Exploration 2D: Focus on Anti-Personnel Landmines


Exploration 2A introduced students to the rules of war, and Exploration 2B provided examples of precursors to those rules of international humanitarian law (IHL).

Exploration 2D, like Exploration 2C, focuses on one particular area to which those rules apply. In Exploration 2D, students explore why there are limits on certain types of weapons that can be used in warfare. They examine some IHL rules that apply to all weapons and others that have been designed for specific weapons. In Exploration 2E, students will learn about how the widespread availability of weapons facilitates their use in violation of IHL.

This course is two 45-minute sessions (longer if all work is done during class sessions)


  • To explore what indiscriminate weapons and weapons causing unnecessary suffering are and to study some examples
  • To understand why there are restrictions on the use of certain weapons in war
  • To look at some specific IHL rules on weapons
  • To see how public opinion may contribute to developing IHL

Key Ideas

  • IHL restricts the use of some weapons in war because they are indiscriminate or because they cause unnecessary suffering.
  • Anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war are important humanitarian concerns because they keep killing long after wars have ended.
  • Mobilization of popular opinion may contribute to the development of international law.


Choose which set of rules (from “IHL rules on two weapons”) to use in step 6.

Plan how to work through the exploration in light of available class time. Assign all preparatory reading and writing for homework (the reading and writing in step 3 and the reading in step 7).

In the Methodology Guide, review teaching methods 6 (Using stories, photos and videos) and 9 (Small groups) as well as the material on teaching about consequences and ripple effects in teaching method 4 (Using dilemmas).



Ideas a Photo Raises

(5 minutes)

Have students examine the photo “After the bomb was dropped” and talk about their reactions.

Possible question:

  • What kinds of weapons could have caused such destruction?

  • 2

    Indiscriminate Weapons and Weapons that Cause Unnecessary Suffering

    (15 minutes)

    Remind students that IHL prohibits ‘indiscriminate’ weapons and weapons that cause ‘unnecessary suffering’ (See “What are the basic rules of international humanitarian law?”: Distinction 4, Weapons and Tactics 1).

    Get a sense of students’ awareness of these terms.

    Possible questions:

  • What could make a weapon cause ‘unnecessary suffering’?
  • What does ‘indiscriminate’ mean?
  • What is the difference between missing a target and using a weapon that is unable to distinguish between civilians and military targets?
  • Does it matter if a weapon cannot be directed at a specific target?
  • Have students brainstorm a list of specific weapons that might be considered as examples of indiscriminate weapons and of weapons that cause unnecessary suffering.

    Then ask some students to read aloud the accounts in “Voices about weapons.”

    Have the class add the weapons described in these narratives to their list.

    [Possible examples of indiscriminate weapons: nuclear weapons, biological weapons, anti-personnel mines]

    [Possible examples of weapons that cause unnecessary suffering: chemical weapons, biological weapons, blinding laser weapons, exploding bullets]

    Discuss the list. Point out that it is not always easy to differentiate between these two categories of weapons.


    Examples of Weapons that Keep on Killing After the War has Ended

    (25 minutes)

    Probe students’ thoughts about the dangers people may face from weapons after combat has ended.

    Present the video Landmines keep killing. After the viewing, allow time for students to express their reactions. Make the transcript available for reference, if needed. Then explore what they have learned.

    Possible questions:

  • How do landmines work?
  • How were these people injured by landmines?
  • How have their lives been affected?
  • In the EHL programme, the terms ‘anti-personnel mine,’ ‘landmine’ and ‘mine’ are used interchangeably.

    For homework, have students read “Explosive remnants of war” and respond to the question at the end.


    A look at the consequences

    (15 minutes)

    Ask students to focus on the consequences of the use of landmines and of explosive remnants of war.

    Using “A look at the consequences,” have them analyse how these problems affect an individual’s life from the physical, psychological, educational, social and economic points of view.

    Divide the class into four groups. Broaden the subject under discussion to examine the chain of consequences beyond the individual.

    Possible question:

  • What effects might these weapons have on families, communities, societies and the wider world?
  • Encourage students to draw upon their work in step 3.

    Reconvene the class for discussion, and ask the groups to share their thoughts. You might use a chart like the one below to record their ideas.


    The Scope of the Problem

    (10 minutes)

    Present the map “Landmines and explosive remnants of war around the world,” and have the class discuss the questions at the end.

    Then ask students to think about this worldwide problem.

    Possible question:

  • What do you think needs to be done about this?
  • [For example: locating and clearing contaminated areas, educating people about the danger, rehabilitating victims, preventing their use in the future]


    An example of specific rules

    (10 minutes)

    Have students compare their ideas with the rules that have been developed.

    Present “IHL rules on two weapons,” and generate a discussion related to the set of rules you have chosen.

    Possible question:

  • What is required by this set of rules?
  • Have students recall the other examples they gave of indiscriminate weapons and weapons that cause unnecessary suffering. Mention that specific IHL rules also exist for some of these weapons.


    What does it take to make international law?

    (10 minutes, additional time, if the reading is done in class)

    Ask students to brainstorm ideas about how people who are not government officials can strengthen IHL.

    [For example: the roles played by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and humanitarian organizations, victims, medical workers, public figures, citizens, weapons manufacturers, the news media]

    Have students read “How we got a treaty” as homework. In class, discuss how the making of the treaty prohibiting anti-personnel mines was influenced by a public campaign, using the questions at the end.