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Country Reports
Latvia, Landmine Monitor Report 2003


Key developments since May 2002: In April 2003, the Latvian Ambassador to the UN in Geneva said the country would probably join the Mine Ban Treaty in 2004. In May 2003, Latvia voluntarily submitted an Article 7 transparency report, in which it revealed a stockpile of 2,980 antipersonnel mines, kept only for training purposes. Latvia became a party to Amended Protocol II of the CCW on 22 August 2002. In 2002, 5,700 items of UXO were detected and destroyed.

Mine Ban Policy

The Republic of Latvia has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. In April 2002, the Ministry of Defense said that accession to the treaty would be reconsidered after the NATO summit in November 2002, during which Latvia was offered NATO membership. On 3 February 2003, Ambassador Janis Karklins, Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, informed ICBL representatives that Latvia would probably join the treaty in 2004.[1] On 1 April 2003, Lieutenant-Colonel Guntis Aizporietis told Landmine Monitor that the “investigation of the consequences for Latvia of joining the treaty had finished, and there are no obstacles to join. There is a clear vision how to substitute antipersonnel mines by other means allowed by treaty.”[2]

On 10 June 2003, the President's Adviser on Foreign Affairs confirmed that “Latvia is in the process of reviewing its force structure in order to contribute effectively to the [NATO] Alliance's capabilities and meet Latvia's own security needs. In this process Latvia will also consider its accession to the Ottawa Convention.”[3]

Latvia participated as an observer in the Fourth Meeting of States Parties in September 2002. On 23 September 2002, at an ICBL press conference held in Riga to release Landmine Monitor Report 2002, Latvian Secretary of State for Defense Sintija Vishnevska expressed the government’s view that it is already in compliance with the goals of the treaty: it does not produce antipersonnel mines, the transit and export of the weapon has been forbidden and the Armed Forces possess a small stockpile for training purposes only.[4] The Secretary also said that joining the treaty should be coordinated with countries in the same geopolitical situation, namely Estonia, Lithuania and Finland.[5]

On 22 November 2002, Latvia voted in favor of UN General Assembly Resolution 57/74, which calls for universalization and implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty. Latvia did not attend the February or May 2003 intersessional Standing Committee meetings.

Latvia voluntarily submitted an Article 7 transparency report on 1 May 2003, revealing a stockpile of 2,980 PMN antipersonnel mines, inherited from the Soviet Union. The stockpile is listed under mines retained for training and development purposes, as permitted by Article 3 of the treaty.[6]

Latvia became a party to Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) on 22 August 2002. Latvia attended the Fourth Annual Conference of States Parties to the Protocol in December 2002 and submitted a report as required by Article 13 of the Protocol II on 2 December 2002.

Landmine/UXO Problem, Clearance and Casualties

Latvia’s Amended Protocol II Article 13 Report states, “There have been no identified suspected minefields...and therefore no mine clearance programs have been required.”[7] But in its December 2002 response to an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) questionnaire, Latvia acknowledges that it “still has some areas that were contaminated with mines and other types of explosives during World War II and as a result of Soviet post-war operations. The Latvian Armed Forces detect and destroy about 3,000 pieces of such explosives each year.”[8]

In 2002, 5,700 items of UXO were destroyed. This increase is attributed to a restructuring of the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) system in Latvia. There are now six EOD platoons: two stationed in Riga, two in Latgale province, and one each in Vidzeme and Kurzeme provinces. All are financed from the state budget.[9]

In July 2002, five members of the Armed Forces EOD unit joined the Norwegian KFOR contingent in Kosovo. The EOD unit was previously trained in Norway.[10]

A newly-equipped EOD School is being established in Latvia, through a joint project with Norway that is due to end in 2005. Latvia is covering the construction costs and part of the equipment costs. The school will be able to train 24 students at a time. The teaching staff has been trained mainly in Norway and the US.[11]

The Ministry of Defense procurement program for 2002-2008 includes 1 million Lats ($1.6 million) for EOD equipment purchases. Latvia plans to significantly increase the number of EOD and medical specialists.[12]

On 22 December 2002, a 23-year-old Home Guard died while trying to dismantle old explosives in Saldus district.[13]

[1] Interview with Ambassador Janis Karklins, Permanent Mission of Latvia to the UN, Geneva, 3 February 2003.
[2] Interview with Lieutenant-Colonel Guntis Aizporietis, Chief of Engineering Branch J3, Armed Forces Headquarters, EOD School Adazi, Latvia, 1 April 2003.
[3] Letter to Handicap International Belgium from Andrejs Pildegovics, Foreign Affairs Adviser to the President of Latvia, 10 June 2003.
[4] Remarks by Sintija Vishnevska, Secretary of State, Ministry of Defense, at Landmine Monitor Report 2002 release event, Riga, 23 September 2002. Export was banned in 1995, but a new Law on the Circulation of Arms entered into force on 1 January 2003. Response by Latvia to Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) questionnaire, 20 December 2002, p. 3.
[5] Lithuania ratified the Mine Ban Treaty on 12 May 2003.
[6] Article 7 Report, Forms B and D, 1 May 2003 (for calendar year 2002).
[7] Amended Protocol II Article 13 Report, Form B, 2 December 2002.
[8] Response by Latvia to the OSCE Questionnaire, 20 December 2002, p. 3.
[9] Interview with Lieutenant-Colonel Guntis Aizporietis, Chief of Engineering Branch J3, Armed Forces of Latvia, Riga, 7 February 2002.
[10] Response by Latvia to the OSCE Questionnaire, 20 December 2002, p. 3.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Aija Lulle, ”Pēc Prāgas viss tikai sāksies” (It all will start after Prague), Neatkarīgā rīta avīz (daily newspaper), 19 November 2002; see also, Ministry of Defense website at www.mod.gov.lv (accessed 15 March 2003).
[13] “Komandieris: bojāgājušais zemessargs rīkojies bērnišķīgi” (Commander: home guard was acting childishly), Diena (daily newspaper), 24 December 2002.