The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, which was adopted in 1997, banned the use of all anti-personnel landmines. Currently, 164 nations have joined the treaty – which was meant to reduce casualties, increase the number of mine-free states, destroy existing stockpiles and improve assistance to victims.
One reason for the efforts to ban the use of such weapons is that landmines continue to be a threat years, even decades, after a conflict ends – impacting civilians.
As the United Nations noted, landmines “restrict the movement of people and humanitarian aid, make land unsuitable for cultivation, and deny citizens access to water, food, care and trade.”
The use of landmines dates to the sixteenth century. These were essentially cannons that were buried underground and when detonated could shower rocks and other debris over a battlefield. The modern use of landmines began in the American Civil War, and mines were employed in large numbers throughout both World Wars.
Great efforts have been made to rid the world of the menace from landmines – with more than 40 million stockpiled mines being destroyed, while vast numbers of mined and suspected hazardous areas have been declared free of landmines and released for productive use.
Yet, upwards of 10 million stockpiled landmines still await destruction.
Research from the Landmine Monitor 2021 report, released by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) on Wednesday, revealed that the U.S. and Russia are actively developing and testing new landmine systems.
The United States, which refused to join the 164 other nations that have banned landmines, wasn’t just a pioneer of landmines. The U.S. military still maintains the fifth-largest stockpile of the weapon. The U.S., which along with Cuba is only the country in the Americas not to have signed on to the Mine Ban Treaty, is also just one of only a dozen nations that still producing landmines.
Of the 45 million landmines stockpiled around the world, the U.S. has about three million, while Russia has the largest stockpile by a considerable margin with 26.5 million mines. China, India, and Pakistan also maintain large stockpiles – well in the millions each respectively.
Mines Still Killing
The report also noted that 2020 saw high numbers of recorded casualties caused by landmines and ERW (explosive remnants of war). That was mostly the result of increased armed conflict and contamination with mines of an improvised nature observed since 2015. More than 7,000 people were killed or injured in 54 countries. At least 80 percent of the casualties were reported to be civilian, with children accounting for half of all the civilian casualties where the age was known.
“The continued high number of casualties and disappointingly slow clearance outputs highlight serious and persistent challenges to treaty implementation,” said Marion Loddo, Monitor editorial manager and final editor of Landmine Monitor 2021 report. “If we are to reach a mine-free world, states must redouble their efforts toward speedy implementation of their obligations and a much more efficient distribution of resources among all affected states and territories.”
While the report has called out the United States and Russia, it also found that only one state: Myanmar, which is not party to the treaty, was actually confirmed to have used antipersonnel landmines during the Monitor reporting period from mid-2020 through October 2021.
Moreover, during that same time, non-state armed groups were found to have used antipersonnel mines in at least six countries: Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Myanmar, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.