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Last Updated: 17 December 2012

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 66/29 in December 2011

Participation in Mine Ban Treaty meetings

Did not participate in the Eleventh Meeting of States Parties in November–December 2011 or intersessional Standing Committee meetings in 2012

Key Events

No new mine use recorded since the 2011 conflict concluded with the death of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi


Libya has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty, but officials expressed support for the ban during 2011 and the first half of 2012.

In February 2012, the Mine Ban Treaty’s Special Envoy, Prince Mired Raad Al Hussein of Jordan, visited Libya as part of a delegation from Jordan and discussed Libya’s Mine Ban Treaty accession with the interim prime minister, who Mired described as “extremely forthcoming and interested” in the matter.[1]

In October 2011, two Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials informed the ICBL that there is support for joining the Mine Ban Treaty, but the matter must wait until the new government is established and for the legislative body to consider accession.[2] The officials made a commitment to review Libya’s voting record on the Mine Ban Treaty, considering that it has abstained from voting on every pro-ban resolution since 1998. On 2 December 2011, Libya abstained from the vote on Resolution 66/29 supporting universalization and implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty.

Previously, 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.”[3] 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.”[4]

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.[5]

Libya did not attend the Eleventh Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Phnom Penh in November–December 2011 or intersessional Standing Committee meetings held in Geneva in May 2012.

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

Production, trade, and stockpiling

Prior to 2011, Libya consistently stated that it had never produced or exported antipersonnel mines, and that it no longer stockpiled the weapon.[6] Yet abundant evidence has emerged showing 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 2011 conflict. Antipersonnel mines manufactured by Belgium and Brazil have been identified in Libya.[7]

As the Gaddafi government progressively lost control of the country in 2011, massive weapon and munitions depots containing mines 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. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other organizations have urged the Libyan government to emphasize to all militias and local authorities the importance of handing over their landmines for destruction.[9]

In mid-February 2012, the post-Gaddafi government in Libya began to destroy the stockpile with the destruction of nearly 20,000 landmines.[10]


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. In 2011, HRW confirmed the use of five types of mines in six separate locations and reported that three types of mines had been found abandoned at three other locations. In late 2011, Colin King (a British expert on explosive ordnance) provided information on two additional types of antivehicle mines found in storage in Benghazi: Yugoslav TMA-5 and the Czech PT Mi-Ba-III, both minimum-metal antivehicle mines. The Belgian NR413 antipersonnel mine has also been found in Libya.[11]

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




Abandoned stockpiles in Benghazi



Former Czechoslovakia

Abandoned stockpiles in Benghazi

PRB-M3 and




Used by rebels in Ajdabiya; abandoned in storage in Benghazi




Abandoned stockpiles in Ajdabiya and Tripoli




Abandoned stockpiles in Tripoli

The Brazilian T-AB-1 personnel mine is another frequently-used antipersonnel mine favored by pro-Gaddafi forces during the 2011 conflict. Its low metal content makes the mine particularly challenging for detection and clearance efforts.[12] In December 2011, Brazil condemned the new landmine use in 2011 and said it intends to make a financial contribution to Libya’s mine action program and provide technical cooperation.[13]

There were multiple instances of T-AB-1 antipersonnel mines laid together with Chinese Type-72 antivehicle mines.[14] One report stated that antivehicle mines were being buried under antipersonnel mines “to make them easier to trip and to ‘double the bang.’”[15]

Remotely delivered “parachute mines” were delivered by surface-fired 122mm Grad 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.[16] In March 2012, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Libya reported that senior Gaddafi military officers interviewed by the commission had “confirmed that there were several attempts, some of them successful, to mine the Misrata port.”[17]

The commission also reported that the exhumation of a mass grave could not be completed until 30 landmines were removed from the site (located in the Al-Mela’b forest on the edge of Al Qalaa in western Libya, near Yafran in the Nafusa Mountains).[18]

Prior to the NTC’s no-use pledge, there was one recorded instance of antivehicle mine use by opposition rebel fighters. In April 2011, a BBC news report showed rebel fighters removing Belgian-produced PRB-M3 mines from their vehicles and then planting them on the side of the main road into Ajdabiya.[19]

Several Mine Ban Treaty States Parties condemned or expressed grave concern about the Libyan government’s use of antipersonnel mines in 2011.[20]

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] Statement by Special Envoy on Universalization, Prince Mired of Jordan, to Mine Ban Treaty Standing Committee on General Status and Operation, Geneva, 21 May 2012, www.apminebanconvention.org/en/intersessional-work-programme/may-2012/general-status-and-operation-of-the-convention/statements/?eID=dam_frontend_push&docID=14376.

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

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

[4] The text of the communiqué can be found at, www.hrw.org/news/2011/04/29/libya-rebels-pledge-not-use-landmines.

[5] 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.

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

[7] HRW, “Landmines in Libya: Technical Briefing Note,” 19 July 2011, www.hrw.org/news/2011/07/19/landmines-libya-technical-briefing-note.

[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] HRW, “Libya’s Government Destroys Landmines,” Press release, 29 March 2012, www.hrw.org/news/2012/03/29/libya-s-government-destroys-landmines.

[10] Ibid. In March 2012, Human Rights Watch witnessed the destruction of Type-72SP antivehicle landmines.

[11] Colin King, “Landmines in Libya,” The Journal of ERW and Mine Action, Issue 15.3, Fall 2011, http://maic.jmu.edu/journal/15.3/notes/c_king/c_king.htm.

[12] 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.

[13] Statement of Brazil, Mine Ban Treaty Eleventh Meeting of States Parties, Phnom Penh, 2 December 2011. Notes by the ICBL.

[14] HRW, “Landmines in Libya: Technical Briefing Note,” 19 July 2011. 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. “Land mines slow Libyan rebels’ march toward Tripoli,” The Washington Post, 26 July 2011.

[15] In August 2011, a rebel fighter said that the mine squad in his unit found 750 antivehicle mines around Brega in July 2011 in an area under a square mile and noted that many of the bigger explosives were buried under anti-personnel mines. John Jensen, “Libya: Gaddafi's land mines still a threat,” Global Post, 27 August 2011, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/110827/libya-gaddafis-land-mines-still-threat.

[16] 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.

[17] The Commission stated that it “found remains of Chinese-manufactured Type-84 rocket-dispensed scatterable anti-tank mines and their rockets at the port.” UNOHCHR, “Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya,” A /HRC/19/68, 2 March 2012, p. 15, Para. 72, http://bit.ly/yBvmCR.

[18] UNOHCHR, “Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya,” A /HRC/19/68, 2 March 2012, p. 65, Para. 161, http://bit.ly/yBvmCR.

[19] Two witnesses told HRW that rebel forces had transferred the antivehicle mines from Benghazi to Misrata. HRW, “Libya: Rebels Pledge Not to Use Landmines,” Press release, 29 April 2011, www.hrw.org.

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