09 August 2011

Landmine Use in Libya in 2011: Frequently Asked Questions. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) urges all parties to the conflict in Libya to cease any further use of mines, and to provide information on the location, quantities, and types of all mines laid or encountered in order to enable rapid clearance. Libya should join the Mine Ban Treaty as soon as possible.

1. Where have landmines been used in the current conflict in Libya?

The first reports of pro-Qaddafi forces using landmines began to emerge in late March 2011. Human Rights Watch has confirmed government use of antipersonnel mines and antivehicle mines in at least six separate locations: Ajdabiya, Khusha, Misrata, and three locations near to al-Qawalish. Media reports have referred to use in additional locations that cannot yet be verified independently.

2. How many mines have been laid in Libya?

Human Rights Watch and others have documented the use of hundreds of landmines and there are indications that thousands, perhaps more, have been used in the current conflict in Libya. But the number of mines in the ground is not the only, or even the best, measure to determine the impact of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) on people. A better measure of immediate humanitarian impact is the number of death and injuries from mines/ERW; and an indicative measure of the medium - and longer-term development impact is the size of the area of affected land as well as how it is used – is it needed for people to live on, farm, or travel through. If such indicators are applied to Misrata, for example, the humanitarian and development impacts are immense.

3. What is being done to address the problem on the ground?

The ICBL and its member organizations have strongly condemned the use of landmines by pro-Qaddafi forces. The ICBL has urged all governments to publicly condemn the use of landmines at international meetings on the Mine Ban Treaty and in bilateral discussions with States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty. The following ICBL members are operating in Libya to address the threat posed by landmines, cluster bombs and explosive remnants of war: DanChurchAid provides explosive ordnance disposal expertise to local clearance teams - Danish Demining Group deployed an Operations Officer to provide operational coordination on the ground - Handicap International provides mine/ERW risk education in East and West Libya to people at risk, including internally displaced people, and trains school teachers and community leaders on how to educate youth about dangers posed by landmines and ERW - Mines Advisory Group conducts clearance and provides explosive ordnance disposal training for locals in Libya as well as risk education to Libyan refugees in Southern Tunisia - Norwegian People’s Aid conducts clearance and plans to produce a report on explosive violence in the near future - Swiss Foundation for Mine Action conducts clearance in Tobruk and has been marking dangerous areas. To present a coordinated response, the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and the International Committee of the Red Cross have partnered to form the Joint Mine Action Coordination Team (JMACT). The team works with mine action actors on the ground, providing coordination, prioritizing clearance tasks, mobilizing resources, and liaising with the appropriate authorities and the international community active in Libya.

4. Was there a landmine problem in Libya before 2011?

In addition to recent contamination, Libya remains contaminated with mines and unexploded ordnance resulting from the World War II campaign in North Africa, as well as wars with Egypt in 1977 and Chad in 1980–1987. Some areas of the borders with Chad, Egypt, and Tunisia are affected by mines and unexploded ordnance. Minefields exist in desert, port, and urban areas; however, no comprehensive nationwide survey has yet been conducted for humanitarian purposes. Only ad hoc surveys for commercial purposes have been conducted by private companies.

5. How many people have been hurt by landmines and explosive remnants of war in Libya?

Data collection is especially challenging due to the unstable situation. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, over a period of six weeks in 2011, there were 13 reported casualties from ERW in Misrata alone. However, the total number of casualties in Libya is not known.

6. Why are antipersonnel mines internationally banned?

Antipersonnel landmines are inherently indiscriminate weapons that do not distinguish between soldiers and civilians. They inflict brutal injuries and have severe long-term consequences for countries in which they are used. They continue to claim victims long after the end of conflicts, hamper the provision of aid, and are lethal barriers to development. Their long-term humanitarian cost far outweighs their military utility. The ban on antipersonnel mines has become a widely accepted international norm since the adoption of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. Eighty percent of the world’s nations are on board the treaty, and almost all of those that have not yet joined act in accordance with its key provisions. Myanmar and Israel are the only governments other than Libya that have used antipersonnel mines in the past two years.

In April 2011, the Libyan National Transitional Council, formally pledged not to use antipersonnel and antivehicle landmines, to destroy all landmines in its possession, and to cooperate in the provision of mine clearance, risk education, and victim assistance. It also said that the future government of Libya should join the Mine Ban Treaty.

7. Who produced the landmines used in Libya?

According to Human Rights Watch, pro-Qaddafi forces have used antipersonnel mines produced in Brazil and antivehicle mines produced in China. Rebel fighters used antivehicle mines produced in Belgium before committing not to use landmines. Some abandoned stockpiles of Belgian antipersonnel mines have also been discovered. Presumably, Belgium and Brazil exported these antipersonnel mines before they joined the Mine Ban Treaty. These governments should publicly reveal whatever information they have about the dates, types, and quantities of mines they exported.

8. Who has condemned the landmine use in Libya and why?

Antipersonnel landmines are a banned weapon rejected by the vast majority of states. It is crucial that any use of the weapon be condemned. In addition to the ICBL and its members, Australia, Canada, Germany, Norway, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the President of the 10th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty condemned or expressed concern about the landmine use in Libya. The ICBL continues to call on all states to condemn mine use in Libya (as anywhere else) and to do all to prevent any future use.

9. What you can do

Ask your government to publicly condemn the use of landmines by pro-Qaddafi forces - Help raise awareness about the problem and the need to speak out against the use of landmines; get the word out on social media and other networks - Take action on the broader landmine issue, including support for advocacy and the work of mine action operators - Donate to the ICBL or to its members working in Libya (see section 3 above).

10. Additional information

Read statements and press releases on Libya issued by the ICBL: - Hundreds more antipersonnel mines laid around Libyan town, 10 July 2011 - One more country declared mine free, but new use of antipersonnel mines condemned at Mine Ban Treaty meeting, 24 June 2011 - Statement made at the intersessional Standing Committee meetings of the Mine Ban Treaty, 24 June 2011 - Libya: more antipersonnel use by government forces uncovered, 22 June 2011 - Statement made at the intersessional Standing Committee meetings of the Mine Ban Treaty, 20 June 2011- Nobel Peace Laureate Campaign Welcomes Libyan Rebel Pledge Not to Use Landmines, Urging the Government for Similar Action, 30 April 2011 - Nobel Peace Laureate Campaign Condemns Libyan Antipersonnel Mine Use, 31 March 2011.

Visit Human Rights Watch's website for a technical briefing note on the type and location of landmines found in Libya. Find background information on landmines and explosive remnants of war in Libya’s country profile in the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor. If your answer is not found here, please email icbl@icblcmc.org and we will respond as soon as possible.