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Country Reports
Ethics and Justice Working Group Report, Landmine Monitor Report 2000
LM Report 2000 Full Report   Executive Summary   Key Findings   Key Developments   Translated Country Reports

Ethics and Justice Working Group Report

The “Ethics and Justice Working Group” (EJWG) was established at the General Meeting in Maputo in May 1999 as an ad-hoc working group.[1] It currently consists of twenty-four members and is co-chaired by Alejandro Bendana of the Nicaraguan Campaign and Nicoletta Dentico, coordinator of the Italian Campaign to Ban Landmines.

Various issues have been debated in the group, including the question of the cultural appropriateness of DC Comics’ “Superman” as a mine awareness instrument; research over the environmental impact of landmines; and, reparation and compensation to landmine victims. Several of its members met in Berlin in June 1999 and contributed to the reviewing process of the Bad Honnef Guidelines.


The Superman Mine Awareness Comic: The Superman mine awareness comic is a highly visible tool endorsed by celebrities who, along with the UNICEF logo, give the publication much credibility. The EJWG triggered discussion about its cultural appropriateness, as seen from the perspective of campaigns in many countries of the South and some in the East.[2] The main objection to the Superman mine awareness project is its impact on the everyday reality and cultural context of the mine-affected communities. Some believe it can undermine local development of mine awareness education; mine awareness tools are more effective and empowering when developed with the involvement of the affected communities themselves. Regular discussions have been carried out between the Ethics and Justice and the Mine Action Working Groups on this issue. The EJWG and MAWG drafted an ICBL letter sent to UNICEF in May 2000 formally requesting that UNICEF “openly address the cultural and technical concerns raised.”

The EJWG is (1) continuing to gather information on the impact of the Superman comics in mine awareness programs, to provide interested parties with background information and comments from NGOs and experts directly involved in fieldwork; (2) preparing a letter to circulate among ICBL campaigns to foster action at the domestic level with their UNICEF counterparts; and (3) promoting the idea of UNICEF studies on the impact of the Superman comic as a mine awareness tool.

The “Polluter Pays” principle:[3] The EJWG seeks to focus consistent attention on the issue, particularly as the implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty compels governments to a renewed humanitarian commitment, as they focus on national guidelines for mine action. A recommended and accepted criterion for mine action should be that of avoiding “double dipping” situations, where those involved in production and export of landmines also profit from demining.

The working group is stimulating investigations that product liability and actions based on the polluter pays principle may be two possible legal avenues whereby affected populations might be able to claim their clearance rights, as well as their compensation rights. The EJWG has been coordinating with the VAWG, and with the ICRC, to identify the best approach from the point of view of the victims, and possible areas for action. Contacts have been made with individuals and legal groups in Italy, U.S., Canada and Switzerland.

The EJWG will coordinate these individual efforts with a seminar in Brescia, the former cradle of mine production in Italy, to develop a legal basis of a "polluter pays" concept in relation to landmine use and production and create an international pool of legal experts willing to pursue legal possibilities in relation to the responsibility of landmine producers and user vis-a-vis civilian populations.

Landmines and Environment: Landmines have been called a toxic pollutant of global proportion, yet not much has been done to research their environmental consequences. Toward this end, the Sub-Committee on Environmental Aspects (SCEA) of the EJWG was created in May 1999, and it is working with a number of national campaigns and organizations affiliated with the ICBL on the issue.[4] The SCEA seeks to continue efforts on the analysis of overall environmental aspects of the landmine crisis and environmental norms as expressed in Article 7 of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. States are obligated to destroy stockpiled and planted landmines, and in either process, environmental standards may or may not be observed. A compilation of the information on Environmental Standards provided by States under Article 7 is being analyzed, with particular reference to the need for an international environmental standard for destruction of stockpiles. Research on the environmental impact of landmines was carried out for Landmine Monitor 2000. The SCEA has actively participated in various international conferences studying the relations between armed conflict, sustainable development and conservation strategies.

The Definition of AP Mines: One of the objectives of the EJWG is to stimulate analysis of a definition of AP mines that more fully encompasses its impact on the victim. Several members of the EJWG have focussed on the impact-oriented definition of AP mine in the review process of the Bad Honnef guidelines on mine action. After the NATO bombing in Kosovo,[5] the EJWG began discussions about the feasibility of including cluster bombs in the ICBL ban call. The issue was raised at the ICBL Coordination Committee meeting in September 1999, where it was decided that the sole focus of the ICBL would remain the ban of AP mines, but that national campaigns and/or member organizations could individually look at ways of addressing the issue of cluster bombs.[6]

The EJWG also calls upon organizations to work on the issue of antihandling devices on antivehicle mines, and to develop sustained debate on a review of the definition of AP mines contained in the Mine Ban Treaty.

Ethical reflections on compliance of the Mine Ban Treaty: After the entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty, many sought sound ethical thinking regarding compliance. When this working group was still called that of “legal and moral responsibility,” JRS AsiaPacific-Cambodia had already begun some work regarding the ethical arguments for compliance with the treaty (which is nearing completion). The EJWG wants to further develop such arguments. Contacts have been made by Misereor and the Italian Campaign to Ban Landmines, the focal points for this EJWG subcommittee, with various Buddhist groups and with the Pontificial Commission for Justice and Peace. The religious groups so far involved have expressed their interest in joining efforts to stimulate some discussion on ethical themes vis-a-vis landmines and the Mine Ban Treaty.

<Non-State Actors Working Group | Appendices>

[1] It is the revived and renamed version of a previous working group on legal and moral responsibility formed in Frankfurt in February 1998.
[2] Following a period of consultations and correspondence among ICBL members, including specialists in mine awareness, technical and cultural objections were raised by campaigns and NGOs particularly in Mozambique, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Philippines, Bosnia, Kosovo, Nicaragua and Colombia.
[3] The first “Call” of the ICBL included a broad call urging states that had contributed to the proliferation of landmines to commit financially for their eradication; members of the ICBL, now particularly in the EJWG, have focused more specifically on the “polluter pays” principle, with a mind to how it was applied in the environmental movement.
[4] From May 1999, Mr. Claudio Torres Nachón of the SCEA has conducted research on the environmental aspects of landmines. Some of the sub-committee’s main findings and other research papers can be found in a dedicated web page hosted by the Centro de Derecho Ambiental e Integración Económica del Sur—DASSUR, at: http://members.xoom.com/dassur/envir.html.
[5] Kosovo has demonstrated again what is already known from past experiences in Laos and in Iraq: that the long-term effect of unexploded cluster munitions (duds) on civilian populations is comparable to that of AP mines.
[6] Technical contributions on cluster bombs have been carried out by Human Rights Watch, as well as the ICRC, and another is about to be released by the UK Working Group on Landmines.