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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 folder2.3 Addressing the problem: mine clearance and assistance to victims
View the document(introduction...)
View the document2.3.1 Clearing mined areas
View the document2.3.2 Assisting the victims

2.3.1 Clearing mined areas

The Ottawa treaty obliges each State Party to clear all anti-personnel mines already in the ground within a period of 10 years following its entry into force for that country. Specifically, the State must destroy all antipersonnel mines in “mined areas” under its jurisdiction or control. This covers not only a country’s own territory but also territory which it may be occupying. The treaty defines a mined area as:

an area which is dangerous due to the presence or suspected presence of mines (see Art. 2, para. 5).

This includes all territory known to contain mines, such as minefields, which are defined areas where these weapons have been systematically laid in such places as national borders and tracts around military installations. It also includes all other public or private land known or believed to contain the devices. A mine may travel long distances owing to floods or the movement of desert sands. It is irrelevant how the mines came to be in a particular area, and a country assumes responsibility for clearance whether the mines were laid by its own military units or by other forces.

An area is considered to be “mined” if it is thought to contain either anti-personnel or anti-vehicle/anti-tank mines. Since anti-personnel mines are often used to prevent the removal or deactivation of anti-vehicle mines, if an area is suspected of containing anti-vehicle mines it will often also contain anti-personnel mines. If this is found to be the case, all anti-personnel mines in the area must be destroyed. There is no obligation in the Ottawa treaty to remove or destroy the anti-vehicle mines. However, they remain regulated by the relevant provisions of Protocol II to the CCW, which require that as soon as possible after the cessation of active hostilities all mined areas be either cleared, or marked, fenced and monitored to ensure the effective exclusion of civilians.

The treaty recognizes that some mine-affected countries may not be in a position to clear and destroy all anti-personnel mines in areas under their jurisdiction or control within 10 years. Such countries may therefore request that the other States Parties accord them an extension period of up to 10 years (see Art. 5, para. 3). Requests are to be made at a meeting or review conference of the States Parties and the decision to grant or reject a request for additional time is to be made by a majority of those countries present and voting (see Alt. 5, para. 5). An extension period may be granted more than once. This offers an opportunity for States requiring assistance to present their case and to seek appropriate help, whether in terms of financing, human resources or technical aid, in their mine-clearance efforts. This opportunity is reinforced by the obligation on States able to do so to provide international cooperation and assistance for mine clearance (see Art. 6).

Pending the clearance of mined areas and irrespective of any extension granted, each country “shall make every effort” to identify all areas under its control known or suspected to contain anti-personnel mines. Once an area has been identified as possibly containing such weapons, action must be taken to ensure that civilians are prevented from entering it. The perimeter must be marked, monitored and protected, by fencing or other means. The method chosen must ensure the effective exclusion of civilians. A country has a responsibility not only to close off the area, but also to make certain that the barriers remain in good condition and do not deteriorate, become damaged, or otherwise disintegrate. The protections put up are to remain in place until all of the anti-personnel mines have been destroyed. In marking an area, certain minimum standards set out in the amended version of Protocol II of the CCW must be met. These standards include but are not limited to the following:

- signs should be used to mark mined areas and should be placed at a distance sufficient to ensure their visibility at any point by a civilian approaching the areas:

- the marking should be of a distinct and durable character;

- all feasible steps should be taken to ensure that the means used to establish the perimeter of a mined area are not removed, concealed or destroyed.