The UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons of 10 October 1980 (CCW) entered into force on 2 December 1983. Its purpose, as reflected in its full title, is to prohibit or restrict the use of certain conventional weapons, which may be deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects in declared wars and other armed conflicts.
It builds on basic principles of international law, according to which the right of the parties to a conflict to choose methods or means of warfare is not unlimited and humanitarian issues must be respected when using certain conventional weapons.
The CCW consists of the chapeau Convention, which applies to 123 States Parties and the Palestinian territories, , as well as the following Protocols:
- Protocol I on Non-Detectable Fragments,
- Amended Protocol II on Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices (amended on 3 May 1996),
- Protocol III on Incendiary Weapons,
- Protocol IV on Blinding Laser Weapons, and
- Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War.
A meeting of the States Parties to the CCW chapeau Convention, Amended Protocol II and Protocol V takes place in Geneva every year. Germany is a State Party to the CCW chapeau Convention and Protocols I to V. The CCW also addresses other issues which interested Member States can raise. From 2014, informal expert-level meetings on the new issue of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) were held.
Since 2018, the issue of LAWS has been the focus of a formal Group of Governmental Experts – GGE open to all states. The goal is to recognise and limit the potential risks of increasing unmanned delivery in new weapons and to reach a consensus on regulatory steps.
Amended Protocol II
Amended Protocol II on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices has retained its significance even after the entry into force of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. Some 102 countries are currently States Parties to this Protocol. The annual discussions between government representatives and military experts focus on the problems associated with terrorist attacks involving the use of improvised explosive devices (IED), which are a danger to soldiers and civilians alike, and on exchanging information with a view to improving countermeasures.
Anti-vehicle mines (Mines Other Than Anti-Personnel Mines, MOTAPM)
In 2014, at the German Government’s initiative, this topic was once again put on the agenda for the upcoming annual meeting on the Amended Protocol II. The idea of discussing this issue is to minimise as far as possible the danger to the civilian population from non-detectable and remotely deliverable anti-vehicle mines, as well as those with long active lives. The German armed forces have, since 2010, met a key requirement in this respect: since that date, the only anti-vehicle mines supplied to the German military for use have been detectable ones with a limited active life.
Protocol V to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons recognises that explosive remnants of war (unexploded and abandoned ordnance) present a serious danger to the civilian population and frequently impede reconstruction following armed conflict. In addition to general rules on reducing the dangers emanating from explosive remnants of war, Protocol V includes an obligation to record relevant information and mark and remove conventional unexploded and abandoned ordnance. It also contains provisions on voluntarily improving the reliability of munitions. Protocol V is thus an important addition to the CCW chapeau Convention. At present, 91 countries are States Parties to the Protocol.