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Last Updated: 27 October 2011

Mine Ban Policy

Mine ban policy overview

Mine Ban Treaty status

Not a State Party

Pro-mine ban UNGA voting record

Abstained on every pro-ban resolution since 1998, including Resolution 65/48 in December 2010

Participation in Mine Ban Treaty meetings

Did not participate in the Tenth Meeting of States Parties in November–December 2010

Key Events

Libyan government forces used mines extensively in the first half of 2011; in March 2011, Libya’s National Transitional Council pledged not to use antipersonnel mines


After former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi fled Tripoli in late August 2011 and as this report was edited in late September 2011, fighting between Libyan government forces and rebel groups supported by nations participating in the Operation Unified Protector military action by NATO was coming to an end. Antipersonnel mines have been used extensively in the conflict by Libyan government forces loyal to Gaddafi.


The Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. Under the leadership of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya showed interest in the treaty, but made no effort to join it.

On 28 April 2011, the National Transitional Council (NTC), the opposition authority in Libya, issued a communiqué formally pledging that “no forces under the command and control of the [NTC] will use antipersonnel or anti-vehicle landmines.”[1] The NTC committed to “destroy all landmines in their possession” and to “cooperate in the provision of mine clearance, risk education, and victim assistance.” The communiqué also stated that “any future Libyan government should relinquish landmines and join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.”[2] 

Previously, under Gaddafi’s rule, Libya often called for the Mine Ban Treaty to be revised and cited several reasons for not joining. For example, in a statement to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) opening 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 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction 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.[3]

Libya is not a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Use, production, trade, and stockpiling

In the past, Libya stated that it had never produced or exported antipersonnel mines, and that it no longer stockpiled the weapon.[4] Abundant evidence has emerged that shows how, under Gaddafi’s leadership, Libya accumulated a stockpile of hundreds of thousands of antipersonnel and antivehicle mines, and used tens of thousands of mines during the conflict in 2011.

As the Gaddafi government progressively lost control of the country in 2011, anti-government rebels and civilians gained access to massive weapon and munitions depots containing mines that were abandoned by government forces and left unsecured. 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, Human Rights Watch (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.[5]

The first reports of pro-Gaddafi forces using mines emerged in late March 2011 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. HRW has confirmed the use of five types of mines in six separate locations. Additionally, three types of mines have been found abandoned at three other locations. However, this is at best an incomplete picture of the new contamination.

Mine Types identified in Libya during the 2011 conflict



Country of production

Location used/User




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




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




Used by government forces in Misrata

PRB-M3 and




Used by rebels in Ajdabiya; abandoned in storage in Benghazi

PRB- NR442



Abandoned stockpiles in Ajdabiya and Tripoli

The Brazilian T-AB-1 personnel mine appears to be the most frequently used antipersonnel mine favored by pro-Gaddafi forces. Its low metal content makes the mine particularly challenging for detection and clearance efforts.[6] Amnesty International documented the use of T-AB-1 mines in the Tammina neighborhood of Misrata on 25 May 2011.[7] There have been multiple instances of T-AB-1 antipersonnel mines emplaced together with Chinese Type-72 antivehicle mines.[8] In July, unconfirmed reports by rebel forces claimed that Gaddafi troops were laying T-AB-1 and Type-72SP mines around the western towns near the Tunisian border, including at Ghazaya, Ruwas, and Kiklah.[9] The same mines have been found in al-Qawalish, Zintan, Khusha, and the rest of the surrounding Nafusa mountain region.[10]

Remotely delivered “parachute mines” were delivered by Grad ground rockets into the port area of the city of Misrata by Gaddafi forces on 5 May 2011. The Chinese-produced Type-84 scatterable antivehicle mines had markings indicating 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.[11]

By 1 September, the European Union and at least four Mine Ban Treaty States Parties (Australia, Canada, Germany, and Norway) had condemned or expressed grave concern about the Libyan government’s use of antipersonnel mines, in addition to the President of the Tenth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty.[12]

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. Some facilities are protected by minefields, such as an ammunition storage area outside of Ajdabiya that HRW confirms is partially surrounded by a minefield marked solely by a deteriorating fence.


[1] HRW, “Libya: Rebels Pledge Not to Use Landmines,” Press release, 29 April 2011, www.hrw.org.

[2] The text of the communiqué can be found at www.hrw.org.

[3] 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, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.

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

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

[6] 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 has been opened into the origins and transfer of the T-AB-1 mines to Libya. HRW meeting with Brazilian delegation to intersessional Standing Committee meetings of the Mine Ban Treaty, Geneva, 27 June 2011. In June 2011, the ICBL asked that Brazil publicly condemn the use of antipersonnel mines in Libya and provide detailed information on the transfer of T-AB-1 antipersonnel mines to Libya, including the date of manufacture and transfer, as well as the number of mines exported.  The ICBL had not yet received a reply as of 23 September 2011. ICBL letter to Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, 13 June 2011.

[7] Amnesty International, “Libya: Civilians at risk amid new mine threat,” Press release, 25 May 2011, www.amnesty.org.

[8] HRW, “Landmines in Libya: Technical Briefing Note,” 19 July 2011.

[9] “Land mines slow Libyan rebels’ march toward Tripoli,” The Washington Post, 26 July 2011, washingtonpost.com.

[10] HRW, “Landmines in Libya: Technical Briefing Note,” 19 July 2011.

[11] 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] ICBL, “Landmine Use in Libya in 2011: Frequently Asked Questions,”www.icbl.org.