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FRANCE, Landmine Monitor Report 1999


Mine Ban Policy

While France was not one of the first countries to fully embrace a ban and the Ottawa Process, it was an early leader in taking steps to deal with the global landmine crisis, and French nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were the catalyst to French action and ultimately for the government’s shift to a pro-ban policy.

One of the first measures taken by France at the request of NGOs, as part of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, was the announcement in February 1993 by President François Mitterrand, during a state visit to Cambodia, of a moratorium on the export of antipersonnel landmines.[1] Not long after, France officially requested of the Secretary General of the United Nations that a review conference be held to amend the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its Protocol II dealing with landmines. The review process, which spanned two and a half years, was the platform on which momentum was built that ultimately lead to the Ottawa Process and the Mine Ban Treaty.

During the review conference in Vienna in September of 1995, France announced that it would ban the production and trade but not use of APMs. The French Campaign immediately began to lobby for public debate of the policy, that it be reinforced as law and for the establishment of a special commission to monitor the destruction of stocks.[2]

While France attended the October 1996 ban strategy meeting in Ottawa as a full participant, it had not taken part in meetings organized by the ICBL during the final sessions of the review conference to help forge a like-minded block of pro-ban countries. In Ottawa, it announced new steps toward a ban that it would outlaw the use of APMs, unless French soldiers are in danger. It also argued that ban negotiations should take place in the Conference on Disarmament (CD). To the confusion and dismay of government representatives, these positions were not enthusiastically embraced by the ICBL, which was participating in the Ottawa meetings and voiced its disagreement with French policies.

France did not fully embrace the Ottawa Process until the Brussels Conference in June of 1997. It continued to maintain the view that only the Conference on Disarmament (CD) could negotiate a total ban on antipersonnel mines, but once France came on board the Ottawa Process, it became a strong advocate of the Process and a member of the expanded core group. When French Secretary of State for Overseas Cooperation, Mr. Charles Josselin signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997, in Ottawa, he declared, “You can count on our unflagging determination, both to enforce the Treaty and to ensure its universal acceptance.”

The Mine Ban Treaty was ratified unanimously by the French Parliament on 25 June 1998.[3] At the time of the vote, the Minister of Defense declared: “This law authorizing ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty will make France the first permanent member of the U.N. Security Council to adhere to these standards. It indicates our determined willingness to arrive at a total and universal ban on antipersonnel mines. This same determination to see a total mine ban recently led France to declare before the Atlantic Alliance that it would unreservedly enforce the Ottawa Treaty. France will prohibit the planned or actual use of antipersonnel mines in any military operation whatsoever by its military personnel. Furthermore, France will refuse to agree to rules of engagement in any military operation calling for the use of antipersonnel mines.”[4]

At the same time it voted to ratify the Mine Ban Treaty, the French Parliament, after a second reading, unanimously passed implementing legislation with the intent of eliminating antipersonnel mines, in accordance with Article 9 of the Treaty. This Law was published in the Official Journal on 8 July 1998.[5] France and Germany simultaneously deposited their respective documents of ratification with the United Nations on 23 July 1998.

The law authorizes the French Government to retain existing antipersonnel mine stockpiles until their destruction, at the latest by 31 December 2000; transfer antipersonnel mines with the intent to destroy them; retain or transfer a certain number of antipersonnel mines for the development of mine detection, demining, or destruction techniques, and for training in these techniques, the number of these retained mines not to exceed 5,000 as of 31 December 2000.[6] The law provides for criminal sanctions as required under Article 9 of the Treaty. Violations of the key prohibitions of the treaty will be punishable by ten years of imprisonment and by a fine of 1,000,000 francs. The French Law went into force on 1 March 1999, and applies equally in French overseas territories and in the collective territory of Mayotte.

A National Committee For the Elimination of Antipersonnel Mines shall be created, to be composed of Government representatives, two Deputies and two Senators, representatives from humanitarian organizations, and representatives from corporate management and organized labor.[7] The National Committee shall ensure monitoring and enforcement of the present Law, and of international actions by France in the field of victim assistance and humanitarian mine clearance.[8]

The establishment of a National Committee undoubtedly represents one of the main innovations of the French law. Indeed, such a body is without precedent, as this is the first time the French Government has ever officially allowed NGOs to participate in the monitoring of its political processes. The very existence of the Committee demonstrates that the partnerships between NGOs and governments developed in many other countries throughout the anti-landmine campaign are gradually being created here in France.

From 1992 to 1998, loud calls to successive French governments from both NGOs and the French public brought about cooperation and exchange of information with the ministries involved in the landmine issue, a development which served to advance the cause of a total landmine ban and the signing of the Ottawa Treaty. The French Ban Campaign has undoubtedly helped to improve relations between NGOs and those government ministries involved in issues previously restricted to the public sector, e.g. matters of disarmament.

Actions by French deputies and senators were also of critical importance in the passage of the Law. Legislators were largely responsible for relaying NGO requests for a monitoring committee during the drafting of the bill. French parliamentarians will sit on the new Committee, which is not the case for the commission in charge of monitoring French enforcement of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, whose only members are ministerial representatives.[9]

The creation of a National Committee for the Elimination of Antipersonnel Mines has brought new hope for greater transparency in French disarmament policy. Nevertheless, many questions remain about the Committee's method of functioning and the means it will have at its disposal. As of this date, the decrees authorizing the Committee to begin work have still not been published in the Official Journal. Despite the fact that the Law has already gone into effect, the Committee has never met.

Although French NGOs have widely applauded the establishment of the National Committee, these same organizations are now speaking out on the principles that must be put into place by France to ensure complete transparency in the monitoring and verification of the commitments it has undertaken.

One study commissioned by Handicap International, the lead NGO in the French Campaign and a co-founder of the ICBL, put forward recommendations as early as September 1998 for maximum transparency in monitoring and verification of compliance with the French law. While outlining French obligations under the provisions of the Treaty and/or law, and describing the state of affairs in France, the study makes a series of recommendations which can be summed up as follows :

1 - At the beginning of its work, the National Committee must have available every means allowing it to make a complete inventory of antipersonnel mines manufactured by French firms : the different types and quantities produced. This inventory will serve as a baseline to evaluate progress in eliminating mines, which constitutes the mandate of the Committee.

2 - The National Committee must possess every means to enable the drawing up of a complete report on antipersonnel mine stockpiles available to armies, both on the mainland and in overseas territories, as well as inventories of authorized transfers of French-made antipersonnel mines.

3 - The destruction of France’s antipersonnel mine stockpiles should be the subject of a precise inventory and timetable. The method of destruction should be spelled out and elimination verified by the National Committee.

4 - The National Committee should be able to establish a report on the industrial conversion of companies and facilities which have served to produce antipersonnel mines.

5 - The National Committee should pay special attention to the transfer of non-specific antipersonnel mine components. A specific Registry for these transfers should be set up jointly between the National Committee and the Interministerial Commission for the Study of War Materiel Exports (CIEEMG).

6 - In order to facilitate mine clearance operations, French authorities should be able to confirm or deny allegations of the presence of French mines in foreign countries.

7 - The National Committee must give particular attention to booby-trapping systems adapted for antitank mines. Reports should be carried out by independent experts in order to ensure that there is no contravention of the antipersonnel mine ban.

8 - The National Committee should become an intermediary for satisfying the needs and preoccupations of organizations in charge of humanitarian demining, particularly concerning the technologies to be developed.

9 - The National Committee should be able to check and verify that replacement systems for antipersonnel mines do not circumvent the French Law or the Ottawa Convention.

10 - The monitoring and verification which form part of the National Committee’s mandate do not imply a special role for the Committee in the process of choice or approval for weapons systems designed to replace antipersonnel mines.[10]

Among many other issues to be studied closely by NGOs is the case of anti-vehicle mines or other weapons systems which do not conform to the definition used for the Mine Ban Treaty or subsequent French Law, but which can have the same deadly effects as antipersonnel mines.[11] This was raised by some legislators during the debate leading to the passage of the French law. Said one, “If this is indeed our objective, then let's go all the way. Firstly, let's adopt a wider definition, since the one used in Ottawa was only a compromise, let's widen the antipersonnel mine definition to include all comparable devices to antitank mine booby-traps that use anti-handling devices, inasmuch as the treaty negotiators in Oslo recognized that if these mines can be triggered by an involuntary act, they may be considered as antipersonnel mines.”[12]

CCW and CD

France ratified original Protocol II of the CCW on 4 March 1988; it ratified the May 1996 revised Protocol II on 8 July 1998. Decrees concerning the application of this most recent Protocol were published in the Official Journal of 5 March 1999.

On 25 February 1999, the Minister for Foreign Affairs publicly reaffirmed that France supports establishing an antipersonnel mine transfer ban in the CD. “In order to be truly effective, the ban decreed in Ottawa must be made universal. The fact that some major players, i.e., the United States, Russia, China, and India, have adopted a wait-and-see attitude is cause for concern. We feel that the opening of further negotiations at the Disarmament Conference, to deal first with the issue of mine transfers, would mark a definite step in the right direction and would help dry up supply markets for antipersonnel mines.”[13]


Until the official announcement of a moratorium on the manufacture of antipersonnel mines on 26 September 1995 by Xavier Emmanuelli, Secretary of State for Humanitarian and Emergency Actions during the opening session of the First Review Conference for Protocol II of the 1980 CCW, France manufactured antipersonnel mines. The production ban has henceforth been rendered official through the law of 8 July, which prohibits all production of antipersonnel mines in accordance with the Ottawa Treaty. It has thus far been impossible to obtain information from the companies involved on the actual cessation of APM production or on programs for decommissioning of assembly lines, or to verify the real situation on the ground.

In a study published in February 1997[14] on behalf of Handicap International, the Observatoire Des Transferts d'Armements made a thorough analysis of French landmine production and related systems. Included in the study is a list of mine types and French manufacturers, but also a wider description of materials displaying antipersonnel features, along with a number of companies listed because of their willingness to introduce certain products designed to circumvent a possible landmine ban, notably in the form of munitions or machines said to be for the protection of equipment or sites.

Antipersonnel Mines

Directional antipersonnel mine (MI AP EFDR F1)

Manufacturer: SAE ALSETEX

Scatters 500 shrapnel pieces at 60 degree angle and produces fatal wounds up to 30 or 40 meters.

Fixed antipersonnel mines ( MAPDV Mle 59, MAPDV Mle 61 et MAPDV Mle 63)

Manufacturer: SAE ALSETEX

Type of mine produced in series. Pressure or traction detonated (5kg) and detectable-at-will through addition of metallic ring. MAPDV 59 has been found in Mozambique and Angola.

Undetectable antipersonnel mine(MI AP ID 51)


Developed during Algerian War and designed to avoid demining by enemy forces. Appears not to be in service in French Army.

Bounding metallic antipersonnel mine (MI AP MT BON 51/55)

Manufacturer: SAE ALSETEX

Explodes one meter above the ground, projecting horizontal circle of shrapnel which is fatal up to 10 meters and still dangerous as far as 100 meters. Appears not to be in service in French Army.

Antipersonnel mine (NR 409/PRB 409)

Manufacturer: PRB (Giat Industries)

Difficult-to-detect antipersonnel mine due to low metal content. Mine has not been produced since PRB bankruptcy in 1990.[15]

Antipersonnel mine (NR-413)

Manufacturer: PRB (Giat Industries)

Detectable antipersonnel fragmentation mine, pressure detonated by 2 to 5 kg. Manufactured until 1990 in Belgium.[16]

Antipersonnel mine (PRB M966)

Manufacturer: PRB (Giat Industries)

Antipersonnel fragmentation mine, copy of American M2 mine. Also produced in Portugal. Detonated by 4.5 to 9 kg. of pressure. Manufactured in Belgium up to 1990.[17]

Munitions with AP Effects

Within the range of French-manufactured mines and comparable devices can be found products requiring especially close monitoring, i.e. so-called counter-clearance mines, certain antitank mine ignitions, and some booby-trap systems for these mines.

Counter Clearance Mines

Made by GIAT INDUSTRIES, mines of this type are used, notably in the Minotaur system, to prevent manual demining operations and are comparable to "booby-traps." This counter-clearance mine is presented as such in the 1994 GICAT catalog: "Double-sided counter clearance mine, homogenous with antitank mine, has 4 trip wire booby-trap deployment systems on each side, functions on ground by breakage or disturbance of booby-trap trip wires, radius of detection and efficacy (6m).”[18]

The 1992 GICAT catalog presents the Minotaur mine dispenser system, which allows the instant creation of large antitank, antipersonnel, or mixed minefields.[19] Two years later in 1994, and probably because of François Mitterrand’s export moratorium declaration, Giat Industires modified the description of its Minotaur, as a system which could then instantly create large antitank, counter-clearance, or mixed minefields.[20] Obviously, the expression antipersonnel mine had been replaced by the counter-clearance mine, which has all the characteristics of an antipersonnel mine.

In the 1996 catalog, the Minotaur is described as dispenses only antitank mines.

In the opinion of some demining experts, these counter-clearance devices enable antitank mines to function like antipersonnel mines. The 1998 edition of the French Terrestrial Defense Matériel catalog makes no reference to the counter-clearance mine. However, the Minotaur System and associated antitank mines are still presented therein. The Minotaur and its antitank mines were on display at the 1998 EuroSatory Armaments Exhibition.

Antitank Mines and Booby-Traps[21]

Numerous French antitank mine models are presented as able to be booby-trapped. A military publication describes an antitank booby-trapping system in these terms: the anti-lifting ignitors are designed to explode if the AT mine is handled by army engineers.[22]

The undetectable pull-ignitor (model 1951) is presented in the Army Instruction Manual TTA 10. According to the technical data sheet, this booby-trap igniter is used on the ATM MACI 51 from Alstex Co. Traction pressure (between 1 kg and 2,5 kg on a straight axis and from 1 kg to 3.5 kg at 45) on the booby-trap tripwire is sufficient to explode this AT mine.[23]

Another magazine describes the ACPM antitank mine (mechanically emplaced antitank) from Lacroix Co.- offered for export at the time- which it is said can be incorporated in a booby-trapping device.[24]

An important problem has been reported concerning ACPM and HPD mines, to the effect that they are not significantly different from models which cannot be booby-trapped. During mine clearance operations, it is easy visually to confuse these two mine types with unbooby-trapped versions. This problem is not specific to French-made antitank mines: foreign-made ATM models possess the same features designated under the name “look-alike mines.”[25]

The latest French Terrestrial Defense Matériel catalog presents two antitank mines from Alstex, able to be booby-trapped.[26] The antitank mine ACPR has a “ booby-trap cavity.” The English language presentation of ACPR specifies that it “resists demining by explosive charge.”[27] The programmable antitank mine ACPR also includes an “anti-lifting device.”[28] And the Ages-MACPED antitank mine from Giat Industries can also be user-programmed for life-cycle and for “anti-lifting mode.”[29]

At this point, it would be useful to emphasize the unambiguous nature of the French position, stated during the debate on widening the definition of anti-handling systems : “A tank is a tool of war. There is no connection between antitank and antipersonnel mines. The removal of an antitank mine from the battlefield is obviously a military action.”[30] For the Ministry of Defense, such an extension of the definition would be tantamount to the decommissioning of antitank mines. The Minister did not bring up post-war issues nor the real danger posed by these systems for demining crews and civilian populations.

Site Protection Systems

Such systems, used to secure military facilities and equipment, include a firing chamber for launching munitions of various types and may be potentially antipersonnel in function. “Officially, these devices may only be activated by an operator and cannot therefore be considered as antipersonnel mines, even though they use the same wounding technologies, particularly the dispersion of shrapnel.”[31] Despite guarantees in manufacturers’ catalogs that none of these munitions remain on the ground after launch, site protection devices constitute one of the weapons systems to be monitored by NGOs. It will be particularly important to verify that they cannot be indiscriminately detonated by sensor.

Société Lacroix's SPHINX system falls into this category. One version of this device, called the SPHINX MODER, is designed to fire wounding, warning, or practice munitions.[32] It is being produced in series and has been adopted by the French Army to take the place of antipersonnel mines.

Mine Delivery Systems

Giat Industries’ French Minotaur, which possesses characteristics required for future combat, is part of a new generation of systems. The Minotaur may be adapted to various types of platforms. It has been mounted on British Alvis Stormer armoured vehicles, EGB vehicles (armoured machines from Giat Industries engineering), the 6-wheeled French ACMAT, and 4-wheeled mine-dispensers from the French firm Matenin.[33] Giat Industries, in joint-venture with the American company Alkan, has designed a Minotaur model capable of dispersing 270 antitank mines (8060 Pod Dispenser), which can be delivered by helicopter.[34] Another variant is the “Remote Controlled Mining Model” (Mitra), which can be transported by two men and can disperse 30 antitank mines (AC DISP LU 981).[35]

Finally, the Leclerc tank-repair vehicle from Giat Industries can be rapidly converted into a mine dispenser by using an adaptation of the Minotaur system, and it can also be equipped with a mine-clearance system.[36] One version of this Leclerc tank-repair vehicle, equipped with both a K2D demining kit and a Minotaur mine dispenser, was in fact on display at the EuroSatory Terrestrial Armaments Exhibition in June 1998.

The transport vehicle may have six or eight “modules,” be direction-oriented, and contain 20 mine launcher containers (MLC). Each container can hold five antitank mines, 10 antipersonnel mines, or according to certain Giat Industries documents, counter-clearance mines. Mines can be dispersed over a maximum radius of 250 meters on each side of the vehicle and 90 meters to the rear, and over a distance of 2,400 meters.

A control panel allows the driver to program, directly from the vehicle cabin, minefield characteristics such as direction of dispersion (to the right, to the left, or toward the rear of the moving or stationary vehicle), dimensions and density of mining, and the duration of mine activation (from 1 to 96 hours).[37] Antitank mines used are standard French artillery issue, AC DISP F1 mines from Giat Industires.

The British Army tested the Minotaur system during the Gulf War. Several Minotaur systems (including 6 modules of 20-tube launchers) were adapted at the time to British Stormer armored track vehicles.[38]

The Minotaur System is currently in the process of being adopted by the French Army, which should receive approximately thirty systems. In May 1995, Giat Industires started delivery of the first 2,500 mine launch containers (MLC), as well as 12,500 AC DISP LU antitank mines, ordered by the French Army.[39]

Military units also use mechanical mine-layers or “mine buriers,” which enable rapid mechanical laying, so avoiding the hazards of manual handling. These machines are mainly used to lay antitank mines, but documentation describing them, particularly from Jane’s Information Group, indicates that they can be adapted to all types of mines. This is the case of GIAT ARE SOC-type mine-laying system, which although specially designed to “bury” HPD-type antitank mines from TRT Défense, can be adapted to other types of mines.[40]

Similarly, the Matenin mine-burier is capable of laying mines while leaving the terrain looking the same as before (vegetation is carefully put back in place after the laying operation). While this Matenin burier is presented as being designed to lay HPD antitank mines from TRT, the description provided by Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance leads one to suppose that other types of mines can be used.[41] The 1998 edition of the catalog French Terrestrial Defense Matériel presents two models from Matenin being used by the French Army: the “limited-operation antitank mine burier,” and the “antitank mine distributor.”[42]


One of the first measures taken by France after pressure by NGOs, as part of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, was the announcemnt in 1993 by President François Mitterrand, during a state visit to Cambodia, of a moratorium on the export of such weapons.

France is, however, on the list of those countries which exported landmines up to that date, despite the Minister of Defense's recent reaffirmation that France had stopped exporting mines in 1986: “On a unilateral basis, France stopped exporting landmines in 1986, and announced an absolute export ban in 1993.”[43]

Indeed, the recent declassification of a document from the Interministerial Commission for the Study of War Matériel Exports (CIEEMG) shows that on 16 April 1992, the Ministry of Defense authorized the export to Rwanda of 20,000 APMs and 600 igniters.[44] It is not known whether these mines actually reached their destination.

As required for any arms sale, the Interministerial Commission for the Study of War Matériel Exports (CIEEMG) should have available accurate information on exports of French-manufactured landmines. The CIEEMG’s archives are certainly the most important source of information on this officially authorized trade, and should also allow verification of compliance with the end-user certificates required by French legislation.[45]

If the mines were not sold, or handed over in the context of military cooperation, they may have been emplaced by French troops sent on overseas operations, which has been a fairly frequent occurrence over the past fifty years. The Ministry of Defense should be in a position to supply information on the presence of mines where French military units have been deployed.

The following list of countries where mines of French origin are deployed or stockpiled is certainly not exhaustive. It simply serves to point out that French-manufactured mines have been transferred (sold, transferred within the framework of military cooperation, or left on the ground by French troops engaged in combat).

The antipersonnel mine MI AP DV 59, found in Angola and in Mozambique, is a product of the Alsetex Company. The MI AP ED F1 Claymore type, and fixed types M61 and M63 from Alsetex, are presented as being “in service in the French Army and in other armies.”[46] The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has reported French-manufactured landmines on the border between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and in Iraqi Kurdistan,[47] implying France supplied these mines to Iraq.

Old mines of the MI AP ID 48 type are reported by the U.S. Department of Defense as being in use in Nigeria and Iceland. In the past, some French-manufactured mines (NR 15, NR 18, NR 22, NR 22C1) have been transferred to the Netherlands in the context of licensing agreements.[48]

According to information from the U.S. Department of State, French-made landmines can be found in the following countries: Algeria (from the 1950s); Belgium (from WWII and before); Korea (from the Korean War); Iraq (antitank mines MIACAH F1); Lebanon ( M-35 AP, D-4, F1 AP, MAPS AP); Morocco; Mauritania; Syria; Tunisia (from WWII).[49]

Another document of American origin points out the presence of antipersonnel mines in the following countries: Iceland (AP mines MI AP ID 48); Netherlands (AP Mines NR 15, NR 18, NR 22, NR 22C1); Nigeria (AP mines MI AP ID 48).[50] According to Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance: Angola (French Mine MAPDV 59); Mozambique (French Mine MAPDV 59).[51] According to Trends in Land Mine Warfare from Jane’s Information Group, mines of French origin have also been used in Somalia.[52]


France has reported that it has 1.4 million antipersonnel mines in stockpile; it has not been forthcoming with additional details, as will be required by the treaty.[53] It is not known whether landmine stockpiles are located in French overseas departments and territories or on French military bases in foreign countries, particularly in Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Gabon, where there are technical services for naval infantry battalions which rely on matériel.


In compliance with French legislation and with the Mine Ban Treaty, France has announced that it will destroy its stockpile of 1.4 million antipersonnel mines. The destruction of French mines is normally carried out on French soil. Reports have also indicated that the Netherlands[54] and Spain[55] have handed over landmines for destruction by France.

Declarations from the Ministry of Defense at the time of the National Assembly debate on the proposed bill provide a precise timetable:[56] from September 1996 to April 1998, approximately 50,000 mines were destroyed by specialized army services. In order to speed up the process, a public invitation to tender was issued at the end of October 1997. The bids of three firms were accepted, and 50% of stockpiles should have been destroyed by the end of 1998. The remainder of stockpiles are to be destroyed in 1999 and 2000.[57] No precise information has been provided on categories of mines intended for destruction. Projected cost of the destruction is also unknown.

It should be pointed out that deadlines on stockpile destruction previously announced by the Ministry of Defense have not been met. In 1995, France effectively committed itself “to set about reducing stockpiles, with the ultimate aim of completely eliminating this type of weapon.”[58] Several months later, the country once again committed itself to “reduce its landmine stockpiles by destruction, undertaken in September 1996.”[59] Between 1995 and 1998, however, it appears that landmine destruction did not really meet published targets.

According to figures published by the Ministry, 650,000 mines remain to be destroyed in six months, if targets are to be met. This represents quite a challenge, considering the mere 50,000 mines destroyed by the army over nearly two years.

All three companies selected to carry out French APM stockpile destruction are specialists in the decommissioning of munitions. It would therefore appear that such a procedure has been opted for, as evidenced by a statement made during a 5 December 1998 television program by the Manager of Operations at AF DEMIL.[60] The designated companies are AF Démil, Formétal, and Sotradex,[61] which are all familiar with contracts for the elimination of out-dated munitions.[62] However, two of these companies, AF Démil and Formétal, have connections with the major French landmine manufacturer, Alsetex, raising the question if it is appropriate, from an ethical point of view, for mine manufacturers to profit as well from their destruction.

During the National Assembly debate of 24 April 1998, the Minister of Defense justified awarding the French mine stockpile destruction contact to private firms “in order to speed up the pace of operations” and “in order to initiate industrial-scale destruction.”[63] Unfortunately, this move to the private sector has so far failed to foster the kind of transparency about French stockpile destruction that the Minister evoked during the same debate, where he affirmed that “the provisions on transparency and verification hold particular importance for this government.”

Transparency was paradoxically lacking in statements made by the Manager of Operations for one of these companies: “Here we have had to destroy around 300-, 350-, or 400,000 mines for the French government. As far as the deadline is concerned, I would venture to say that we were even too quick for the legislators. Between the time we were asked if we could receive a parliamentary delegation and the announcement of their arrival, we were already supposed to have completed the decommissioning, according to the terms of the contract, and we did just that.”[64]

The Ministry of Defense has announced that 5,000 mines will be retained by the Army for the training of its specialized demining units. This provision, in compliance with the treaty (Article 3), has been taken up in the French law, which stipulates that their number may not exceed 5,000 as of December 2000.[65] French NGOs have asked, if a limited number of antipersonnel mines may be kept for training purposes, would it not be advisable to use practice mines, which are identical to operational mines, only less dangerous?


Although there is apparently no evidence of new uses of antipersonnel mines on French territory, there are several questions concerning past uses of these weapons by French armed forces. Following allegations in the press in March 1998,[66] Defense Ministry officials admitted that Solenzara Air Base in south Corsica was protected by antipersonnel mines. Although the Ministry had announced more than a year before, on 10 October 1996, that the base would be demined “in the near future,” it seems that the “mine scheme” was upset by flooding, which may explain the difficulty in carrying out demining operations. According to the daily newspaper Libération, mine clearance work around the Solenzara base was finally completed on 28 May 1998, despite a statement made by the French Minister of Defense, on 4 June, saying that clearance of those mines would be completed by the end of the year.[67]

In 1996 however, the Defense Minister was fairly vague about mined areas in France. In fact, following questions in the press, a Ministry spokesperson responded that “if there should be other military installations, where such passive protection might exist, the antipersonnel mines would be removed.”[68] Even though no more specific information has been produced since that date by the Defense Ministry, published remarks allow us to entertain the idea that other military installations might have been protected by landmines during the same period.

The possible use of landmines by French troops recently engaged in overseas operations will also have to be verified in missions of peace-keeping, peace-restoring, and peace-imposition. This hypothesis is not without basis. A Senate report dating from 1997, in fact, mentions that “static protection of personnel is ensured by antipersonnel mines” in the context of overseas operations.[69] If this is the case, it is important to find out under what conditions the mines were laid and if they have been cleared.

Mine Action Funding

Contributions to Multilateral Funds:[70] (1 US$ = 6 FF)

UNMAS - 2 million francs (MF) ($U.S. 333,340)

1996-1997: For mine clearance in Bosnia-Herzegovina and assignment of two officers.

UNOPS - 2.9 MF ($U.S. 483,440)

Cost of providing 10 military instructors to Angola (on detachment from INAROE)

UNDP - 350,000 FF/$US 59,000

Cost of financing a mission of experts to Laos- Assignment of 6 officers to Bosnia-Herzegovina

UNHCR - 1 MF/$US 166,670 plus an undetermined percentage of a 20 MF ($US 3,333,340)

French contribution to special programs for geographical zones or countries of the HCR, including anti-mine actions. Cost of financing programs in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Detachment of two military officers to an antimine facility in Sarajevo.

Bilateral Aid[71]


1997 9 MF ($U.S. 1.5 million)

Aid program in favor of lNAROE (National Angolan Institute For Clearance of Explosive Devices). Program consists of providing technical, administrative, and financial aid, of leading programs for prevention and awareness-raising in the province of HUILA, and of putting a technical assistant at the disposal of the Ministry for Social Assistance and Rehabilitation.

1996-1997 - 4.6 MF/$US 766,666

Intervention by the Service for Humanitarian Action of which 3.5 MF (US$ 58,330) is to support Handicap International's projects (logistical backup, supply of equipment, and definition of a rural mine-clearance strategy in local areas).

570,000 FF/$US 95,000

Financing of two studies dealing respectively with the retraining of former Angolan military personnel, the institutional reinforcement of INAROE, the rehabilitation of farm land, and the establishment of a mine-clearance training facility.


1995-1996 - 4 MF ($U.S. 666,667)

Financial aid for demining in the Angkor region.

1996 - 1.64 MF/$US 273,334

Intervention by the Service for Humanitarian Action.

1997 - 0.4 MF ($U.S. 66,667)

Intervention by the Service for Humanitarian Action.


1999 - ?

After Hurricane Mitch, the French Minister of Defense dispatched a team of 6 demining experts (mines displaced by flooding).


1996 - 8.9 MF ($U.S. 1,483,330)

Program for training and equipping local demining crews in the province of Maputo-Moamba.

1997/1998 - 18 MF ($U.S. 3 M)

Financing of a project to demine electric cables.

1997 - 0.3 MF ($U.S. 50,000)

Intervention of the Service for Humanitarian Action.

1998 - 1 MF ($U.S. 166,667)

Co-financing of Handicap International's NGO project for prevention of mine accidents.


1997 - 1 MF ($U.S. 166,667)

Aid given through the Organization of American States.


1995 - 2.3 MF ($U.S. 383,334)

Training project for 100 deminers from the Chad Army Corps of Engineers.

1996-1998 - 2 MF ($U.S. 333,340)

Cost of providing a mine-clearance advisor to the Chad Army Corps of Engineers.

This information was outlined by Ambassador Samuel Le Caruyer de Beauvais during a symposium held in Paris on February 25, 1999. “As the European Union is obviously the number one financial contributor in this field, with 120M ECU paid out between 1995 and 1998, and taking into account the size of France's budget share within the community, it is this which we must first consider : some 142 MF ($US 27 M), or practically double the amount of our bilateral operations over the same period, aside from research costs, which means a total of 214 MF ($US 37 M).[72]

This body of data requires further commentary. France's anti-mine activities were for many years led by different departments or individuals connected with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation, and Defense. Such a situation did nothing to facilitate things, as evidenced by the difficulty in drawing up a first quantitative report on these activities.

Study of these tables reveals that a certain percentage of French contributions to the UNHCR, for example, was manifestly used for anti-mine projects, without revealing how much of the funds were used or for what. The fields of intervention by the Service for Humanitarian Action are equally vague. A budget of $US1,483,330, approved in 1996 for the training and equipping of local demining crews in Maputo-Moamba province of Mozambique, has still not been spent.[73] The $US3 million, allocated to finance a private company’s (CIDEV) mine clearance project for electric cables, has allowed only a limited number of the original objectives to be met. On the other hand, a demining project co-financed to the tune of 1 MF ($US 166,667) in 1998, by France and the APM Association of Bihac in Bosnia-Herzegovina, does not even appear in the Ministry's official data.

Hopefully the Ambassador In Charge of Coordinating French Anti-Mine Activities, appointed in January 1999, will bring some focus and coordination to French policy in this area.

For obvious reasons, the efforts of our military should be concentrated on training and passing on know-how; though their resources may be among the best qualitatively speaking, they are limited from a quantitative point of view: this will require making geographic choices or interventions by our European partners or others. NGOs have a different approach, which complements that of our armed forces. The realization has gradually dawned that cleaning up economically deprived rural areas, severely affected by the presence of mines and often difficult to reach, will require long-term programs and budgets, in which the notion of commercial profitability has no sense. Local mine-clearance is an ineluctable necessity if we are truly to take to heart the immediate rescue and future development of these populations, too often forgotten or ignored. It is within the context of the National Committee, where the entire ensemble of actors will meet in a new and balanced way, that truly national options will be put forward.[74]

Such a program appears sufficiently ambitious to make one hope that the Committee for the Elimination of Antipersonnel Mines gets to work as quickly as possible.


[1]On the occasion of Mitterrand’s announcement, he had been presented with 22,000 signatures which had been collected in support of Handicap International’s call to end the “Coward’s War” and stop the use of APMs.

[2]Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, Landmine Update, No. 12, December 1995.

[3]French Law No. 98-542.

[4]Extract from speech by French Minister of Defense, Parliamentary Debate, Official Journal of the French Republic, unabridged report of Parliamentary sessions of Thursday, 25 June 1998, pp. 5402 and 5403.

[5]French Law No. 98-564.

[6]Law No. 98-564 of 8 July 1998 with the intent of eliminating antipersonnel mines, Article 3.

[7]Law No. 98-564 of 8 July, 1998, article 9.

[8]Ibid, article 10.

[9]Decree No. 98-36 of 16 January 1993, relative to the sharing out of administrative tasks for the application of the Convention of 13 January 1993, on the banning of the development, manufacture, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons and their destruction. Official Journal of January 1998, pp. 813 to 815.

[10]Belkhacem Elomari, Bruno Barillot; The Elimination of antipersonnel mines, principles for Control and Verification, the case of France, (Lyon, Observatoire des Transferts d’Armements, September 1998).

[11]Ibid, p. 45.

[12]Speech by Deputy Marie-Hélène Aubert during the 24 April Session of the National Assembly, Parliamentary Debates, Official Journal of the French Republic, pp. 3051-3057. The Oslo diplomatic record shows that antitank mines with anti-handling devices which explode in the carrying out of an innocent act by an individual function as APMs and thus are illegal under the Mine Ban Treaty. See International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Statement to the Closing Plenary of the Oslo Diplomatic Conference on a Treaty to Ban Antipersonnel Landmines, 18 September 1997.

[13]Contribution by Mrs. Bujon-Barre, Sub-Department For Chemical and Biological Disarmament and Control of Conventional Weapons, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at symposium "For a World Without Mines," organized by Handicap International, Paris, 25 February 1999.

[14]Belkacem Elomari, Bruno Barillot, "The French Manufacuring Complex For Landmines and Related Systems, Lyon, February, 1997.

[15]See report on Belgium.



[18]1994 GICAT Catalog, p 1-10-0-10.

[19]1992 GICAT Catalog, p. 1-10-0-9.

[20]1994 GICAT Catalog, p. 1-10-0-11.

[21]The Elimination of Antipersonnel Mines, pp. 48-49.

[22]Africa Defense, December 1990, p.46.

[23]The Elimination of Antipersonnel Mines, p. 48.

[24]International Defense and Armaments, January 1990, p. 65.

[25]DIA-US Foreign Science and Technology Center, Landmine Warfare Trends & Projections, December 1992, pp. 3-34 to 3-37.

[26]French Terrestrial Defense Matériel, 1998 Edition, Volume A

[27]Alsetex SAE document, handed out at 1998 Eurosatory Exhibition.

[28]According to information provided by Alsetex Co. in French Terrestrial Defense Matériel, 1998, Volume A, p. 376, these mines are fitted with a battery giving them a lifespan of 1 to 365 days.

[29]1994 GICAT Catalog, p.1-10-0-13.

[30]National Assembly, session of 24 April 1998, Official Journal, Parliamentary Debates,

p. 3056.

[31]Elimination of Antipersonnel Mine, p. 68.

[32]French Terrestrial Defense Matériel, 1998 edition, Volume A, p. 360.

[33]Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance, 1996-1997, p. 399.

[34]84 1994 GICAT Catalog, p. 1-10-0-10 and Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance 1996-1997, p. 399.

[35]Jane’s Mine and Mine Clearance, 1996-1997, p. 399. The Matenin mine launcher equipped with Minotaur is also presented in French Terrestrial Defense Matériel, 1998 Edition, Volume B, p. 156.

[36]Defence Industry Report (Jane’s Defence Weekly), May 1998, p. 3. See also French Terrestrial Defense Matériel, 1998 Edition, Volume B, p. 150.

[37]Giat Magazine, March 1997, p. 4.

[38]Ibid, p.34.

[39]Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance, 1997-1997, p. 399.

[40]Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance, 1997-1997, p. 398.

[41]Ibid., p. 399.

[42]French Terrestrial Defense Matériel, 1998 Edition, Volume B, pp. 154 and 158.

[43]Response by the Minister of Defense to a written question from Deputy Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, 13 April 1998.

[44]Investigation of the Rwandan Tragedy (1990-1994), Volume 2, appendices, National Assembly Report N 1271 by Paul Quilés, 15 December 1998.

[45]The decree of 2 October 1992, in respect of procedures for the import and export of war matériel, arms, munitions, and associated equipment, provides that export authorization may be subordinated to a commitment by qualified authorities in the importing country not to allow, without prior permission from French authorities, the resale or transfer in any form whatsoever to a third country, all or part of the equipment planned for shipment (Article 12). In concrete terms, this provision takes the form of an end-user certificate attached to all arms-export contract files.

[46]Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance, pp. 355-356.

[47]Trends in Land Mine Warfare, Jane’s Special Report, 1995, pp. 78-79.

[48]U.S. Department of Defense MineFacts CD-ROM,.

[49]Hidden Killers , U.S. Department of State, July 1993.

[50]51 U.S. Department of Defense, CD-ROM MineFacts.

[51]Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance 1996-1997.

[52]Trends in Land Mine Warfare, Jane’s Special Report, 1995, p. 78.

[53]AFP, 5 March 1998.

[54]Declaration by Alain Richard, Minister of Defense, National Assembly, Parliamentary Debates, Official Journal, session of 24 April 1998, p. 3043.

[55]"One More Year,” TV program broadcast over Canal Plus in December 1998.

[56]National Assembly, Analytical Minutes, session of 24 April 1998.

[57]AFP, 5 March 1998.

[58]Official Journal, National Assembly, Questions, No. 34827, 4 March 1996.

[59]Notice NA No. 3032, Volume VII, "Emergency Humanitarian Action," by Michel Fromet, 10 October 1996.

[60]Interview with Jean Marc Pelletier, Manager of Operations at AF DEMIL, for the program “One More Year,” broadcast over Canal Plus on 5 December 1998.

[61]AFP, 5 March 1998.

[62]Notification of munitions-destruction contract award to same three firms, in BOAMP, 23 August 1996.

[63]National Assembly, Official Analytical Minutes, session of 24 April 1998.

[64]Interview with Jean Marc Pelletier, 5 December 1998.

[65]Law of 8 July 1998, with the intent of eliminating antipersonnel mines, Article 3.

[66]Libération, 4 March 1998.

[67]French Senate, Group of Republican Communists and Citizens, session of 14 June 1998, Banning and Elimination of Antipersonnel Mines.

[68]Le Monde, 14 October 1996.

[69]Senate Report n 85, Appendix n 44, by François Trucy, 20 November 1997, p. 66.

[70]Data provided by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 1999.


[72]Contribution by Samuel Le Caruyer de Beauvais, Roving Ambassador, Action for Mine-Clearance and Aid to Victims of Antipersonnel Mines, at a symposium “For A World Without Mines,” organized by Handicap International, French Senate, Paris, 25 February 1999.

[73]Handicap International

[74]Contribution by Ambassador Samuel de Beauvais, symposium “For A World Without Mines,” Paris, 25 February 1999.