Bills Digest No. 61  1998-99 Anti-Personnel Mines Convention Bill 1998

Numerical Index | Alphabetical Index

This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.


Passage History
Main Provisions
Concluding Comments
Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Passage History

Anti-Personnel Mines Convention Bill 1998

Date Introduced: 12 November 1998

House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Foreign Affairs

Commencement: By proclamation once the Convention enters into force for Australia - or six months after the Convention enters into force for Australia, if no proclamation is made before then.


To give effect to Australia's obligations as a party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction.


Basis of policy commitment

Mr Downer's Second Reading Speech is clear and categorical about what he calls the 'scourge of landmines'. He says that such mines represent:

the senseless, random taking and blighting of innocent lives-[and are] a peculiarly vicious, late twentieth century form of terror which all responsible peoples and governments must strive to end - everywhere and forever. The appalling dimensions of the humanitarian and economic crisis being faced by so many countries, including in Australia's region, require this.

The horrors of landmines have been well documented and understood over time, and they are almost universally condemned as unacceptable. The difficult issues in Australia have always been whether destroying stockpiles of landmines, or binding Australia to refrain from use of landmines, while commendable because it provides 'moral leadership', might nevertheless be inadvisable because it could 'provide a chink in our arsenal of potential defence responses in the event of attack.'

Problems associated with the use of landmines include:

  • Landmines are cheap and, given the nature of wars, both civil or otherwise, it is rare for adversaries to record where they have been placed making them very difficult to locate once fighting has ceased
  • The tragic effects of landmines continue for many years after military conflict has ended
  • These weapons kill or maim thousands of victims every year - almost half of them children
  • Landmines disable farmers and workers who lose limbs and consequently their livelihoods and
  • By rendering unusable vast areas of productive land, landmines hamper post-war reconstruction.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, quoting the United Nations Demining Database and the International Committee for the Red Cross, point out that:

  • 60 to 70 million landmines are scattered across 70 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas
  • 50 years is the average active life of a landmine
  • 2000 people on average are killed or injured by landmines each month
  • $3 to $30 is the cost of producing a landmine
  • $300 to $1000 is the cost of neutralising a landmine
  • $4000 is needed per amputee for surgical care and prosthetics
  • 1 out of every 236 people in Cambodia is an amputee due to landmine injuries
  • 20,000 people in Angola are amputees due to landmines.

The US Department of State's Report: Hidden Killers 1998: The Global Landmine Crisis also documents the horrendous long-term effects of landmines and unexploded ordnance. The chapter dealing with the Long-Term Effects of Landmines and Unexploded Ordnance from the Report forms Attachment A of this Digest.

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction ('the Ottawa Convention' or 'the Convention') was opened for signature on 3 December 1997. At this time Australia, along with 120 countries, (well over half the community of nations) signed the Convention. At the time of writing 52 countries have ratified the Convention, although Australia is still in the process of arranging its ratification. (A list of countries which have signed (and ratified) appears at Attachment B.)

International Activities

One of the notable features of developments in this area has been the rapidity with which the world community has moved. On the occasion of the deposit of the 40th country's instrument of ratification, (which brought into action the time-frame for entry into force of the Convention), the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, joined with the Foreign Ministers of Canada, Austria, Norway and South Africa in welcoming the unusual speed with which the Convention would be entering into force. The Convention enters into force on March 1, 1999 - the first day of the sixth month following the 40th ratification.

Norway's Foreign Affairs Minister commented that '[t]he rapid ratification process is a clear expression of the determination of the international community to overcome the humanitarian challenge posed by anti-personnel mines,' while Austria's Foreign Affairs Minister said '[t]his is a major breakthrough for ridding the world from the evil of anti-personnel mines and record speed for a treaty becoming effective.'

Not only has the world community progressed rapidly on this issue, but Australia itself has clearly shifted its position towards an acceptance of the fairly rigorous standards set by the Ottawa Convention. According to press reports this was achieved by Mr Downer in the face of Cabinet opposition:

Mr Downer fought long and hard last year to get cabinet to reverse its opposition to the Convention, arguing that the only sane and humane response was to ban landmines.

It is apparent from the Joint Select Committee on Treaties' 5th Report in February 1997 that some Liberal Party Members must have given ground on this issue. In its Report Restrictions On The Use Of Blinding Laser Weapons And Landmines the Committee agreed to support an amended version of Protocol II of the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects. This Protocol was not as strong in its provisions as the Ottawa Convention is. It did not seek to impose an outright ban on the use of landmines, as the Ottawa Convention does, but was simply designed to regulate their use - in particular by distinguishing between 'dumb' mines and 'smart' mines (dumb mines stay active until they are detonated or 'dealt with' in some way, whereas smart mines self destruct or deactivate within certain time-limits) and by prohibiting the use of non-detectable land mines (after nine years). According to interested non-governmental organisations ('NGOs') there were various 'gross loopholes' in the Protocol, which have now been addressed through the Ottawa Convention.

Interestingly, even though the Protocol was a weaker attempt to regulate landmine use than the Convention, there was a dissenting report by Senators Abetz and Ellison, who objected to the recommendations of the Committee supporting the destruction of Australia's stockpile of landmines. The two Senators were the only dissentients, however, and the Committee was Chaired by Mr W L Taylor also a Liberal, and included Messrs Kerry Bartlett, Gary Hardgrave, A C Smith, and Wilson Tuckey, also from the Liberal Party. The Government is anxious to ratify the Convention by 1 March 1999, when it comes into operation.

The Bill will require Australia to destroy its stockpile of landmines, other than a minimum reserve number which is to be kept for the purposes of training Defence Force personnel in mine detection, clearance, destruction or deactivation techniques ('demining' - see more on this issue of training reserves later in this Digest). Australia has played an important role in these processes, being listed by the US as one of the 'Major Donor' countries to demining activities, and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, along with Australian businesses have played important roles in developing the technologies used in demining activities.

As Mr Downer's Second Reading Speech outlines, Australia has been active not only in promoting the principle of a worldwide ban on landmines, but also with respect to the 'demining' process, i.e. assisting countries with landmines 'to rid themselves of [their] continuing deadly legacy.'

An issue which has yet to be addressed, however, is the question of Government involvement in the development of demining technology. A Recommendation from the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties 5th Report suggested that:

The Department of Defence examine ways by which it can encourage researchers into and designers of de-mining technology, with a view to assisting financially in the development of safer, faster and more efficient ways of reducing the number of anti-personnel landmines throughout the world.

The Government's response to this suggestion endorsed the principle that the Defence Science and Technology Organisation should (and currently does) provide testing and evaluation of de-mining equipment developed in Australia, however the Government pointed out that, contra the Recommendation of the Committee, 'DSTO's charter does not extend to the development of equipment and technology to the production stage.'

The DSTO's submission had commented that it:

believed that government assistance would assist the development of the devices from CSIRO and Minelab into a piece of equipment which could be deployed. It stated that the Australian Army and other armies were 'very interested' in acquiring this type of equipment. Humanitarian organisations working in Cambodia, Afghanistan, Mozambique and Angola would also be potential users.

Support for the Bill

Press Reports on the likely passage of the Bill indicate the ALP's support for the Bill:

The bill has the support of all sides in parliament and is assured of a speedy passage.

Furthermore, Mr Downer:

In a break with tradition.. asked Mr Edwards [ALP], a Vietnam veteran ...who lost both his legs to a landmine... to formally adjourn debate on the Anti-Personnel Mines Convention Bill 1998 for the next sitting of the house. The adjournment is usually moved by a senior opposition frontbencher.

There has been almost universal support for the measures in the Bill from non-governmental organisations. However it should be noted that with respect to Protocol II (an earlier, weaker attempt to regulate the use of landmines, see above) the Returned and Service's League put in a submission which, while it condemned the careless and indiscriminate use of landmines and, 'were it at all practical', supported a total ban on their use, nevertheless was opposed to the destruction of Australia's landmine stockpile.

Amnesty International has listed the need to ratify and give effect to the Ottawa Treaty among its seventeen point plan for human rights reform which it presented to the Government after its recent election.

The Australian Network of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (comprising a wide range of 'humanitarian aid agencies, refugee groups, ethnic communities, churches, church groups, service groups, students, workers, the young and the old') has been calling for a total ban on the production, stockpiling, transfer and use of landmines for some time. It has also called on Australia to give generously to mine clearance and to programs for the assistance of victims. The decision to permanently suspend the operational use of landmines has been clearly welcomed by the Network. According to the Press Release issued by the Network, one issue which remains to be settled is the wording used in sub-section 7(3). (See further discussion of this issue in the Concluding Comments section of this Digest.)

The Network welcomed the Bill as the next step to the ratification by Australia of the Ottawa Convention and commended the Government for it generous assistance to mine clearance and for its 'commitment to a future world without landmines'. The Network went on to raise 'some concern that the interpretation of some of the provisions of the Bill may be too broad, but the Australian Network and the non-government community welcomes the Government's willingness to consult on the details of the matter'.




Main Provisions

Part 1-Introduction

Proposed section 3 gives a useful summary of the proposed legislation in plain English, and it is reproduced here:


This Act implements the Anti-Personnel Mines Convention.

It is an offence to place, possess, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile or transfer anti-personnel mines.

If a fact-finding mission to Australia is authorised under the Convention, the Minister must appoint each member of the mission as an inspector. Inspectors may enter premises, and exercise powers of inspection, for the purpose of finding out whether the Convention has been complied with.

The Minister may require a person to give information that is relevant to Australia's reporting obligations under the Convention.

Proposed section 4 provides various definitions, including that of an anti-handling device, which is a device designed to protect a mine, which activates if an attempt is made to interfere with the mine. An anti-personnel mine is given a broad definition, although it specifically excludes mines which are designed to be detonated by a vehicle (as opposed to a person) and which have an anti-handling device. A mine is defined as any munition which can be placed under/on etc the ground and is exploded by the presence etc of a person or vehicle. A munition 'has the technical meaning generally accepted within the defence community', while the process of transferring ownership of control of an anti-personnel mine is defined to exclude the transfer of ownership or control of land containing anti-personnel mines already in place.

Part 2-Offences relating to anti-personnel mines

Proposed section 7 is a central provision of the Bill, making it an offence to place, possess, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile or transfer anti-personnel mines, and providing for penalties against any individual or body corporate who breaches the provision.

The exceptions that apply to this proposed section are contained in proposed sub-section 2, which exempts the activities if they have been approved by the Minister on the grounds of it being necessary for training in anti-mine detection activities, or anything done for the purpose of the destruction or deactivation of anti-personnel mines, or for the purpose of the conduct or criminal proceedings or something done to render the mine harmless.

Proposed subsection 3, mentioned above as having been an area of concern to some NGO's, exempts anyone from liability for prosecution for 'anything done by way of mere participation in' joint military exercises if the actions are taken in combination with an armed force of a non-state party. The proposed subsection is designed to deal with the situation which may well arise (especially given the status of the US as a non-signatory state) if the Australian Defence Force ('ADF') is engaged in operations with the armed forces of a country which is not a party to the Convention. Proposed subsection 7(4) goes on to make it clear that this exemption would operate whether or not the military activities are occurring under the auspices of the United Nations.

Proposed section 8 makes it possible for the Minister for Defence to grant permission for otherwise prohibited activities to take place if they are for the purpose of the development or training of anti-personnel mine detection, clearance, destruction or deactivation techniques. This exemption is designed to be kept minimal by the provisions of proposed subsection 2, which provides that the Minister must ensure that only the minimum number of anti-personnel mines 'absolutely necessary' for this purpose are kept, and proposed subsection 3 requires the principles under which this is to be determined to be written down, and they will then be disallowable instruments under proposed subsection 6.

Proposed section 9 makes it an offence to knowingly fail to deliver anti-personnel mines for destruction, while proposed section 10 requires members of the ADF or police officers to destroy mines delivered for this purpose (although they can be made the subject of a permission by the Minister under the training section).

Part 3-Powers of fact-finding missions

Fact-finding missions may be authorised under Article 8 of the Convention, and if such a mission is authorised proposed section 12 requires the Minister to appoint each member of the mission an inspector. There is also provisions made for the appointment of domestic inspectors who must be appointed or employed by a Commonwealth or State/Territory Government. Domestic inspectors must comply with directions of the Minister and can only act as an inspector when accompanied by an inspector who is a member of a fact-finding mission.

When appointing an inspector the Minister may, if satisfied that it is necessary to do so, impose conditions needed for the 'protection of senstitive equipment, information or areas' or the physical protection of the inspector (proposed section 13). Proposed sections 14 through to 21 make provisions for inspectors to enter premises and search them, either with permission from the occupant, or under a warrant (the conditions regarding an issue of a warrant are set out in proposed section 20). The search powers are very broad and an offence is created for a person who does not comply with the requirements regarding the answering of questions put by the inspector and the provision of documentation if the inspector is acting under a warrant. There are also conditions imposed before a warrant can be granted, and an offence created regarding false statements made to obtain a warrant (proposed section 21).

Part 4-Information-gathering powers

Proposed section 22 allows the Minister to require a person to provide information or documentation if the Minister has reason to believe that the person has information relevant to the provisions of the proposed Act (or our obligations to provide information under the Convention). Proposed section 24 makes the provision that the person so required is not excused on the grounds of self-incrimination, although the documents cannot then be used in criminal proceedings other than proceedings regarding the actual requirement to provide the information (e.g. if the information provided is false or misleading).

Part 5-Miscellaneous

There are broad powers of delegation under proposed section 29, with both the Minister responsible for the Act and the Minister for Defence being able to delegate any of their powers to senior Departmental Officers (or senior ADF members in the case of powers relating to the operation of the ADF).

The members of a fact-finding mission may already be covered by the International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Act 1963, however proposed section 30 means that regulations may be made which can confer privileges and immunities for members of the mission.

Proposed section 31 is a 'catch-all' clause designed to ensure that any powers or duties under the proposed Act are performed in accordance with the Convention. Proposed section 33 would operate to ensure that the Commonwealth complies with the constitutional requirements regarding just acquisition of property, while proposed section 34 enables regulations to be made under the proposed Act.

Concluding Comments

With both the strong bipartisan support and the broad community support, it is difficult to identify any problematic issues with this Bill. Furthermore, the pressure the Government is operating under in order to ensure Australia ratifies by March 1st 1999 means that suggested amendments are unlikely to be met with enthusiasm. However, as already identified, the Government has maintained an on-going dialogue with the NGO community regarding the Bill, and through these negotiations the NGO community have raised concerns regarding the exceptions to the central clause of the Bill contained in 7(3).

As mentioned above, this exemption is designed to cater for situations where the ADF engage in activities with non-signatory parties, and is drafted so as to avoid the possibility that, simply by being complicit in another country's use of landmines, a member of the defence forces could be guilty of an offence under the proposed Act. The wording of the subsection is, arguably, ambiguous. In recognition of this ambiguity, the Minister for Foreign Affairs has made a declaration in the House of Representatives that seeks to remove any possibility of doubt regarding the construction of the clause. He said '[c]lause 7(3) is not intended to be construed as a blanket decriminalisation of the activities listed in clause 7(1).'

This declaration can be taken into account by the courts in interpreting the section, and the statement is certainly categorical, with Mr Downer going on to say:

So it is perfectly obvious that the reason this subclause (3) is inserted is because of the need for Australia to have the capacity to operate with a country that might not be a signatory to the convention. Obviously, the best example imaginable is the United States, but that does not mean that Australian Defence Force personnel, in participating with the United States forces, can contravene subclause (1). I think that is something that honourable members would hope was the case, and that is certainly my intention. Otherwise it would obviously diminish the impact of the legislation, and we would not want to see that happen.

While the drafting of the section may have been less than felicitous, Mr Downer's statements will provide a strong aid to judicial interpretation should the matter ever arise. He has also said that the:

doctrinal and operation manuals [of the ADF] will be amended to comply with the prohibitions contained in the bill, including the interpretation of clause 7(1) and (3), which I have just laid before the House. The mandatory instructions contained in these publications will have the force of law under the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982 as general orders.

It would also have been possible for an amendment to be made to the section, although clearly the precise and appropriate wording of the exemption is a difficult issue. The Government wants to provide comprehensive protection for members of the ADF in any of the numerous situations that may arise when they engage in exercises with forces from a non-signatory country. However, as Mr Downer's statement makes clear, they are also concerned to ensure that the exemption does not provide a justification for Australia's forces to actually engage in prohibited activities themselves. One possibility for amendments would be as follows. Proposed subsection 7(1) creates a broad offence, and proposed subsection 7(3) creates the exemption. The current wording of the Bill has been struck out and replaced with the possible amendment:

(3) Subsection (1) does not permit the prosecution of a person simply by virtue of that person being deployed apply to anything done by way of the mere participation in operations, exercises or other military activities conducted in combination with an armed force that:

(a) is an armed force of a country that is not a party to the Convention; and

(b) engages in an activity prohibited under the Convention.

Note: A defendant bears an evidential burden in relation to the matter in subsection (3) (see subsection 13.3(3) of the Criminal Code).

However proposals for amendment could slow the progress of the Bill, although, given the strong bipartisan support for the principles embodied in the legislation, this need not be the result.


Attachment A:

Hidden Killers 1998: The Global Landmine Crisis

Chapter II: Long-Term Effects of Landmines and UXO

'In addition to enormous pain and suffering, landmines bring lingering economic and social costs.'

--UNICEF News, 1998

The effects of the landmine scourge extend beyond the costs of landmine removal and immediate medical treatment of the victims. The cost to remove one landmine is, on average, from $300 to $1,000 and the cost for surgical care and fitting of an artificial limb is $3,000 or more per amputee in some countries. But the further problem is the long-term effect on people and their environment. Landmines stand in the way of efforts to restore war-torn societies to normal life. They consume billions of dollars of assistance that could be used to bring prosperity and reconciliation, and they continue to take their toll long after the guns have fallen silent. In effect, landmines have an impact on virtually every aspect of life in the mine-affected countries and on the international community as it seeks effective ways to help those countries recover.

Combined with the tangible costs of landmine removal and medical care for victims are the larger, less definable costs for a community located in or near a minefield and for mine-affected countries as a whole. A recent study of the social costs of landmines in Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, and Mozambique revealed that between 25-87 percent of households had daily activities affected by landmines. Unless removed and destroyed, landmines:

  • pose huge ancillary social costs;
  • create vast numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs);
  • impede economic recovery, prolonging the need for international assistance;
  • prevent the delivery of government services;
  • serve as physical obstacles to unity and reconstruction;
  • create conditions for the spread of disease, as well as inflicting injuries, ending lives; and
  • encourage continued militarization of post-conflict societies.

Impediments to Reconstruction

To understand the profound impact of landmine pollution, it is useful to explore how it affects a country's efforts to restore normalcy following a civil war or conflict. Those efforts may be divided into five stages, and the impact of landmines on each is substantial. The first order of business in post-conflict situations is to attempt to mitigate the causes of the original conflict and build confidence that peace can be sustained. Landmines hinder the efforts to return civilians and demobilized soldiers to their former homes if there are known or suspected minefields in the area. This may require extensive and costly arrangements to house and feed refugee populations (see section on refugees and returnees next). They also undermine the confidence and security needed to begin the process of political reconciliation and reestablishment of community services.

A second order of business is reviving economic activity, including devastated infrastructure. A feeling of hope for the future and a return to a more normal life(meaning the absence of war(must soon be accompanied by meaningful employment, the availability of goods and services, particularly food, and the restoration of normal community services(schools, electricity, water supply, roads and other communications systems(and the elimination of landmines, for example. Agricultural land is often a key to economic revitalization in developing societies. The presence or even the presumed presence of landmines reduces the amount of land that can be farmed and increases the need for food aid. Landmines also hinder the repair of irrigation systems that allow for restored production.

A third stage in reviving post-conflict countries may include national elections, which require maximum participation if the new government is to acquire legitimacy. Landmines will hinder an election campaign by preventing access to polling places and impeding dissemination of information and contact with candidates.

A fourth stage in the transition requires a government to extend its presence around the country, particularly into formerly war-torn areas. Mobility is critical to the success of teachers, technicians, extension agents, doctors and other health care workers, and staff of development agencies dealing with the post-conflict situation. Landmines impede the delivery of government services and act as physical obstacles to unity and reconstruction.

The fifth stage of a transition is a consolidation phase. Presumably, a sustainable peace would have been established as people begin to have a stake in the growing economy and evolving political situations. Still, as in the case of Mozambique, large areas of the country continue to be non-productive because of landmines. Removal of the landmines is thus an essential step in the consolidation and progress of the peace process.

Refugees and Returnees In countries emerging from war, landmines pose a profound obstacle to the resettlement of refugees and IDPs, and thus to the process of returning to normalcy. When peace is restored, repatriation and return is a primary humanitarian consideration. Landmines are a serious obstacle to repatriation as routes of return and former areas of settlement are often mined and normal habitation is impossible. Ordinary movement and gainful employment become impossible. A recent report from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) forecasts that '...although the number of people forced to abandon their homes across the world will continue to rise, fewer will be able to find safe refuge.' (footnote 1) According to this report, as of January 1, 1997, some 22.7 million people were at risk: 13.2 million refugees, 4.9 million IDPs, 3.3 million returnees, and 1.3 million others. Of these 22 million people, more than half were located in the most heavily mined countries (Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia, Cambodia, Croatia, Eritrea, Iraq, Mozambique, Somalia, and Sudan). Africa has the largest number of refugees (4.3 million) and the largest number of returnees (1.7 million), and had the largest number of repatriations in 1996 (1.56 million). Of a global total of about 30 million IDPs, Africa claims 16 million. About 4.4 million citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina were uprooted during the four years of conflict there, and their reintegration is expected to be a long and difficult process, compounded by the landmines in the region.

Despite fewer wars and insurgencies around the globe, communal conflict continues to generate new refugee movements, and although the overall refugee count may drop, the number of IDPs has increased.

Landmines can be used as a weapon to forcibly displace people; they can be an obstacle for those trying to flee their homes; they are an impediment to repatriation and reintegration; and, they are a danger to humanitarian staff. The presence of landmines exacerbates the already harsh conditions faced by the vast majority of IDPs. A study of refugees who returned to Afghanistan from Peshawar, Pakistan revealed that between 20 and 40 percent of them became casualties because they were unfamiliar with the location of minefields.


The effect of landmines is pervasive, but not always self-evident. Their most visible impact is on victims(the men, women, and children who have lost limbs and/or sight after stepping on a landmine.

But landmines also lead to indirect public health problems, such as the spread of polio. In areas where roads, farms and access to public health clinics are mined, a public health campaign, such as mass immunization against polio, is difficult to carry out. Mass immunization requires mobile vaccination teams. In areas where landmines are suspected but their exact location is uncertain, mobile immunization and health care teams who are not familiar with their surroundings are in danger. Accordingly, many towns and rural areas near minefields are left out of such campaigns altogether.

By preventing health services(such as vaccinations(from being delivered and discouraging humanitarian assistance, the presence of landmines greatly increases the risk of infectious disease. Again and again, we have seen high mortality and disability rates among children as an indirect result of the presence of landmines. Indeed, in Afghanistan, most of the polio cases of disability originate from provinces where landmine concentration is the highest.

Those at highest risk of the indirect health consequences of landmines(from waterborne diseases, malnutrition, and childhood infections(are mostly the poor, rural, and especially children. Because roads and paths to sources of drinking water and firewood to boil contaminated water are mined, villagers drink polluted water, causing diarrhea diseases, especially among children. In countries where cholera recurs every summer, minefields prevent access to safe drinking water sources and dramatically increase mortality.

There are also clear links between landmines and malnutrition. Most countries affected by war lose many 'breadwinners' between the ages of 15 and 50, preventing families from earning the money needed to buy adequate nutritious food. By adding a disabled member to the family, landmines exacerbate an already tenuous socio-economic situation and fuel malnutrition. Landmine victims, especially those severely disabled or blind, further debilitate already socially and economically disadvantaged families. Landmines make it extremely difficult to cope with this 'dual' handicap of poverty and physical disability.

Table 1. Summary of the Most Important (Probable) Indirect Public Health Consequences of Landmines (footnote 2)

Influence Point

Condition(s) or Behavior Altered

Diseases Especially Increased

Agricultural land, water canals mined

Farming activities decrease causing food scarcity

Malnutrition-related diseases

Access to drinking water and firewood mined

People drink contaminated water

Waterborne diseases such as bacterial diarrhea, amoebiasis, Giardiasis, etc.

Roads and access to public places mined

Mobile vaccination teams avoid the area, results in low or no vaccination coverage and may disrupt Public Health Community activities

All of the six childhood killer (but preventable) diseases

Increased amputation and injury requiring blood transfusion

Increased demand and frequency of blood transfusion

Contaminated blood transfusion diseases (HIV, trypanosomiasis, malaria)

Mined roads prevent food transport between villages

People have to subsist on local food products that may be iodine- deficient

Iodine deficiency disorders, including high perinatal mortality


The presence of landmines has a pervasive effect on the economic life of countries trying to recover from conflict. Not unexpectedly, the rural poor(among them farmers, nomads, and herdsmen(are the most vulnerable segments of a society, and their livelihood is largely dependent on subsistence farming. Thus, an agrarian country suffering from landmines is economically crippled because the rest of the country's economy is so dependent on the productivity of the agricultural sector. Furthermore, social structures are overburdened or exhausted, scarce national resources must be directed toward demining-related activities, and dependence on international assistance continues. The suspected presence of landmines halts or disrupts farming and transportation services. Repair of damaged roads and rail networks, waterways, and power grids is costly and time-consuming. Prices and wages begin to rise as an immediate reaction to the short supply of goods and services, increasing the burden on the poor. 'Without mines, agricultural production could increase by 88-200% in Afghanistan, 11% in Bosnia, 135% in Cambodia, and 3.6% in Mozambique.' (footnote 3)

Because landmines turn arable land into unusable land, overgrazing and overcrowding of remaining farmlands are another consequence. If the road network is mined, goods and services cease to flow, and market systems are disrupted. In areas dependent on tourists, minefields discourage visitors and potential investors in development. Minefields, for example, circumscribe Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe's premier resort, and the only areas for growth and expansion in response to tourism are in the direction of the minefields. Mined urban areas can have long-term economic impact by impeding light manufacturing, heavy industrial development, and energy production.

Landmines also seriously undermine infrastructure, compounding all the other problems a society faces: they isolate powerlines, bridges, water plants, roads, rail networks and waterways, and they hinder reconstruction and impede maintenance and repair. Goods cannot be transported easily by land, and workers cannot move from one part of the country to another. Markets are disrupted, suppliers cease operations, and businesses fail. Programs to free up infrastructure are a priority. Viable infrastructures are necessary to lessen human suffering and to support peace-building efforts. The costs of repairing a country's physical backbone can be enormous, but failure to do so simply prolongs economic misery, fueling tensions and threatening further conflict.


The presence of landmines has a major impact on a country's environment. The unavailability of some farmland due to the presence(or suspected presence(of landmines in an area leads to overuse of existing lands. Some of the agrarian population is forced to move to cities and towns, contributing to overcrowding, unemployment and additional pressure on government services such as sewage, garbage disposal, and other urban resources. The danger posed by landmines to livestock and other animals is also significant, since they can have a long-term impact on the habitat. Some studies indicate that as many as 627,000 animals have been killed by landmines and other UXO in 23 countries, including such scarce and endangered species as elephants in Africa and brown bears in Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as buffalo in several Southeast Asian countries. Landmines have destroyed entire herds of cattle, sheep and goats. Animals, once a source of food, revenue or transport, may thus become sources of contamination and disease when they wander into minefields. Those fields, in turn, may become a breeding ground for malarial mosquitoes, resulting in further problems for the area.

Social and Political Reconciliation

Reconciliation requires governments to extend their presence and their services to formerly war-torn areas. Landmines threaten the peace process, as well as impede post-conflict recovery and reconstruction by preventing the delivery of government services, and acting as physical obstacles to unity and reconstruction. As noted above, mobility is a prerequisite for spreading governmental influence. When roads and railway networks are mined, costly air transport may be the only means of reaching some communities, and their use for subsistence support may affect the readiness and availability of defense forces. Often even such transport is unavailable when warring factions bar relief agencies or government representatives from using airfields.

Security and Military Effects

The persistence of landmines can contribute to the continued militarization of society(perhaps one of the greatest obstacles to nation-building. Those who live in mined areas will seek relief and protection, and may turn to militias or other armed groups. The existence of such groups, in turn, complicates efforts by international relief organizations or government representatives to gain access to and deliver needed medical or other assistance. NGOs may be threatened or barred from some regions under the control of competing paramilitary or other groups. This prevents the very aid that might make a difference from reaching those in mine-affected areas which need it most.

The toll of landmines can be measured in many ways, from the long-term costs of surgery and prosthetic care of a landmine victim, to the economic drain on the limited resources of mine-affected countries, to the cost to the international community as a whole. However measured, the toll on societies is enormous. Simply stated, 'All of society pays, over and over again.' (footnote 4)


  1. UNHCR, The State of The World's Refugees, 1997-98. A Humanitarian Agenda, 1997, 268.

  2. Faiz Kakar, Ph.D., Direct and Indirect Consequences of Landmines on Public Health, World Health Organization, July 1995, 6.

3. Idem.

4. ICRC, Antipersonnel Mines: An Overview, August 1, 1997, 7.

List of Signatories to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruciton (as supplied by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2 December 1998)

Signatories/Accessions: 133

Ratifications : 52

Albania / Albanie

Algeria / Algérie

Andorra / Andorre **

Angola / Angola

Antigua and Barbuda / Antigua-et-Barbuda

Argentina / Argentine

Australia / Australie

Austria / Autriche **

Bahamas / Bahamas **

Bangladesh / Bangladesh

Barbados / Barbade

Belgium / Belgique **

Belize / Belize **

Benin / Bénin **

Bolivia / Bolivie **

Bosnia Herzegovina / Bosnie-Herzégovine **

Botswana / Botswana

Brazil / Brésil

Brunei Darussalam / Brunei Darussalam

Bulgaria / Bulgarie **

Burkina Faso / Burkina Faso **

Burundi / Burundi

Cambodia / Cambodge

Cameroon / Cameroun

Canada / Canada **

Cape Verde / Cap-Vert

Chad / Chad

Chile / Chili

Colombia / Colombie

Cook Islands / Iles Cook

Costa Rica / Costa Rica

Côte d'Ivoire / Côte d'Ivoire

Croatia / Croatie **

Cyprus / Chypre

Czech Republic / République tchèque

Denmark / Danemark **

Djibouti / Djibouti **

Dominica / Dominique

Dominican Republic / République Dominicaine

Ecuador / Équateur

El Salvador / Le Salvador

Ethiopia / Éthiopie

Equatorial Guinea / Guinée Équatoriale **

Fiji / Fidji **

France / France **

Gabon / Gabon

Gambia / Gambie

Germany / Allemagne **

Ghana / Ghana

Greece / Grèce

Grenada / Grenade **

Guatemala / Guatemala

Guinea / Guinée **

Guinea-Bissau / Guinée-Bissau

Guyana / Guyana

Haiti / Haiti

Holy See / Saint-Siège **

Honduras / Honduras **

Hungary / Hongrie **

Iceland / Islande

Indonesia / Indonésie

Ireland / Irlande **

Italy / Italie

Jamaica / Jamaïque **

Japan / Japon **

Jordan / Jordanie **

Lesotho / Lesotho

Kenya / Kenya

Liechtenstein / Liechtenstein

Luxembourg / Luxembourg

Madagascar / Madagascar

Malawi / Malawi **

Malaysia / Malaisie

Mali / Mali **

Malta / Malte

Marshall Islands / Iles Marshall

Mauritania / Mauritanie

Mauritius / Maurice **

Mexico / Mexique **

Monaco / Monaco

Mozambique / Mozambique **

Namibia / Namibie **

Netherlands / Pays-Bas

New Zealand / Nouvelle-Zélande

Nicaragua / Nicaragua

Niger / Niger

Niue / Nioue **

Norway / Norvège **

Panama / Panama **

Paraguay / Paraguay **

Peru / Pérou **

Philippines / Philippines

Poland / Pologne

Portugal / Portugal

Qatar / Qatar **

Republic of Moldova / République de Moldova

Romania / Roumanie

Rwanda / Rwanda

Saint Lucia / Sainte-Lucie

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines / Saint-Vincent-et-les Grenadines

Saint Kitts and Nevis / Saint-Kitts-et-Nevis

Samoa / Samoa **

San Marino / Saint-Marin **

Sao Tome and Principe / Sao Tomé-et-Principe

Senegal / Sénégal **

Seychelles / Seychelles

Sierra Leone / Sierra Leone

Slovak Republic / Slovaquie

Slovenia / Slovénie **

Solomon Islands / Îles Salomon

South Africa / Afrique du Sud **

Spain / Espagne

Sudan / Soudan

Suriname / Suriname

Swaziland / Swaziland

Sweden / Suède

Switzerland / Suisse **

United Republic of Tanzania / République Unie de Tanzanie

Thailand / Thaïlande

Togo / Togo

Trinidad and Tobago / Trinité-et-Tobago **

Tunisia / Tunisie

Turkmenistan / Turkménistan **

Uganda / Ouganda

United Kingdom / Royaume-Uni **

Uruguay / Uruguay

Vanuatu / Vanuatu

Venezuela / Venezuela

Yemen / Yemen **

Zambia / Zambie

Zimbabwe / Zimbabwe **

In addition, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia submitted a letter of intention to ratify the Convention.

** Indicates that the country has ratified, accepted, approved, or acceded to the Convention.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Kirsty Magarey
2 December 1998
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

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ISSN 1328-8091
© Commonwealth of Australia 1998

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Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1998.

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