– TO BAN LANDMINES –
The Ottawa Process
An International Strategic Conference on land mines was held in Ottawa (Canada) under the sponsorship of the UN from October 3-5, 1996. There 50 countries threw their support behind a declaration calling for an international ban which was to be implemented by the year 2000. Dozens of non-governmental groups from international and national campaigns to ban all land mines were also present there.
Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy told the 300 delegates at the closing session that Canada was prepared to host another Conference in December 1997 to sign an international ban treaty.
The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)
In the course of 1991, several non-governmental organizations and individuals began simultaneously to discuss the necessity of coordinating initiatives and calls for a ban on antipersonnel landmines. Handicap International, Human Rights Watch, Medico International, Mines Advisory Group, Physicians for Human Rights, and Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation came together in October 1992 to formalize the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) .
From the beginning, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines has defined itself as a flexible network of organizations that share common objectives. The Campaign calls for an international ban on the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of antipersonnel landmines, and for increased international resources for humanitarian mine clearance and mine victim assistance programs.
In 1993, the Campaign Steering Committee, consisting of the original six organizations, was formalized and the coordinator was recognized. As dozens of national campaigns formed and hundreds of organizations joined the Campaign, the Steering Committee was expanded in 1996 and 1997 to reflect the growth and diversity of the Campaign. New members included the Afghan Campaign to Ban Landmines, Cambodia Campaign to Ban Landmines, Kenyan Coalition Against Landmines, Radda Barnen, and South African Campaign to Ban Landmines. The Steering Committee was again expanded to sixteen members in 1998.
Today, this network represents over 1, 100 human rights, demining, humanitarian, children’ s, veterans’ , medical, development, arms control, religious, environmental, and women`s groups in over 60 countries, which work locally, nationally, regionally, and internationally to ban antipersonnel landmines.
Ottawa International Convention
Over 120 countries participating in the International Conference of Ottawa (December 2-4, 1997) signed the International Convention to ban all anti-personnel land mines. Nevertheless, main mines producing countries (USA, China, Russia, India) refused to sign the Convention.
In the words of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, this was a historical event of solidarity between governments and non-governmental organizations. There is a need now of 40 countries ratify the Convention in order to become international legally binding.
Japan which had been negative towards the Convention changed its mind, at the last moment, and signed also in Ottawa.
Ottawa Treaty Obligations
The Ottawa Treaty states in Article 1 that “each state party undertakes never under any circumstances a) to use anti-personnel mines; b) to develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone, directly or indirectly, anti-personnel mines; c) to assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a state party under this convention…” and to “…destroy or ensure the destruction of all anti-personnel mines in accordance with the provisions of this Convention”.
Furthermore, the Treaty requires countries to “destroy or ensure the destruction of all stockpiled anti-personnel mines it owns or possesses, or that are under its jurisdiction or control, as soon as possible but not later than four years after the entry into force of this Convention for that State Party” (Art. 4). The Ottawa Treaty includes several exemptions: a minimum number of anti-personnel mines may be retained by a country for the purposes of mine clearance training and research only.
Secondly, the treaty explicitly allows countries to transport mines but only in order to destroy them. The only legal restraint mechanism that binds signatory states to the Ottawa Treaty until it enters into force is the 1969 Vienna treaty on The Law of Treaties which entered into force in 1980. Article 18 states: “A state is obliged to refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of a treaty when: (a) it has signed the treaty…”.
Of course, the other major restraint is public and political action especially at this stage of the debate on landmines. This is a very major asset and can and should be used widely and effectively. Several governments, including Belgium, Canada and Norway, have been particularly supportive of the landmines campaign and its objectives.
ICBL Receives 1997 Nobel Peace Prize
Jody Williams, coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban land mines, together with Tun Channareth, a double amputee from Cambodia, received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 1997, on behalf of ICBL. Tun Channareth had been in Japan campaigning for two weeks against land mines, just before accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. Jody Williams also visited Japan to address the NGO Tokyo Conference ‘98 on Anti-Personnel Landmines on January 31, 1998.
FINAL STATEMENT OF ICBL INTERNATIONAL MEETING (Frankfurt, 22 February, 1998)
From 20-22 February, the General Meeting of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines met in Frankfurt, Germany. The General Meeting consisted of 70 participants from 40 countries. The main results of the meeting were as follows:
The ICBL agreed upon its priorities for 1998 in its three main areas of work. With regard to a ban, a top priority is the achievement in 1998 of the forty ratifications of the Ottawa Treaty necessary for it to become binding international law. It will work to universalize the treaty, with, among other initiatives, a regional conference in Hungary in March and a conference in Russia in May. It will explore a role for its members in monitoring the treaty.
The ICBL agreed that a priority for 1998 is to strengthen the advocacy work of the other two key pillars of the campaign–victim assistance and humanitarian mine clearance. In order to provide for comprehensive programs of assistance to mine survivors, the newly formed working group called for a commitment of three billion dollars over ten years.
The ICBL discussed all aspects of its current structure and reached a number of decisions. The ten existing members of the steering committee, now renamed the coordination committee, were reconfirmed, and six new members were asked to join: Association to Aid Refugees, Japan; Colombian Campaign Again st Landmines; Inter-African Union of Human Rights; Landmine Survivors Network; Lutheran World Federation; and, Norwegian People’s Aid. Working groups on each of the three main areas of work were established (ban, humanitarian demining, victim assistance) as well as a fourth working group on Legal and Moral Responsibility, in order to demonstrate the importance of this area of work in the campaign. The working group on non-state actors will continue to develop its plan to involve these non-state groups in the ban.
Japan Campaign to Ban Landmines (JCBL)
Similar to other countries Japanese NGOs established the Japan Campaign in July 1997. Since it foundation JCBL has supported various symposia and study meetings held at secondary schools and universities, lending panels and models of landmines for public display. Since landmines are not the only matter of concern for countries suffering from aftermath of conflicts, JCBL tries to keep in mind that the issue of landmines should be regarded as part of the entire problem in development processes. Before JCBL was established several other NGOs had already become involved in the issue. The Association to Aid Refugees (AAR) has got public recognition as a result of its popular publications on landmines and the first NGO-sponsored Tokyo International Conference (1997) on landmines. Nevertheless, AAR has not yet become part of the network of JCBL.
Japanese Official Stand on Landmines
Japan has signed the Convention to ban anti-personnel landmines, but did not ratify it yet. Japan holds about one million landmines on its soil –without counting the unknown numbers American military bases hold–, and there is a landmines producing factory, Ishikawa, for the Japanese Self-Defence Forces. Japan does not export landmines. According to the views of the Defence Agency landmines are needed in Japan for self-defence. Japan, an island country, could not, properly, defend itself without them.
The Defence Agency claims that, as a result of signing the Ottawa Convention Japan has to find alternative weapons to the landmines. Due to the strong military presence of the American bases in Japanese soil, the official ratification of the Ottawa Convention will not be an easy task.
Targets for the JCBL movement will be:
■ -official ratification
■ -appropriate national legislation
■ -destruction of Japanese stockpiles of landmines
■ -fixing numbers of landmines needed for training and demining techniques
■ -funds for demining in landmines infested countries, assistance to landmine victims, etc.
■ -public awareness and educational campaigns