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Country Reports
PANAMA, Landmine Monitor Report 2001
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Mine Ban Policy

Panamá signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 4 December 1997, ratified on 7 October 1998 and the treaty entered into force on 1 April 1999. Implementation legislation is reportedly under consideration, but no legislation has been introduced into the parliament yet.[1] Panamá has not submitted its initial Article 7 transparency report, which was due on 27 September 1999, or the required annual updated reports due 30 April 2000 and 30 April 2001. According to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, the report will be submitted once negotiations with the US regarding clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in former military installations in the Canal Zone are completed.[2]

Panamá did not participate in the Second Meeting of States Parties in September 2000. It attended the intersessional Standing Committee meetings for the first time in December 2000, but did not participate in May 2001. Panamá voted in favor of UN General Assembly Resolution 55/33V in November 2000, supporting the Mine Ban Treaty.

Panamá is a State Party to Amended Protocol II (Landmines) to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and attended the Second Annual Conference of States Parties to Amended Protocol II in December 2000. It has not submitted its Amended Protocol II Article 13 annual reports.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling, Use

According to government officials, Panamá has never produced, imported, or exported antipersonnel mines, and does not have a stockpile of antipersonnel mines.[3] In January 2001 an official with the Technical Explosive Unit of the National Police told Landmine Monitor that there were no reports of Panama being used as a transit point for trafficking in landmines.[4] Some media reports, however, indicated that Russian antipersonnel mines were among weapons seized that were allegedly destined for Colombian rebels.[5]

UXO Problem

Panamá is not reported to be mine-affected, but it suffers from UXO contamination as a result of US military exercises and weapons testing in military ranges in the Canal Zone during the three decades prior to1997. An assessment by the US Department of Defense in 1997 revealed the presence of various types of munitions, including Claymore mines, but not other antipersonnel mines.[6] The area of UXO-affected land in the Canal Zone is approximately 151 square kilometers in the Empire demolition range, the Balboa West range, and the Piña and Sherman range.[7] The Ministry of Health reports that not all affected areas are completely fenced off, and locals frequently enter the ranges to hunt.[8]

UXO Awareness

UNICEF, the Ministries of Health, Education, and Foreign Affairs, and nongovernmental organizations have initiated a UXO awareness education project focused on the population living in the affected areas.[9] The $30,000 budget for the project has been secured and is being spent on capacity building, training, educational materials and monitoring and evaluation for the period from June 2000 to December 2001.[10] Story and coloring books dealing with the UXO problem have been distributed in schools in West Panamá and Colón, in cooperation with local authorities and school staff.[11] Approximately $81,000 has been budgeted for these programs in this period according to the Ministry of Health.[12] The Ministry has also conducted UXO awareness workshops with the participation of members of the Technical Explosive Unit of the National Police and the Red Cross.[13]

UXO Casualties

There were no reports of mine or UXO victims in the reporting period. The government of Panamá has stated that at least twenty-one people have been killed by UXO since 1940, while the US gives a figure of seven fatalities since 1984.[14] The Ministry of Health says it is not aware of these victims.[15] The Health Ministry intended to include essential equipment for UXO victims in public clinics near training grounds, but funding was not available.[16]

There are no disability policies that specifically deal with UXO casualties in Panamá.

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[1] Interview with Angela Healy, President, Permanent Commission for Implementation of Humanitarian Law (CPIDH), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Panama City, 12 January 2001.
[2] Ibid.
[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.
[4] Interview with members of the Technical Explosive Unit, National Police, Panama City, 4 January 2001.
[5] Jean Michel Chérry, “Armamento incautado sería para insurgentes Colombianos,” El Panamá América, 9 January 2001; CNN Digital in El Panamá América, “El comercio de las armas en Panamá,” 23 October 2001. These reports apparently refer to the same incident in September 2000.
[6] PRC Environmental Management, Inc. for Panama Canal Treaty Implementation Plan Agency, Department of Defense, Unexploded Ordnance Assessment of US Military Ranges in Panama: Empire, Balboa West, and Piña Ranges, Final report, January 1997, Appendix A, p. A-15.
[7] For more details see Landmine Monitor Report 2000, pp. 291-292.
[8] Interview with Efraín Lozano, Department of Health Promotion of the Ministry of Health, 11 December 2000.
[9] United Nations, “Portfolio of Mine-related Projects,” April 2001, p. 197.
[10] Ibid, p. 199.
[11] Alberto Sánchez Belisle, “Advierten sobre peligrosas granadas en polígonos,” El Panamá América, 12 November 2000.
[12] Interview with Efraín Lozano, Department of Health Promotion, Ministry of Health, 11 December 2000.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Andrea Stone, “Deadly Reminders of US in Panama,” USA Today, 9 August 1999, p. 7.
[15] Interview with Efraín Lozano, Department of Health Promotion, Ministry of Health, 11 December 2000.
[16] Ibid.