of the Red Cross, pp. 179-197).

Davies, Paul, War of the mines: Cambodia, landmines and the impoverishment of a nation, Pluto Press, 1994.

Roberts, Shawn and Williams, Jody, After the guns fall silent: The enduring legacy of landmines, Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, Washington, DC, 1995.

Web sites

International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)

Handicap International

International Committee of the Red Cross

Landmines Survivors Network

Norwegian People’s Aid

United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS)

Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation


Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining
Avenue de la Paix 7Bis
P.B. 1300
CH 1211 Geneva 1
tel: +41 31 323 54 76
fax: +41 31 323 54 77

Halo Trust
804 Drake House
Dolphin Square
London SW1V 3NW, UK
tel: +44 171 821 9244
fax: +44 171 834 0198

Handicap International
14, Avenue Berthelot
69361 Lyon Cedex 07
tel: +33 478 69 79 79
fax: +33 478 69 79 94

ICBL Resource Center
PO Box 8844, Youngstorget
N-0028 Oslo
tel: +47 22 03 76 93
fax: +47 22 20 70 82
e-mail: [email protected]

Landmines Survivors Network
700 13th Street, NW, # 950
Washington DC 20005,
tel: +1 202 661 3537
fax: +1 202 661 3529
e-mail: [email protected]

Mines Advisory Group
45-47 Newton Street
Manchester, M1 1FT
United Kingdom
tel.: +44 161 2364311
fax: +44 161 236 6244

Norwegian People’s Aid
PB. 8844 Youngstorget,
0028 Oslo,
tel: +47 22 03 77 00
fax: +47 22 20 08 70
e-mail: [email protected]

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
Office of Emergency Programmes
United Nations
New York, NY 10017
tel: +212 326 7068
fax: +1 212 326 7037

United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS)
United Nations, DC1-1500
New York, NY 10017, USA
tel: +1 212 963 1875
fax: +1 212 963 2498
e-mail: [email protected]

Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation
2001 S Street
NW Suite 740
Washington DC 20009
tel: +1 202 483 9222
fax: +1 202 483 9312

Background photo credits: Philippe Dutoit/ICRC 18-19, Paul Grabhorn 10-11, R. Gray/ICRC 8-9, Marcus Halevi/ICRC 34-35, Boris Heger/ICRC 26-27, Lo Chamrong/ICRC 20-21, John Rodsted/ICRC 12-13, 16-17, 28-29, 30-31, Sean Sutton/ICRC 2-3, Darren Whiteside 22-23
Back cover: Michel Comte/ICRC


The ICRC’s 1998 Special Appeal “Assistance for Mine Victims” sought to raise 20,225,000 Swiss francs (Sfr). Funding obtained through the Special Appeal was used to cover the costs of ICRC assistance for mine victims, mine-awareness programmes and the advocacy campaign. The Appeal also raised finance for the ICRC-administered Special Fund for the Disabled (SFD).

A total of Sfr 24,184,239 (unaudited figure) was received. Together with the SFD balance from 1997 (Sfr 540,452), the total income generated came to Sfr 24,724,691. Some financial resources will therefore be carried forward to the 1999 financial year.

The 1998 and 1999 mines-related activities of the ICRC were co-financed by the European Union (EU). Every donation to the Special Appeal resulted in an additional contribution from the EU to a maximum value of 40% of donations received. A total of 8 million ECU (Sfr 12.8 million) was made available for this purpose.