Libya

Mine Ban Policy

Last updated: 14 November 2023

Policy

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

In 2020, Libya began to undertake the domestic procedures necessary for its accession to the treaty. A representative of Libya told States Parties in November 2020 that, “We seize this opportunity to convey to you the declaration by the Chair of the Presidential Council of the National Accord government of Libya is willing to join the Mine Ban Treaty,” and that Libya found “this treaty has extraordinary importance to Libya.”[1] The Libyan representative further stated that a working group had been formed to study and evaluate the necessary steps to complete accession.

The statement at the Eighteenth Meeting of States Parties marked a turnaround in Libya’s stance toward the Mine Ban Treaty. Previously, Libyan officials had expressed interest in the treaty, but criticized certain provisions.[2] For example, in October 2017, Libya told the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) that it accepted the humanitarian concerns raised by antipersonnel landmines and “the fact that they hinder sustainable development,” but criticized the treaty’s lack of reference to “the responsibility that occupying States bear for repairing the damage they have caused and assisting the countries they have colonized.”[3]

On 28 April 2011, the National Transitional Council (NTC), then the opposition authority in Libya, issued a statement that “any future Libyan government should relinquish landmines and join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.” It formally pledged that “no forces under the command and control of the [NTC] will use antipersonnel or anti-vehicle landmines.” [4]

On 7 December 2022, Libya voted in favor of a key annual UNGA resolution supporting the universalization and full implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty. Libya has voted in favor of the annual UNGA resolution promoting the treaty every year since 2012.[5]

Despite not joining the Mine Ban Treaty, Libya has participated as an observer at many Meetings of States Parties, as well as the First Review Conference in 2004 and the Third Review Conference in 2014.[6] Libya attended the Nineteenth Meeting of States Parties, held virtually in November 2021, as an observer. Libya attended the intersessional meetings in Geneva in June 2023.

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

Production, transfer, and stockpiling

Libya has consistently stated that it has never produced or exported antipersonnel mines.[7]

However, antipersonnel landmines have been acquired and imported, or otherwise transferred into Libya. Under the leadership of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya accumulated a stockpile of hundreds of thousands of antipersonnel and antivehicle landmines, which were later abandoned in unsecure weapons storage depots during the 2011 conflict.[8] It is unclear how many landmines were removed from Libyan stocks by non-state armed groups (NSAGs) or other actors.

Evidence has emerged showing eight types of Russian-made antipersonnel mines, and two types of antivehicle mines, that were used in and around Tripoli in 2019 and 2020. These mine types had not been documented before in Libya, indicating that the mines had recently been transferred into the country. In July 2022, a report by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Panel of Experts on Libya stated that at least four types of antipersonnel mines not previously seen in the country had been imported by the Wagner Group, a Russian private military company.[9]

Landmine types identified in Libya (2011–present)

Name

Type

Country of production

Location

T-AB-1

Antipersonnel

Brazil

Used in Ajdabiya, Khusha, Misrata, and al-Qawalish in 2011 by Gaddafi government forces

NR-442

Antipersonnel

Belgium

Abandoned stockpiles in Ajdabiya and Tripoli

NR-413

Antipersonnel

Belgium

Abandoned stockpiles in Tripoli

MON-50

Antipersonnel

Russia

Used in Tripoli in 2019–2020 by Russian mercenaries

MON-90

Antipersonnel

Russia

Used in Tripoli in 2019–2020 by Russian mercenaries

MON-100

Antipersonnel

Russia

Used in Tripoli in 2019–2020 by Russian mercenaries

MON-200

Antipersonnel

Russia

Used in Tripoli in 2019–2020 by Russian mercenaries

OZM-72

Antipersonnel

Russia

Used in Tripoli in 2019–2020 by Russian mercenaries

POM-2

Antipersonnel

Russia

Used in Tripoli in 2019–2020 by Russian mercenaries

POM-2R

Antipersonnel

Russia

Used in Tripoli in 2019–2020 by Russian mercenaries

PMN-2

Antipersonnel

Russia

Used in Tripoli in 2019–2020 by Russian mercenaries

TM-62M

Antivehicle

Russia

Used in Tripoli in 2019–2020 by Russian mercenaries

TM-83

Antivehicle

Russia

Used in Tripoli in 2019–2020 by Russian mercenaries

Type-72SP

Antivehicle

China

Used in Ajdabiya and al-Qawalish in 2011 by Gaddafi government forces; abandoned stockpiles in Tripoli

Type-84A

Antivehicle

China

Used in Misrata in 2011 by Gaddafi government forces

TMA-5

Antivehicle

Former Yugoslavia

Abandoned stockpiles in Benghazi

PT Mi-Ba-III

Antivehicle

Former Czechoslovakia

Abandoned stockpiles in Benghazi

PRB-M3 and

PRB-M3A1

Antivehicle

Belgium

Used in Ajdabiya in 2011 by rebels; abandoned stockpiles in Benghazi

 

Several types of antivehicle mines used or found in stocks in Libya contain antihandling devices or sensitive fuzes that can cause them to explode due to the presence, proximity, or contact of a person. When victim-activated, such mines meet the definition of an antipersonnel mine under the Mine Ban Treaty.[10] The characteristics of certain antivehicle mines, including low-metal content mines, seriously complicate clearance efforts.[11]

The initial post-Gaddafi era interim NTC government in Libya destroyed some landmine stocks in early 2012, but no information is available on the numbers or types of landmines destroyed.[12]

Use

In May 2020, the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) discovered significant mine contamination in areas of Tripoli vacated by opposing forces that month. The departing rebels were from the Wagner Group, fighting on behalf of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army (LNA). In June 2020, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that “GNA-aligned forces shared photographs on Twitter on May 29 showing four types of antipersonnel landmines manufactured in the Soviet Union or Russia and claiming they were ‘laid by the Wagner mercenaries’ in the Ain Zara, Al-Khilla, Salahuddin, Sidra, and Wadi al-Rabi districts of Tripoli. Other photographs shared on social media show mines equipped with tripwires and mines used as triggers to detonate larger improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Video footage shows various explosive charges used to booby-trap homes, including antivehicle mines, paired with various types of fuzes and a mix of electronic timers, circuit boards, and modified cell phones.”[13]

In July 2020, the United States (US) Armed Forces’ Africa Command (AFRICOM) posted photographs of an antipersonnel mine allegedly found in a residential area of Tripoli, reporting that it was brought into Libya by Russian mercenaries. AFRICOM Rear Admiral Heidi Berg criticized the “Wagner Group’s reckless use of landmines and booby traps” in Libya, which she said were “harming innocent civilians.”[14]

In August 2021, the BBC published a report on the contents of an electronic tablet believed to have belonged to a fighter from the Wagner Group, which included maps of mined areas in Tripoli in 2020.[15] During a March 2022 visit to Libya, HRW confirmed that all 35 locations recorded on the tablet were in fact mined, and that the Wagner Group was present in those areas at the time. These landmines included Soviet era MON-100 and MON-200 directional fragmentation antipersonnel mines, which had not been identified in Libya prior to the 2019–2020 conflict [16] In mid-2020, clearance teams reportedly cleared at least 400 landmines and other explosive devices in Tripoli’s southern enclave of Salahideen, which they said had been laid by Russian mercenaries.[17]

This new landmine use has been condemned by various governments, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), the president of the Eighteenth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty H.E. Osman Abufatima Adam Mohammed, and the ICBL.[18] Most recently, this mine use was condemned by the Panel of Experts on Libya in a letter addressed to the President of the UNSC in May 2022.[19] The mines, both standard and improvised, caused casualties among civilians returning to contaminated areas.

Previous use

There were sporadic reports and allegations of mine use by militias in Libya during 2011–2019.[20] The Shura Council of the Mujahideen in Darna was alleged to have laid landmines in May 2018.[21]

Pro-Gaddafi forces used at least three types of antipersonnel landmines during the 2011 conflict. Mines were initially used by government forces in the east of the country, before being used in the Nafusa mountain range in the northwest and lastly around Tripoli and coastal towns in the west.

Libya also used antipersonnel mines during its 1980–1987 war with Chad.

Libya is contaminated by landmines from World War II, as well as from the 1977 war with Egypt and the 1980s war with Chad. Mines were laid in the Gaddafi era along the perimeter of some military facilities, such as an ammunition storage area outside of Ajdabiya, where a minefield is marked only by a deteriorating fence.[22]



[1] Statement of Libya, Mine Ban Treaty Eighteenth Meeting of States Parties, held virtually, 19 November 2020. The statement also noted that military talks under the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) had concluded mine clearance agreements, and that success in the talks would create the conditions for joining the Mine Ban Treaty.

[2] Prior to being deposed in 2011, the government of Muammar Gaddafi showed interest in the Mine Ban Treaty but made no effort to join it and criticized certain treaty provisions. For example, in September 2010, Libya stated that “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, Libya, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) General Debate, New York, 28 September 2010.

[3] Libya Explanation of Vote on Resolution L.40, UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, 72nd Session, New York, 31 October 2017, pp. 7 and 29.

[4] Human Rights Watch (HRW), “Libya: Rebels Pledge Not to Use Landmines,” 29 April 2011. The NTC later governed Libya for an interim period from late 2011, handing power to an elected government in August 2012.

[5]Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction,” UNGA Resolution 77/63, 7 December 2022. Libya had previously abstained from voting on the annual resolution from 1998–2011. The change came after outreach by the ICBL and HRW. See, HRW, “Letter to Ambassador Ibrahim O. Dabbashi on Landmines and Cluster Bombs,” 8 October 2013.

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

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

[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 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. See, HRW, “Landmines in Libya: Technical Briefing Note,” 19 July 2011; and HRW, “Libya: Secure Unguarded Arms Depots,” 9 September 2011.

[10] For example, Chinese-made Type-84 rocket-delivered antivehicle mines are equipped with a sensitive magnetic influence fuze that can function as an anti-disturbance fuze. Variants of the PRB-M3 mine are equipped with an auxiliary fuze and an antihandling device can be fitted to the mine so that it will explode if anyone tries to move it.

[11] Gaddafi forces fired Type-84 mines, made in 2009, from 122mm Grad rockets in Misrata on 5 May 2011. 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. 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.

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

[14] Samy Magdy, “US Africa Command: Russian mercenaries planted land mines in Libya,” Associated Press, 15 July 2020.

[15] Nader Ibrahim and Ilya Barabanov, “The lost tablet and the secret documents,” BBC News, 11 August 2021.

[17] Sudarsan Raghavan, “The Libyan war’s lethal legacy: booby-trapped teddy bears, toilets, and soda cans,” The Washington Post, 29 May 2021.

[18] UNSMIL press release, “UNSMIL condemns the use of Improvised Explosive Devices against the civilians in Ain Zara and Salahudin in Tripoli,” 25 May 2020; Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) press release, “Convention President condemns reported use of mines; calls for an immediate cessation of their use,” 1 June 2020; ICBL, “ICBL Joins Mine Ban Partners in Condemning Reported New Mine Use in Libya,” 4 June 2020; Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor press release, “Libya: Calls for international investigation into thousands of landmines in Tarhuna,” 8 June 2020; and Ben Lowings, “Russian Landmines in Libya: Addressing the Problem,” Brussels International Center, September 2021.

[19] Letter from the Panel of Experts on Libya, addressed to the President of the UNSC, 24 May 2022.

[20] For details, see ICBL-CMC, “Country Profile: Libya: Mine Ban Policy,” updated 9 October 2018.