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Country Reports
AUSTRIA, Landmine Monitor Report 1999


Mine Ban Policy

Austria signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997 and deposited its instrument of ratification on 29 June 1998. Prior to that in 1996, the Austrian government had adopted a Federal Law on the Prohibition of Antipersonnel Mines, which entered into force on 1 January 1997. That law prohibits the production, transfer, use and stockpiling of APMs, and today, serves as the implementing instrument for the Mine Ban Treaty.

Therefore, at the time of the first Ottawa Meeting in October 1996, the Austrian government was already committed to a total ban of APMs. Austria played a crucial role during the Ottawa process and was responsible for drafting the working text for the Mine Ban Treaty. It was a member of the Core Group of governments that took responsibility for developing and promoting the ban treaty.

In Austria, the public discussion on APMs was started during the Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) which took place in Vienna in September of 1995. During that conference, which ended with little meaningful progress on dealing with the mine crisis, Austria publicly announced its support for an immediate and total ban. It was one of the first countries to do so.

Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schüssel, who took an unequivocal position in favor of a total ban, described the process: “Already in 1995 Austria was pursuing a total ban. In summer 1995, we achieved our aim by destroying all our considerable stocks of antipersonnel mines, making Austria possibly the first comparable country to de facto implement a total ban of antipersonnel landmines. In 1996, a campaign organized by the Austrian Red Cross gained the support of 120,000 signatures in favor of a law banning antipersonnel mines. Such a law entered into force at the beginning of this year.”[1]

Federal Law on the Prohibition of Antipersonnel Mines

The ban law was the focus of the Austrian campaign, which involved numerous NGOs. An initial draft law was prepared by the Austrian Red Cross (ARC) with professional support by the ICRC.[2] To build public momentum for the ban law, advertising materials of the ICRC were adapted and used: posters (especially in schools), a cinema spot shown all over Austria for free, and advertisements in newspapers. Being confronted with 120,000 signatures gathered by the ARC, the Austrian Federal President, who is also the protector of the ARC, was prompted to strongly advocate a ban on landmines.

The Ministry for Defense had already destroyed its outdated stocks of APMs at the beginning of the ban campaign and had no plans for new acquisitions. The main concerns of the military were not to be forced to renounce antitank mines or command-detonated directional fragmentation mines (Claymore-types). The military also was interested in retaining the option of possible future acquisitions of antipersonnel mines.[3] By revising the draft law, the concerns about antitank mines and directional fragmentation munitions were addressed, and the Minister of Defense fully supported the ban law.

In December 1996 the parliamentary bill was introduced to ban antipersonnel landmines. It passed with great majority and the law entered into force on 1 January 1997. It prohibits the manufacture, acquisition, sale, procurement, import, export, transit, use and possession of antipersonnel mines and of antimagnetic devices (which cause a mine to explode when detected with a mine detector.)[4] The law allows some mines to be retained for training purposes; also excluded from the prohibition is the import, possession and storage of APMs for immediate dismantling or other destruction. The penal sanctions are formulated as follows: “Whoever takes, and be it negligently only, to contravene the prohibition laid down in § 2 of this Federal Law shall, if the offense is not subject to a more severe sanction under other Federal Laws, be sentenced to imprisonment for up to two years or a fine equivalent to up to 360 per diem rates.”[5]

Austria’s Role in the Ottawa Process[6]

At the conclusion of the Ottawa International Strategy Meeting in October 1996, Austria was asked by Canadian Foreign Minister Axworthy (as the Chairman of the Conference) to elaborate a first draft of a ban treaty text. The challenge laid down by Minister Axworthy, to negotiate a ban treaty and return to Canada to sign it in just over a year was a “fast track” approach outside of normal diplomatic channels. In this context, a serious question was how to develop a text without jeopardizing its general acceptability, which was obviously critical for a successful negotiating conference and a high number of signatory states.

In order to facilitate the acceptance of the text and minimize the duration of future negotiations, language from other treaties was taken over wherever possible. Another principle was to keep the text as short and clear as possible. Another problem was the lack of legitimacy of a draft presented by one state. States had to be able to participate in the drafting to identify with the text. Therefore, soon after the Ottawa meeting, all Austrian embassies were instructed to forward the first version of the Austrian draft to their host governments for comments and proposals.

Additionally, a multilateral track had to be put in place to elicit comments from other states and to intensify the process leading towards a total ban. Austria invited all states, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines to attend an “Expert Meeting on the Text of a Total Ban Convention,” held in February 1997 in Vienna. At this time, APMs were already prohibited in Austria which gave the country the necessary credibility both to have drafted a text and host a meeting to discuss key elements of a ban treaty. Some 111 delegations were present, and the main work consisted in building confidence and developing a common basis for approaching the problem. The many valuable comments and suggestions obtained during the Vienna Expert Meeting, as well as in the written replies from governments lead to a revised version of the text.

The second version of the Austrian text was circulated to States for comments and the final version incorporated some of the other proposals that were received in response. When the finalized Austrian draft was circulated worldwide on 13 May 1997, it represented a collective effort not only of Austria and other core group countries, but of some 70 States that had submitted comments, as well as the UN, ICRC, and ICBL. What was needed now was the transformation of a political process into a formal conference of states convened to negotiate a treaty on the basis of the Austrian draft. This significant achievement, and a consequential broadening of support, was confirmed at the Brussels Conference on APMs held in June 1997. In the Declaration of the Brussels Conference, participating states agreed on the Austrian draft as a basis for negotiations and “welcomed the convening of a Diplomatic Conference by the Government of Norway in Oslo on 1 September 1997 to negotiate such an agreement and also welcomed the important work done by the Government of Austria on the text of a draft agreement which contains the essential elements and decided to forward it to the Oslo Diplomatic Conference in order to be considered together with other relevant proposals which may be put forward there.”[7]

By the conclusion of the Oslo Diplomatic Conference in September, the Austrian draft emerged as a stronger document than at the beginning of the meeting – very unusual in treaty negotiations. In the words of its primary author, Dr. Thomas Hajnoczi, of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “The final product fulfilled our hopes. We had been successful in defending the integrity of the convention – a total ban without any loop-holes. The Austrian draft had rendered the service we had hoped for – it was instrumental in developing a total ban convention within a minimum of time.”

The role of Austria within the Ottawa Process was critical. With justifiable pride, Foreign Minister Schüssel summarized the contribution of his country: “Austria provided the draft for the treaty and held extensive bilateral, as well as multilateral consultations on the text with all states interested in the goal. With the input of a great number of states from all regions, the draft was gradually further refined and the treaty text reached its final form at the Oslo Conference. I am satisfied that we succeeded in preserving the integrity of the treaty.... But most importantly, for the first time, a weapon in widespread use over decades throughout the world is prohibited because of its appalling humanitarian effects.”[8]

Austria is now in the process of producing its country report for the United Nations as required under Article 7 of the Treaty. Austria has been considerably involved in developing a reporting format which will be presented at the first meeting of the States Parties of the Treaty in May 1999 in Mozambique. It is hoped that the Austrian report can be circulated as a test case proving the workability of the format. Austria is in favor of the widest possible publicity of the report.[9]

CCW and CD

Austria acceded to the CCW with its Protocol II on mines on 14 March 1983. It ratified 1996 amended Protocol II on 27 July 1998.

When efforts were first launched by the U.S. and others in 1997 to address landmines in the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the Austrian government position was that landmines were not so much a question of disarmament, but more a question of international humanitarian law. Negotiating in the CD would have slowed down the whole process, not to mention that some members would have opposed a total ban on landmines. While Austria continues to be skeptical of the value of negotiating on APMs in the CD, today its official position is as follows: Austria supports all efforts that might contribute to the total elimination of AP mines worldwide, in all appropriate international fora, including the CD, provided these efforts are in support of and consistent with the Ottawa Convention.

Production, Transfer, and Use

Antipersonnel mines (excluding Claymore-types) have not been used in Austria in decades, except for training purposes. APMs are currently used, in very limited numbers, for mine clearance training.[10]

According to the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, there has been no production of APMs in Austria since 1945.[11] This does not include directional fragmentation (Claymore-type) mines, which continue to be produced today. Reference works indicate that Austria has produced as many as 14 different types of directional fragmentation antipersonnel mines, as well as the SPM 75 (ARGES) bounding AP mine.[12] Companies involved in production have included Hirtenberger AG, Sudsteirische Metallindustrie GmbH (SMI), Dynamit Nobel Graz (formerly Dynamit Nobel Wien), and Armaturen-Gesellschaft GmbH (the SPM 75 bounding mine). Exact data about the past production of APMs is not available.[13]

Production of AP mines, as well as export and use, was formally renounced in September 1995. This does not apply to Claymore-type mines, which are now called ”directional fragmentation charges,”and which are still produced, exported and can be used in Austria. However, only command-detonated Claymores are produced in Austria. Command-detonated Claymores, as opposed to tripwire-operated, are permitted under both the Mine Ban Treaty and the national law. The firm ”Dynamit Nobel Graz” produces Claymores and exports them to members of NATO. Claymores are held in the Austrian Federal Army.[14]

The September 1995 production and export prohibition declaration was superseded by the domestic ban law. Transfer of mines is only allowed for the purpose of destruction. It is uncertain if, or to which countries, Austria exported its SPM 75 bounding mine.


The Austrian stockpile today consists only of directional fragmentation mines, and a very small number of AP mines (believed to be 58) for training and research purposes, as allowed under the treaty. Previously, the Austrian Federal Army stockpile consisted largely of U.S. M14 mines, classified as “Schützenminen M14.”[15] The Austrian Army completed the destruction of all those APMs by the end of 1995. According to Parliamentary Deputy Irmtraud Karlsson, approximately 116,000 APMs were destroyed.[16] Other APMs stockpiled by the military were only prototypes, and therefore limited to maximum 10 pieces.[17]

In relation to other APMs, the Austrian Federal Law on the Prohibition of Antipersonnel Mines contains the provision that “existing stocks of antipersonnel mines or anti-detection devices shall be recorded with the Federal Ministry of the Interior within one month and destroyed by the Federal Ministry of the Interior not later than one year after this Federal Law has entered into force by reimbursements of costs.”[18]

In order to make them compliant with the Mine Ban Treaty and domestic law, the stocks of Claymore mines in the Austrian Federal Army were adapted by closing the inlet for the APM fuse to prohibit use in tripwire mode.[19]

Mine Action

At the Ottawa treaty signing conference, Foreign Minister Schüssel summarized the Austrian view on mine action:

A particular challenge confronts the international community in the need for intensifying demining operations and better rehabilitation of mine victims. Austria is ready to contribute its share. For some years, Austria is substantially assisting demining and mine awareness programs in Mozambique. We will not only continue to do so next year, but double the financial means available in 1998. Austria is also willing to look into assisting additional programs in the context of its development cooperation priorities. Moreover, the Austrian Armed Forces will increase the number of instructors for demining in the framework of UN demining operations such as in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Fruitful cooperation in the field of demining will require active participation of research as well as the cooperation of private enterprises in the development of new and effective demining equipment adapted for the difficult conditions of operations in the field. I am particularly proud that through the efforts of one of the most active enterprises, Austrian demining equipment is now integral part of many demining operations in the world and Schiebel-equipment has gained worldwide reputation in this field. The recent development by this enterprise of a remotely controlled unmanned flying vehicle for mine detection and to establish surveys of mined areas could be an important contribution in helping to reduce the crucial time factor in demining operations.”[20]

There is a whole range of activities related to mine action supported by Austria. These include direct financial assistance (governmental and non-governmental contributions), in-kind contributions, contributions to international organizations, research and development of technologies related to demining, among other programs.[21]

Austria is assisting mine action activities bilaterally as well as through the European Union. On a bilateral basis, Austria has given financial and technical assistance for demining activities, mine awareness programs and mine victims assistance programs in Mozambique, Afghanistan, and Bosnia and Herzegovina and is supporting NGO programs in mine action in Namibia, Cambodia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. A recent example is the visit of the Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima to Mozambique, where he donated 220 mine detectors.[22] Furthermore, Austria is offering technical assistance to field operations with trainers for humanitarian mine clearance through the Ministry of Defense to support the Mine Action Center in Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina). In 1998, Austria has made available some 5 million Austrian Shillings for the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), a focal point of international coordination for mine action established in the United Nations under the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.[23] Austria has contributed US$18,348 to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Clearance.[24]

Since 1993, Austria has provided mine/UXO clearance teams. Training programs on mines and UXOs are offered by Austrian military personnel on duty in Cyprus (UNFICYP), the Golan Heights (UNDOF) and in Bosnia and Herzegovina (SFOR) as well as for other actions, such as OSCE-missions, ECMM, or civilian experts for peace-building and peace-keeping.[25]

Over the last four years (1994-1998), Austria has contributed more than 54 million Austrian Schillings to United Nations agencies and to NGOs for demining, mine awareness and mine victim assistance programs. It is expected that the program will continue and expand in 1999.[26]

An Austrian Company, Schiebel Austria, has sold 40,000 mine detectors to the US Army during the 1990s. At present, 3,000 to 5,000 detectors are produced and sold worldwide. The main purchasers are Mozambique, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Somalia and Angola. The company is also active in research and development, and receives money from the European Union for this purpose. Schiebel cooperates with the Austrian Federal Army. Its mine detectors are offered to the military for training purposes, and are at the same time being tested there.[27]

The Austrian Government continues to play a very active role in advocating the Ottawa Convention. It has developed a very fruitful cooperation with ICBL and is supporting the Landmine Monitor with US$80,000.[28]

Landmine Survivor Assistance

The Austrian Red Cross has long supported or led various mine victim assistance programs. There has been an on-going private fundraising campaign in Austria called ”Neighbor in Need,” one of the principal aims of which in 1998 was to help the victims of landmines in the former Yugoslavia. The Austrian Red Cross, together with Caritas Austria, a Catholic NGO, and the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) launched a country-wide fundraising campaign in order to assist the victims of landmines. The program started in April 1998 under the title “Help for victims of landmines in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” The program is implemented together with the ICRC in Banja Luka, while the Austrian Red Cross bears the administrative and staff costs. Until now, more than fifty projects have been started or already been successfully implemented.[29] They include training for blind victims as well as the complete restoration of the victims’ homes. By the summer of 1999, the most basic needs of more than one hundred victims of landmines should be satisfied. The total budget is around four million Austrian Schillings.


[1]Speech of the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Wolfgang Schussel, at the Ottawa Conference, 3 December 1997.

[2]Alexander Lang, Legal Affairs Division, Austrian Red Cross, Speech during a Conference of the European Council, Budapest, Hungary, 7 March 1997.


[4]Section 2, Federal Law on the Prohibition of Antipersonnel Mines, 10 January 1997.

[5]Ibid, Section 5: Penalty.

[6]This section is based upon an article written by Dr. Thomas Hajnoczi, Head of the Department for Disarmament, Arms Control and Nuclear Affairs, Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs. See also, Hajnoczi, Desch, Chatsis, “The Ban Treaty,” in To Walk Without Fear (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 292-313.

[7]Final Declaration, Brussels International Conference for a Global Ban on Antipersonnel Landmines, June 1997.

[8]Speech of the Foreign Minister, 3 December 1997.

[9]Telephone interview with Dr. Thomas Hajnoczi at the Foreign Ministry, 15 February 1999.

[10]Telephone interview with Hans Hamberger, 4 March 1999.

[11]Telephone interview with Dieter Skalla, Austrian Chamber of Commerce, Department for Defense Economy (Wehrwirtschaft), 2 March 1999.

[12]See for example, Eddie Banks, Antipersonnel Mines: Recognizing and Disarming (London: Brassey’s, 1997) pp. 45-59; annual volumes of Jane’s Military Vehicles and Logistics.

[13]Telephone interview with Mr. Schnabl, Austrian Ministry for the Interior, Head of the Department II/13 (Kriegsmaterial), 4 March 1999.

[14]Telephone interview with Dieter Skalla, 2 March 1999.

[15]Telephone interview with Hans Hamberger, 4 March 1999. According to U.S. data, these would all have been exported prior to 1969.

[16]This number could not be confirmed by the Ministry of Defense.

[17]Telephone interview with Hans Hamberger, 4 March 1999.

[18]Austrian Federal Law, 10 January 1997, Section 4: “Destruction of existing stocks.” (Unofficial translation by the Austrian Red Cross.)

[19]Alexander Lang, Legal Affairs Division, Austrian Red Cross, Report on the Demonstration and Information Meeting, Felixdorf, Austria, 18 December 1997.

[20]Foreign Minister’s Speech, Ottawa, Canada, 3 December 1999.

[21]A complete list of Austrian activities related to mine action is available from Landmine Monitor.

[22]Wiener Zeitung, “Klima Hands Over Mine Detectors,” 8 February 1999.

[23]Department for Disarmament, Arms Control and Nuclear Affairs, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Austrian Mine Action Programs, provided by Gerhard Doujak.

[24]UN General Assembly, “Report of the Secretary-General: Assistance in Mine Clearance,” A/53/496, 14 October 1998, p. 29.

[25]Department for Disarmament, Arms Control and Nuclear Affairs, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Austrian Mine Action Programs, provided by Gerhard Doujak.


[27]Telephone interview with Mr. Skalsky, Head of Human Resources, Schiebel Austria, 5 March 1999.

[28]Interview with Dr. Thomas Hajnoczi, 15 February 1999.

[29]Austrian Red Cross, Department for Disaster Relief and Development Cooperation, Landmines in Bosnia: Projects of the Austrian Red Cross.