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Country Reports
Panama, Landmine Monitor Report 2003


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. For national implementation measures, Panamá cites provisions of the existing penal code and existing law regarding possession and trade in arms.[1]

In addition to those measures, in January 2003 Landmine Monitor was informed that the Permanent Commission for the Application of International Humanitarian Law (CPDIH) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working on a proposal to be added to the Penal Code, entitled “Crimes Against Humanity,” which includes crimes against international humanitarian law, humanity, and genocide. Chapter II of the proposed legislation’s first draft, states, “Anyone who develops, produces, stockpiles, conserves and transfers bacteriological and toxic weapons, chemical weapons or antipersonnel mines prohibited by International Conventions or treaties of which Panamá is part, will receive prison sentences of 10 to 15 years.”[2]

Panamá attended the Fourth Meeting of States Parties in September 2002 and intersessional Standing Committee meetings in February 2003.

Panamá submitted its initial Article 7 transparency report on 16 April 2002.[3] On 7 May 2003, it provided an update in the form of a letter from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in which he indicates that Panama is not submitting a formal report, as it has no new information to provide, because Panama has never produced antipersonnel mines, has domestic legislation in place, has no stockpiled antipersonnel mines, and is not mine-affected.[4]

Panamá voted in support of UN General Assembly Resolution 57/74 in November 2002, promoting universalization and implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty.

Panama is a State Party to Amended Protocol II (Landmines) to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), and attended the Fourth Annual Conference of States Parties to Amended Protocol II in December 2002. It did not submit an Article 13 report.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling, Use

In Panamá’s initial Article 7 Report, it confirmed that it has never produced or exported antipersonnel mines and it holds no stockpiled antipersonnel mines, including any for training purposes.[5]

Panamá is affected by illegal trafficking of weapons destined for non-state actors in the conflict in Colombia. According to a media account, in May 2003, a Panamanian court sentenced four Panamanians and three Colombians to 20 and 60 months imprisonment for attempting to import into Colombia weapons acquired in Nicaragua, which included thirteen Russian antipersonnel mines.[6]

While Colombian combatants crossed into Panamá and engaged in fighting on several occasions during the reporting period, Landmine Monitor did not find any evidence of antipersonnel mine use by Colombian non-state actors in Panamanian territory.

UXO Problem and Risk Education

Panamá is not reported to be mine-affected, but it has a problem with unexploded ordnance (UXO) as a result of US military exercises and weapons testing in military ranges in the Canal Zone during the three decades previous to 1997.[7] According to the UN, approximately 3,250 hectares of land in the Piña, Balboa West and Emperador areas is contaminated, putting more than 100,000 individuals in 81 communities at risk.[8] According to one source, youth who gather scrap metal to sell to recycling companies are particularly at risk.[9] In its initial Article 7 report, Panamá reported that it has demarcated areas formerly used for military purposes and entry or use any of these areas is prohibited.[10]

According to the UN, a new survey is needed to assess progress, determine the number of individuals in need of risk education, and help measure future impact, as the most recent survey information dates from 1998.[11] Areas requiring survey include Isla Iguana in Los Santos province, Rio Hato in Cocle province, San José in the Pearl Islands archipelago, and Darién province.[12]

A UXO risk education program for people living near UXO-affected areas was extended to 2004.[13] According to a November 2002 report, 1,693 children, youth and adolescents had participated in a UXO risk education program within their community.[14]

UXO Casualties

There were no reports of UXO casualties in 2002 or the first six months of 2003. It is reported that in the past at least five people were killed and up to 27 injured in UXO incidents.[15]

There are no disability policies that specifically address UXO survivors in Panamá.[16]

[1] Article 7 Report, Form A, 16 April 2002. These measures were reported in detail in Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 396-397.
[2] Interview with Angela Healy, President, Permanent Commission for the Application of International Humanitarian Law, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Panamá, 31 January 2003.
[3] The time period for the report was not specified. The report was due by 27 September 1999.
[4] Letter to Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, from Harmodio Arias Cerjack, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ref. A.J/DH/No. 969, 7 May 2003.
[5] Article 7 Report, Forms B, D and H, 16 April 2002.
[6] “Desmantelan en Panamá red de traficantes de armas para Colombianos,” Notimex (Panamá), 16 May 2003.
[7] For further information, see Landmine Monitor Report 2001, p. 372.
[8] United Nations, “Portfolio of Mine-related Projects 2003,” October 2002, p. 213. See also Ricardo Leal, “Los Polígonos de Tiro y Áreas de Bombardeo de las Fuerzas Armadas Norteamericanas en la República de Panamá,” Instituto del Canal y Estudios Internacionales, 16 July 2002.
[9] Interview with Lourdes Lozano, Institute of National Studies, University of Panamá, 28 March 2003.
[10] Article 7 Report, Form I, 16 April 2002.
[11] UN, “Portfolio of Mine-related Projects 2003,” October 2002, p. 215; UNICEF e-Bulletin, “Things that go bang!” Issue 9, 25 November 2002.
[12] UN, “Portfolio of Mine-related Projects 2003,” October 2002, p. 215.
[13] This program is conducted by the Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs, National Police, National Environmental Authority, the Regional Inter-Oceanic Authority, UNICEF, the Centro Juvenil Vicentino, and joined in 2003-2004 by the Ministry of Education. See UN, “Portfolio of Mine-related Projects 2003,” October 2002, p. 214.
[14] UNICEF, “Things that go bang!” 25 November 2002.
[15] UN, “Portfolio of Mine-related Projects 2003,” October 2002, p. 213. The time period of the casualties was not specified.
[16] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 397.