Libya

Mine Ban Policy

Last updated: 09 October 2018

Policy

The State of Libya has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty.

In October 2017, a representative said that Libya “supports the concerns of the international community about the humanitarian impact of anti-personnel mines and their destruction and the fact that they hinder sustainable development. We need only look at the effects of anti-personnel mines since the Second World War. We are also well aware of the damage caused by occupation. However, the Convention does not make reference to the responsibility that occupying States bear for repairing the damage they have caused and assisting the countries they have colonized.”[1]

Previously, in October 2011, two Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials informed the ICBL that there was support for joining the Mine Ban Treaty, but that the matter must wait until the new government was established and for the legislative body to consider accession.[2] Libya’s signature of the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty on 9 July 2013 indicated that the government is ready to join international treaties.

On 4 December 2017, Libya voted in favor of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 72/53 supporting the universalization and implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty, which it has done consistently since 2012. Libya had previously abstained from the annual resolution, since 1998. The change came after outreach by the ICBL, including Human Rights Watch (HRW).[3]

Prior to being removed from office in 2011, the government of Muammar Gaddafi showed interest in the Mine Ban Treaty but made no effort to join it; Libyan officials often criticized the treaty and called for it to be revised.[4] On 28 April 2011, the National Transitional Council (NTC), then the opposition authority in Libya, issued a statement formally pledging that “no forces under the command and control of the [NTC] will use antipersonnel or anti-vehicle landmines.” The statement also said that “any future Libyan government should relinquish landmines and join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.”[5] The current, UN-recognized Government of National Accord voiced similar concerns in its 2016 Explanation of Vote.[6]

Despite not joining the Mine Ban Treaty, Libya has participated as an observer in many of the treaty’s Meetings of States Parties as well as the first and third Review Conferences.[7] Libya last attended the Fourteenth Meeting of States Parties in Geneva in November–December 2015 as an observer, but did not make any statements.

Libya is not party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It is also not a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW).

Production, trade, and stockpiling

As the Gaddafi government progressively lost control of the country in 2011, massive weapon depots containing landmines and other munitions were abandoned by government forces and left unsecured.[8] Local and international mine action organizations have worked with Libyan authorities and the UN since mid-2011 to collect and destroy abandoned ordnance, but it is unclear how many landmines were removed by anti-government rebels, civilians, and others.

Prior to 2011, Libya consistently stated that it had never produced or exported antipersonnel mines and that it no longer stockpiled the weapon.[9] Yet abundant evidence subsequently emerged showing how Libya accumulated a stockpile of hundreds of thousands of antipersonnel and antivehicle mines under Gaddafi’s leadership, and that his forces used tens of thousands of these mines during the 2011 conflict.

In December 2016, Chinese-made Type 84 scatterable antivehicle mines appeared in Benghazi in the possession of the Libyan National Army. Mine marking indicated they were manufactured in 2009. Use of this mine was first reported in 2011. Although this mine is designed as an antivehicle mine, it is equipped with a sensitive magnetic influence fuze that can function as an anti-disturbance fuze.[10]

The post-Gaddafi government in Libya began to destroy landmine stocks in early 2012, but no information is available on the numbers or types of landmines destroyed and it is still not clear if systematic stockpile destruction efforts are being undertaken as of October 2018.[11]

Use

Landmine use by some of the many militias active in Libya has occurred from time to time since the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime. In May 2018, it was alleged that the Shura Council of the Mujahideen in Darna laid landmines while fighting forces loyal to Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar.[12] Civilians seeking food and fuel were also reported to have been killed by landmines during the conflict.[13]

It has also been alleged that the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council used landmines in the areas of Benghazi they controlled prior to their defeat in December 2017.[14] A spokesman for the eastern Libyan National Army said 68 soldiers were killed and 45 injured by landmines in 2017.[15] Reports of civilian deaths and injuries continue to be reported in the local media.[16]

In August 2016, an allegation surfaced that Islamic State (IS) militants laid landmines sometime prior to being forced out of Derna in eastern Libya in mid-2015. The Monitor is not in a position to verify the allegation.[17] According to media reports, IS militants also laid landmines and victim-activated explosive devices around Sirte, including near schools and mosques.[18]

In September 2015, there was an allegation that forces of Ansar al-Sharia—an armed Salafist Islamist militia group—were responsible for a landmine incident near Benina district in Benghazi, but it was not possible to verify the circumstances of the incident or if an antipersonnel mine was responsible.[19]

Previously, in September 2014, reports emerged alleging new use of antipersonnel mines at Tripoli International Airport, which saw fighting in July–August between the Zintan alliance of militia groups and forces of the Libya Dawn Alliance.[20] A HRW investigation found that antipersonnel mines were likely laid in 2014 and not earlier, but could not determine the party responsible for the use.[21] On 29 October 2014, HRW spoke by telephone with the commander of the Misrata Revolutionaries engineering unit within the Libya Dawn Alliance, which had been responsible for clearing landmines and other unexploded ordnance in Tripoli since August. The commander said that on 24 August, the day of the airport takeover, his unit had discovered a mined area within the airport.[22] He said a pickup truck mounted with anti-aircraft weapons entered the “old airport area” and detonated a mine, killing one fighter from the Misrata Umm al-Maarek brigade, Mohamed Abubaker Ali, and wounding several others.

Previous use

HRW confirmed the use of five types of mines in six separate locations by pro-Gaddafi forces during the 2011 conflict, first in the east of the country, then in the Nafusa mountain range in the northwest, and finally around Tripoli and coastal towns in the west. This included the use of low-metal content antipersonnel mines that are particularly challenging for detection and clearance efforts, such as the Brazilian T-AB-1 mine.[23] Three types of mines were also found abandoned at three other locations.

Mine types identified in Libya during the 2011 conflict

Name

Type

Country of production

Location used/user

T-AB-1

Antipersonnel

Brazil

Used by government forces in Ajdabiya, Khusha, Misrata, and al-Qawalish (three separate locations)

Type-72SP

Antivehicle

China

Used by government forces in Ajdabiya and al-Qawalis; abandoned stockpiles in Tripoli

Type-84A

Antivehicle

China

Used by government forces in Misrata

TMA-5

Antivehicle

Yugoslavia

Abandoned stockpiles in Benghazi

PT Mi-Ba-III

Antivehicle

Former Czechoslovakia

Abandoned stockpiles in Benghazi

PRB-M3 and

PRB-M3A1

Antivehicle

Belgium

Used by rebels in Ajdabiya; abandoned in storage in Benghazi

NR-442

Antipersonnel

Belgium

Abandoned stockpiles in Ajdabiya and Tripoli

NR-413

Antipersonnel

Belgium

Abandoned stockpiles in Tripoli

 

Prior to 2011, Libya last used antipersonnel mines during its 1980–1987 war with Chad. Libya is contaminated by mines and unexploded ordnance from World War II, as well as from wars with Egypt (1977) and Chad (1980–1987). Minefields are said to exist in desert, port, and urban areas; however, no nationwide survey has ever been conducted. Previously, some facilities were protected by minefields, such as an ammunition storage area outside of Ajdabiya that HRW then confirmed was partially surrounded by a minefield marked solely by a deteriorating fence.[24]



[1] Libya, Explanation of Vote on Resolution L.40, 72nd Session, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) First Committee, New York, 31 October 2017, UNGA, Official Records, A/C.1/72/PV.26, p. 7/29.

[2] ICBL meeting with El-Mahdi El-Maghreby, Director, International Organizations, and Salaheddin El Mesalati, Counsellor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Libya, in New York, 18 October 2011.

[3] See, for example, HRW, “Letter to Ambassador Ibrahim O. Dabbashi of Libya,” 8 October 2014.

[4] For example, in September 2010 Libya stated: “anti-personnel mines are a weapon that the vulnerable States use to defend their territories against invading forces. The powerful States do not even need to use them since they possess arsenals of advanced Weapons. In this framework, the [Mine Ban Treaty] should be amended, taking into account the interests of the small States. The legislators of this convention should have made the States concerned committed to compensate those affected by mines planted in their lands and to provide legal and political assurances for the protection of small States due to the lack of possession of neither defensive nor offensive weapons.” Statement by Musa Abdussalam Kousa, Secretary of the General People’s Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, UNGA General Debate, New York, 28 September 2010.

[5] HRW Press Release, “Libya: Rebels Pledge Not to Use Landmines,” 29 April 2011.

[6] Libya, Explanation of Vote on Resolution L.7/Rev.1, 71st Session, UNGA First Committee, New York, 31 October 2016, UNGA, Official Records, A/C.1/71/PV.24, pp. 27–28/35.

[7] It was absent from the Meetings of States Parties held in 2001, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, and the Second Review Conference in 2009.

[8] This included the 60-bunker Hight Razma facility near Benghazi, a 35-bunker facility near Ajdabiya, and a smaller facility near Tobruk. In September 2011, HRW visited in a Khamis Brigade base in the Salahadin neighborhood of Tripoli that included a farm compound holding approximately 15,000 antipersonnel mines and a nearby storage facility housing more than 100,000 antipersonnel and antivehicle mines. HRW, “Landmines in Libya: Technical Briefing Note,” 19 July 2011; and HRW, “Libya: Secure Unguarded Arms Depots,” 9 September 2011.

[9]Interview with Col. Ali Alahrash, Ministry of Defense, Geneva, 16 March 2004.

[10] Arnaud Delalande, “Terrific—Libyan Militants Now Have Deadly Chinese Landmines,” War is Boring, 16 January 2017. In April 2014, reports had emerged showing the use in Syria of the Chinese-made Type 84 scatterable antivehicle mine that was first reported used in 2011 in Libya, but it was not possible to ascertain if the mines used in Syria were from the same stocks used in Libya. Mark Hiznay, “Remotely Delivered Antivehicle Mines Spotted in Syria,” Monitor Blog, 25 April 2014. In Libya, the remotely delivered “parachute mines” were delivered by surface-fired 122mm Grad-type rockets into the port area of the city of Misrata by Gaddafi forces on 5 May 2011. The markings on the mines indicated a 2009 manufacture date. These mines are equipped with a sensitive magnetic-influence fuze, which also functions as an inherent anti-disturbance feature, as well as a self-destruct mechanism that can be set for a period of four hours to three days. These characteristics pose special problems as the mines sit on the ground and complicate clearance efforts. The magnetic-influence fuze explodes the mine when it detects a change in its immediate magnetic environment, such as a vehicle passing over it or a person approaching the mine who is wearing or carrying a sufficient amount of ferrous metal, like military equipment or a camera. Additionally, given the sensitivity of the fuze, any change in orientation or movement of the mine may cause the fuze to function.

[11] HRW, “Libya: Secure Unguarded Arms Depots,” 9 September 2011. In March 2012, HRW witnessed the destruction of Type-72SP antivehicle landmines.

[14] Jamal Jawar, “Lives and Limbs Shattered by Libya Mines,” Asharq Al-Awsat, 5 April 2018.

[15]Libya: Over 160 Libyan Soldiers Killed in Benghazi in 2017,” Forum on China-Africa Cooperation via AllAfrica, 4 January 2018.

[16]Landmines kill 8 civilians in Oct. in Libya's Benghazi,” Xinhua, 4 November 2017; Ayman al-Warfalli, “Mines still claim legs and lives in Libya's Benghazi months after war ceased,” Reuters, 21 January 2018; Safa Alharathy, “Boy wounded in landmine explosion in Benghazi,” Libya Observer, 29 April 2018; and Safa Alharathy, “Two killed in landmine explosions in Benghazi during May,” Libya Observer, 3 June 2018.

[18] See, “Demining team in Sirte continues work despite lack of government support,” Libya Observer, 4 April 2018; “Ready to explode mines found in Sirte,” Libya Observer, 30 December 2017; A. Lewis, “Libya forces de-mine and clear Sirte after liberation from Isis militants,” The Independent, 11 August 2016; Sudarsan Raghavan, “Even with U.S. airstrikes, a struggle to oust ISIS from Libyan stronghold,” Washington Post, 7 August 2016; and “A Sirte girl undergoes a massive 17-hour operation for landmine injuries,” Libya Observer, 29 May 2016.

[19]Landmine kills five children in northeast Libya,” Anadolu News Agency, 10 September 2015.

[20] Video footage reportedly filmed in September at Tripoli International Airport by Alnabaa—a private Libyan satellite TV network—and by Al Jazeera shows the clearance of at least 20 T-AB-1 antipersonnel mines and at least one PRB M3 antivehicle mine. Reports by both TV networks alleged that the mines were laid by the Zintani-led forces, which controlled the airport from 2011 until August 2014.

[21] HRW, “Evidence of New Landmine Use in Tripoli,” 5 November 2014. The Zintan alliance of militia groups, a coalition of militias from the inland mountain town of Zintan, controlled Tripoli Airport from the end of the 2011 until August 24, when Libya Dawn Alliance of militias from the coastal city of Misrata seized control, after five weeks of intense fighting. At the time of fighting, a Zintani force known as the Airport Security Katiba was controlling Tripoli Airport and its vicinity.

[22] The commander informed HRW that his unit has found and cleared approximately 600 landmines since 24 August, mostly T-AB-1 antipersonnel mines, from the Tripoli International airport compound.

[23] Brazil has declared in its Article 7 reports that production and exports of T-AB-1 antipersonnel mines ceased in 1989, even before Brazil joined the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997. There is no export record of the shipments because arms export records are not held for longer than 10 years. An internal investigation was opened into the origins and transfer of the T-AB-1 mines to Libya. HRW meeting with Brazilian delegation to Mine Ban Treaty Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, 27 June 2011.