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Country Reports
PANAMA, Landmine Monitor Report 2000
LM Report 2000 Full Report   Executive Summary   Key Findings   Key Developments   Translated Country Reports


Key developments since March 1999: Panama has not submitted its Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 report, which was due 27 September 1999. Panama has clarified to Landmine Monitor that it does not have a stockpile of antipersonnel mines.

Mine Ban Policy

Panama signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 4 December 1997, and deposited its instrument of ratification with the UN on 7 October 1998. The ratification legislation literally adopts the treaty but cannot be considered to be full implementation legislation with penalties for violations.

Panama has not yet submitted its Article 7 transparency report, due by 27 September 1999, but officials say they are preparing the report.[1]

Panama voted in favor of the pro-Mine Ban Treaty UN General Assembly Resolution 54/54 B in December 1999, as it did on previous resolutions in 1997 and 1998. It has also supported the pro-ban resolutions of the Organization of American States (OAS). It was one of nine nations to sign the “Declaration of San José” in Costa Rica on 5 April 2000, which has an article promoting the Mine Ban Treaty.

Panama sent a representative to the First Meeting of States Parties in Maputo in May 1999 but did not make a statement to the plenary.[2] It is not believed to have participated in any of the intersessional meetings of the treaty in Geneva.

Panama is a state party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons and ratified Amended Protocol II (Landmines) on 3 November 1999. Panama did not participate in the December 1999 First Annual Conference of States Parties to Amended Protocol II and has not submitted its Article 13 annual transparency report.

Panama is not a member of the Conference on Disarmament.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling, Use

According to government officials, Panama has never produced, imported, or exported AP mines, and does not have a stockpile of AP mines.[3] A government official stated that there have been no reports of use of Panama as a transit point for AP mine shipments going elsewhere.[4]

Claymore mines were used in Panama for training of both Panamanian and U.S. military personnel in the Canal Zone.[5] There has been no new mine use since the closing of the ranges.

A member of the National Police told Landmine Monitor of possible AP mine use in the weapons trafficking and drug labs along the Panama-Colombia border, but it was not possible to confirm this allegation.[6]

UXO Problem

While Panama is not mine-affected, it does suffer from UXO contamination as a result of U.S. training exercises and weapons testing in military ranges in the Canal Zone for 30 years, until 1997 when the ranges were closed down. One 1997 assessment by the U.S. Department of Defense on the military ranges revealed the presence of various types of munitions, including Claymore mines but no other types of AP mines. [7] A former U.S. Army official has said that while the Army tested mines at three ranges, the testing included only component and systems tests, with no high explosive in the mines.[8]

The area of UXO-affected land in the Canal Zone is approximately 151.29 square kilometers and consists of ranges where weapons were tested and training took place.[9] These include the Empire demolition range where explosives were used, including Claymore mines;[10] the Balboa West range, and the Piña and Sherman range.[11]

According to UNICEF, there are approximately 100,000 people in 15 districts located around the ranges and therefore at risk from the presence of UXO.[12] These include the communities of Nuevo Emperador, Burunga, Arraiján, Huile, Piña, Escobal, Providencia, and Bruja. The affected land has different uses including agricultural, ecological tourism, health and medicine purposes, as well as social purposes, such as housing, and income generation. Once the land is cleared, it will be used according to the plan made by the local governmental body, the Autoridad de la Región Interoceánica (ARI).[13]

In compliance with the Panama Canal Treaty of 1977, the U.S. Armed Forces have affirmed they “will take all practicable measures to remove all hazards to human life, health and safety.” The U.S. claims that when it has completed the clean-up of the ranges, “some 12,119 of the 15,129 hectares will be available for Panama’s reuse.”[14] In August 1999, U.S. Air Force Colonel David Hunt said that the military had removed 250 metric tons of debris in the last two years. He went on to note that it is “impossible” to remove all the UXO without tearing down the rain forests and threatening the canal’s watershed.[15] On 31 December 1999, as stipulated by the 1977 treaty, the U.S. pulled out of Panama.

Mine Awareness

Since 1997, UNICEF has funded some UXO/mine awareness and education, in coordination with the Ministry of Health.[16] UNICEF has a $44,000 proposal to conduct mine awareness and education in affected areas in 2000, in partnership with the Ministries of Health, Education, Foreign Affairs and NGOs.[17] A number of NGOs carry out research and advocacy on the UXO-contaminated ranges in the Canal Zone.[18] At one point, the ICRC was involved in UXO awareness and education and held a few workshops.[19]

Mine and UXO Casualties

The Panamanian government states that at least 21 people have been killed by UXO since 1940, while the Pentagon says 7 deaths have occurred since 1984.[20]

Those injured can obtain rehabilitation services at various public and private hospitals. Most of these are in Panama City, but there are 1,175 health clinics around the country, one university hospital, nine public integrated hospitals, and also private clinics.[21]


[1] Telephone interview with Janio Tuñon, Director-General, Department of International Organizations and Conferences, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 12 May 2000.
[2] Panama was represented by S.E. Sr. Flavio Mendez Altamirano, Director-General of International Organizations and Conferences, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
[3] Inquires were made with the following government agencies in May 2000: Interior Commerce Department of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Explosives Technical Unit of the National Police and the Institutional Department for Public Security Affairs, Ministry of Government and Justice. Also, interview with Jaime Luque, Director, Inter-Institutional Department on Public Safety Affairs, Ministry of Government and Justice, Panama City, 2 May 2000. Landmine Monitor Report 1999 p. 275 stated that there was uncertainty about whether or not Panama had a stockpile of AP mines.
[4] Interview with Jaime Luque, Ministry of Government and Justice, 2 May 2000.
[5] PRC Environmental Management, Inc. for Panama Canal Treaty Implementation Plan Agency, Department of Defense, Unexploded Ordnance Assessment of U.S. Military Ranges in Panama: Empire, Balboa West, and Piña Ranges, Final report, January 1997, Appendix A, p. A-15. Hereafter cited as “PRC, UXO Assessment, January 1997.”
[6] Interview with member of National Police, Panama City, October 1999.
[7] PRC, UXO Assessment, January 1997, Appendix A, p. A-15.
[8] Telephone interview with former munitions test official, March 2000.
[9] PRC, UXO Assessment, January 1997, p. ES-1.
[10] UXO in the Empire range was described by one official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as fitting the description of the M2M AP mine. See Letter from Juan Antonio Stagg, Copresidente, Comite Conjunto-DEPAT, to Colonel Hunt, Copresidente, Comite Conjunto-DEPAT, 29 May 1998. Landmine Monitor editor’s translation from Spanish.
[11] Sherman was not used as a Firing Range, but it was used as a training camp. Useful reports on the ranges include: PRC, UXO Assessment, January 1997; U.S. Army South, Installation Condition Report, Empire Range – Military Area of Coordination, 11 July 1996; and, Range Transfer Report: Empire, Balboa West, and Piña Ranges: Actions to Protect Public Safety & the Environment, A joint effort of U.S. Army South, U.S. Air Combat Command, U.S. Technical Center for Explosive Safety, U.S. Air Force Safety Center, U.S. Southern Command Treaty Implementation, U.S. Army Environmental Center, U.S. Department of Defense Explosives Safety Board, 29 October 1998.
[12] UNICEF, “UXO Awareness Education in Panama,” proposal for June-December 2000, in UN, Portfolio of Mine-related Projects, June 2000, p. 128.
[13] Autoridad de la Región Interoceánica ARI, Plan de Uso General del Suelo, 1996.
[14] Letter from Colonel David J. Hunt, U.S. Air Force, Co-Chairman, Joint Committee, Center for Treaty Implementation, Department of Defense, U.S. Southern Command, Corozal, Panama, to Engineer Juan Antonio Stagg, JC# 152-98, 3 April 1998.
[15] Andrea Stone, “Deadly Reminders of U.S. in Panama,” USA Today, 9 August 1999, p. 7.
[16] UNICEF, “UXO Awareness Education in Panama,” proposal for June-December 2000, in United Nations, Portfolio of Mine-related Projects, June 2000, p. 128.
[17] Ibid.
[18] These include Servicio Paz y Justicia en Panamá, Coordinadora de Derechos Humanos de Panamá, Movimiento Nacional por la Defensa de la Soberanía, all human rights NGOs, and CODIN, a women’s NGO.
[19] Interview with Marta González, Director, National Permanent Commission for
Implementation of International Humanitarian Law, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Panama City, 12 May 2000.
[20] Andrea Stone, “Deadly Reminders of U.S. in Panama,” USA Today, 9 August 1999, p. 7.
[21] Ministry of Health, 1999 Annual Report, 1999.