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Country Reports
COSTA RICA, Landmine Monitor Report 1999

COSTA RICA

Mine Ban Policy

Costa Rica signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997, and ratified on 17 March 1999, becoming the sixty-eighth nation to do so. As an active participant in the Ottawa Process, Costa Rica attended all preparatory meetings, endorsed the Brussels Declaration and was a full participant in the Oslo negotiations. It voted in favor of the key 1996 and 1998 UN General Assembly resolutions on landmines but was absent for the 1997 UNGA resolution vote.

As a member of the Organization of American States (OAS), the Costa Rican government supported resolution AG/RES. 1568 (XXVIII-0/98) adopted in June 1998, calling for renewed efforts in supporting mine-clearing operations in Central America and reiterating the commitment for Central America to become an antipersonnel mine free zone by the year 2000.[1]

In San Jose, Costa Rica on 28-29 November 1996, the foreign ministers of Central America, including Costa Rican Foreign Minister Fernando Naranjo Villalobos, and the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) “reaffirmed their decision to make the necessary efforts, with the assistance of national, regional and international institutions, to make Central America and the Caribbean, a zone free of antipersonnel mines by the year 2000. (They) also supported the Ottawa Process, including the immediate launch of negotiations and the signing in Canada in December 1997 of a legally binding international agreement to ban this type of weapon.”[2]

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling, Use

Costa Rica is not believed to have ever produced, imported, stockpiled or used antipersonnel landmines, though the government has not made a definitive statement. Costa Rica does not have a standing military, but the Ministry of Security performs the functions of ground security, law enforcement, counter-narcotics and national security.[3] According to the OAS, landmines are not used in Costa Rica.[4]

Landmine Problem

Although Costa Rica was largely unaffected by the Central American military conflicts of the 1980s, landmines were placed along the northern border by forces involved in the Nicaraguan conflict.[5] Colonel Jose Fabio Pizarro, head of the Costa Rican Ministry of Security’s mine clearing program stated, “There are an estimated 5,000 mines planted along our border with Nicaragua.”[6] Official estimates of the number of buried landmines in Costa Rica range from one to two thousand to a maximum of five thousand.[7]

All of the landmines are believed to be within one kilometer or less of the Nicaraguan border. The affected area stretches approximately from the Pan-American Highway in the west to the point where the Rio San Juan begins to flow along the border in the east. The total amount of land affected is limited to some 20 to 25 areas dispersed intermittently along the border. These areas range from about 100 by 200 square meters to 200 by 500 square meters.[8] Most of the mines found to date have been located just north of the village of Los Chiles.[9]

Current demining efforts are expected to clear all remaining mines by the end of the year 2000.

Mine Action Funding

The OAS and the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) are responsible for demining operations in Costa Rica. Assistance in the form of technical support for demining and funding have come from OAS member states including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Peru, the United States, Venezuela and Uruguay and OAS observer nations including Germany, Great Britain, Spain, France, Holland, Japan, Sweden and Switzerland.[10]

According to the IADB, the estimated cost of completing the demining operations in Costa Rica is U.S.$900,000 to $1.2 million over a 12 to 18 month period. Additional costs for providing a helicopter for medical evacuation of deminers are estimated at $700,000.[11]

Mine Clearance

In 1992, Costa Rica submitted a request to the OAS for assistance in demining its northern border areas. The OAS Unit for the Promotion of Democracy has primary responsibility for the program with the IADB providing technical support and planning assistance. Currently 35 Costa Rican Security Forces members are assigned to the demining unit along with three IADB supervisors. Four mine detection dogs are also available for demining operations.

Clearance operations have been suspended since March 1998, pending the acquisition of a medical evacuation helicopter.[12] According to Colonel Carl Case of the IABD, “funding is now in place to lease a UH-1H (helicopter) from a U.S. commercial contractor for a six-month period, followed by a buy-out using primarily Costa Rican Funds.”[13] Colonel Pizarro of the Costa Rican Ministry of Security stated, “We believe that once we resolve this problem, mine clearance could take us a year and a half.”[14]

According to the OAS, as of 21 August 1998, 57 mines have been destroyed, 703 metallic objects detected and 41,034 square meters of land cleared.[15] The U.S. Department of State estimates that a total of 300 to 1,200 mines have already been cleared.[16] The most common landmine found is the Czech PP-MI-SR bounding mine used primarily by the Sandinista forces in the 1980s.[17]

Mine Awareness

As part of a mine awareness program, DC Comics along with officers of a U.S. Southern Command Mine Awareness Team and UNICEF produced a special edition comic book in Spanish to teach children about the dangers of landmines.[18] Approximately 560,000 comic books were to be distributed mainly to Miskito Indians along the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua and Costa Rica.[19]

Landmine Casualties and Survivor Assistance

Data concerning landmine victims is mainly anecdotal. No casualties have been reported from the OAS demining activities. According to the demining protocols, paramedics are on continuous standby on-site during all operations, and surgical trauma care is provided at a Costa Rican government-supported hospital in the capital, San Jose.[20] The United States Department of State reported seven casualties in Costa Rica in the 1998 Hidden Killers report, though no specific details were available.[21] Colonel Case reported that several accidents had occurred when local inhabitants crossed the border to fish or gather food. He stated, “The presence of mines, if not always a deterrent, certainly discourages the free movement of people in these areas, in Costa Rica and the other countries (of Central America).”[22]

Exact figures concerning economic loss resulting from landmines are not available, although the fields where the mines are planted are fertile and are not cultivated because their owners are afraid to work them.[23] According to Colonel Case of the IADB, “Most of the areas where mines have been found so far are definitely useful for agriculture. In fact, some of the mines were discovered by farmers who were injured while preparing their land for cultivation. The terrain in these and most affected areas along the border is relatively flat and close to large areas already under cultivation."[24]

In May 1996, the Costa Rican Congress enacted the “Equal Opportunities Law for People with Disabilities.” This law is based on the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities of Disabled People, the Inter-American Convention of Human Rights, and the United Nations Children’s Convention. Its provisions prohibit discrimination, provide for health care services, and mandate access to buildings for persons with disabilities.[25] Unfortunately, the effective implementation and monitoring of the law has been difficult to achieve and many buildings remain inaccessible to persons with disabilities. Nonetheless, a number of public and private institutions have made individual efforts to improve access.

<CANADA | DOMINICA>

[1]Organization of America States, ”Support for the Mine-Clearing Program in Central America,” http://oas.org/en/prog/juridico/english/ga%2Dres98/eres1568.htm., 19 December 1998.

[2]Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Canada, “AP Mine Ban: Progress Report” http://www/dfait-maeci/gc.ca/english/foreignp/disarm/mines/report1f.htm, 22 February 1999.

[3]CIA Factbook, Costa Rica, http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/cs.htm, 3 December 1998.

[4]LM Researcher Email Correspondence with Col. Carl Case, OAS/IADB, 12 January 1999.

[5]International Demining Organization, 24 September 1998, Article No. 98-09-02, http://www.jid.org/MARMINCA%20CofC.html.

[6]Sequeira M, Disarmament Central America, “170,000 mines still to be cleared”, Inter Press Service, 4 February 1999.

[7]The 1-2,000 figure comes from Hidden Killers 1998: The Global Landmine Crisis, US Dept State, http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/rpt_9809_demine_nxa.htm while the higher figure came from "Costa Rica to defuse 5,000 land mines", Xinhua News Agency, 19 October 1996.

[8]LM Researcher Email Correspondence with Col. Carl Case, OAS/IADB, 12 January 1999.

[9]LM Researcher Email Correspondence with Col. Carl Case, OAS/IADB, January 12, 1999. United Nations Demining Database, Country Report: Costa Rica, http://www.un.org/Depts/Landmine/country/costaric.htm., 3 December 1998.

[10]Information Paper OAS/IADB Demining Program Update, Col C. Case/7568, 14 September 1998. Ministry Announces more Aid to OAS for Land Mine Removal,Tokyo Kyodo News Service in English 0705 GMT 11 December 1998. Sweden Provides $1.5 Million for CENAM Mine Clearing, Daily Washington File, http://www.usis.it/wireless/wf961115/96111519.htm. Green, E, Anti-Landmine Effort Showing Progress in Central America, Public Diplomacy Query (PDQ), http://pdq2.usia.gov/scripts/cqcge.exe, 3 December 1998.

[11]Personal Correspondence: Col. Carl Case OAS/IADB, email: 12 January 1999.

[12]Information Paper, OAS/IADB Demining Program Update, Col. C. Case/7568, 14 September 1998. International Demining Organization, September 24, 1998 Article No. 98-09-02, http://www.jid.org/MARMINCA%20CofC.html.

[13]LM Researcher Email Correspondence with Col. Carl Case, OAS/IADB, 16 February 1999.

[14]Sequeira M, Disarmament Central America: “170,000 mines still to be cleared”, Inter Press Service, 4 February 1999.

[15]Information Paper, OAS/IADB Demining Program Update, Col. C. Case/7568, 14 September 1998.

[16]Hidden Killers 1998: The Global Landmine Crisis, US Dept of State. http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/rpt_9809_demine_nxa.html, 10 December 1998.

[17]Hidden Killers 1994: The Global Landmine Crisis, US Dept State, http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/rpt_9401_demine_ch3.html.

[18]Aita J, Superman, Wonder Woman Teach Youngsters about Landmines, Public Diplomacy Query (PDQ), http://pdq2.usia.gov/scripts/cqcgi.exe, 3 December 1998.

[19]Beard, David, Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL) 11 June 1998, pg. 12A.

[20]LM Researcher Email Correspondence with Col. Carl Case, OAS/IADB, 12 January 1999.

[21]Hidden Killers 1998: The Global Landmine Crisis, US Dept of State. http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/rpt_9809_demine_nxa.html, 10 December 1998.

[22]LM Researcher Email Correspondence with Col. Carl Case, OAS/IADB, 16 February 1999.

[23]Xinhua News Agency, 19 October 1996.

[24]LM Researcher Email Correspondence with Col. Carl Case, OAS/IADB, 16 February 1999.

[25]Montero F, Legislation on Disability: The Costa Rican Experience, http://www.independentliving.org/LibArt/HumanRightsConf/hr12.html, 25 February 1999.