A landmine is a device which is placed on the ground and explodes when touched by a vehicle or person. Landmines are used to secure disputed borders and to restrict enemy movement in times of war. Because of this, and to avoid using the word landmine, they are sometimes called area denial munitions.
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Efforts to ban anti-personnel mines
Anti-personnel landmines are widely considered to be ethically problematic weapons because their victims are commonly civilians, who are often maimed long after war activities have ceased. Removal of land mines is dangerous, slow and costly. Some countries maintain that landmines are necessary to protect their soldiers in war.
The use, production, stockpiling and trade in anti-personnel landmines has been outlawed by an international treaty in 1999 which has been signed by 141 countries, of which 120 have ratified it. The biggest countries not to have signed the treaty are China, India, the USA and Russia. The U.S. government has said that it will join the Treaty in 2006, if alternatives to antipersonnel landmines are in place by then. The treaty was the result of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, launched in 1992, whose web site at http://www.icbl.org has the treaty text and the complete list of signatories. The campaign won the Nobel piece prize in 1997 for its efforts.
The legal export of landmines has ceased as of 1999. Landmines continued to be produced in the following countries: Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, United States, Vietnam, Yugoslavia (see ).
It was sometimes alleged that the Soviet Union used specifically designed toy mines to target children in the conflict with Afghanistan. This is incorrect; the mines used were small, green, made from plastic and had wings so that they could be deployed from planes. While children often mistook them for toys, they were not designed as such.