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Country Reports
Costa Rica, Landmine Monitor Report 2004

Costa Rica

Key developments since 1999: Costa Rica ratified the Mine Ban Treaty on 17 March 1999 and it entered into force on 1 September 1999. Costa Rica was declared mine-free on 10 December 2002, nearly seven years prior to its treaty deadline. Costa Rican deminers destroyed a total of 341 landmines and UXO and cleared 131,903 square meters of land between 1996 and December 2002, according to the IADB. National implementation legislation, “Prohibition of Antipersonnel Mines,” took effect on 17 April 2002. Costa Rica submitted its initial Article 7 report in September 2001, more than one and a half years late, and has not submitted annual updates in 2003 or 2004. The initial report confirmed that Costa Rica has no stockpile of antipersonnel mines.

Mine Ban Treaty

Costa Rica signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997. It ratified on 17 March 1999 and the treaty entered into force on 1 September 1999. On 17 April 2002, national implementation legislation, the “Prohibition of Antipersonnel Mines,” took effect.[1]

Costa Rica’s support for the antipersonnel mine ban dates back to 1996 when the Foreign Ministers of Central America gathered in San Jose and called for a mine-free region. Costa Rica was an active participant in the Ottawa Process. Costa Rica has voted in favor of every pro-ban UN General Assembly resolution since 1996, (except 1997 when it was absent) and has supported annual Organization of American States (OAS) resolutions calling for a mine-free hemisphere. During the 2002 UN General Assembly session, the representative from Costa Rica issued a statement on behalf of the Rio Group in which he reiterated the group’s commitment to make their region free of mines.[2]

Costa Rica submitted its initial Article 7 report, which was due on 27 February 2000, on 3 September 2001, more than one and a half years late. It submitted an update on, 20 February 2002, but has not submitted the required annual updates in 2003 or 2004.[3] According to the initial report, Costa Rica never produced, imported, stockpiled, or used antipersonnel mines. This was Costa Rica’s first official confirmation that it did not possess a stockpile of mines.[4]

Costa Rica has participated in three of the five annual Meetings of States Parties (in 2000, 2001, and 2002), and some of the intersessional Standing Committee meetings, including in February 2004. It has also participated on occasion in regional landmine meetings.

Costa Rica has not engaged in the extensive discussions that States Parties have had on matters of interpretation and implementation related to Articles 1, 2, and 3. Thus, it has not made known its views on the issues of joint military operations with non-States Parties, foreign stockpiling and transit of antipersonnel mines, antivehicle mines with sensitive fuzes or antihandling devices, and the permissible number of mines retained for training.

Costa Rica is a State Party to Amended Protocol II (Landmines) to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), but it did not attend the Fifth Annual Conference of States Parties held in November 2003 and has not submitted its Article 13 report.

Landmine Problem and Mine Action

In a ceremony held on 10 December 2002, Costa Rica officially completed its national demining plan, almost seven years ahead of the 2009 deadline imposed by the Mine Ban Treaty. The Organization of American States declared the country “mine free.”[5] Costa Rica also announced the completion of the mine clearance program at intersessional Standing Committee meetings held in February 2003.[6]

According to the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) of the OAS, Costa Rican deminers destroyed a total of 341 landmines and UXO and cleared 131,903 square meters of land between 1996, when mine clearance began, and December 2002.[7] In February 2003, Costa Rica reported a total of 338 mines and UXO cleared from 178,000 square meters of land.[8] A media source reported that the items cleared included, “316 antipersonnel mines, 10 mortars, three booby-traps, five RPG7 rockets, 11 hand grenades and one 1,000-pound bomb.”[9]

Costa Rica’s northern border with Nicaragua was contaminated by mines laid by parties to the 1980s conflict in Nicaragua.[10] At the December 2002 ceremony, a Costa Rican official stated that some 5,000 artifacts were laid in Costa Rica during the war, but the majority were removed by amateur deminers before the start of the OAS program.[11]

The OAS AICMA (Acción Integral contra las Minas Antipersonal (Program for Integral Action against Antipersonnel Mines) demining program was led by the Inter-American Defense Board and the clearance was carried out by Costa Rican deminers.[12] Actual demining did not commence until September 1999.[13] According to the OAS, a total of 41 deminers were trained and four mine detecting dogs were provided to the program.[14] United States funding for the country’s demining program ended in December 2001 and completion was possible only with the provision of a $25,000 donation from Italy.[15]

The OAS program has suffered a serious financial crisis since December 2001, which has led to a temporary suspension of mine clearance operations in Costa Rica.

The Ministry of Public Security and the OAS, in coordination with the Ministry of Education, carried out mine risk education campaigns in the mine-affected regions.

Landmine Casualties and Survivor Assistance

Landmine Monitor has not recorded any new landmine casualties in Costa Rica since it started monitoring the country in 1999. Prior to 1999, only three mine casualties were reported.[16] In 2002, the OAS provided assistance to two mine survivors in Costa Rica through its mine victim rehabilitation program, providing prostheses, psychosocial support and housing.[17]

According to an official in the Ministry of Public Security, a helicopter and two small airplanes owned by the Costa Rican Police were available to provide emergency transportation for those injured by mines.[18] The International Committee of the Red Cross provided the Costa Rican Red Cross with one ambulance in support of demining teams.[19]

[1] The law comprehensively prohibits antipersonnel mines and provides for penal sanctions of 3-6 years imprisonment for violations, with the possibility of an increase of 25 percent in prison time if the antipersonnel mine is used to threaten national security, public infrastructure, or transport vehicles. See Artículo 6, “Delitos,” Ley 8231, “Prohibición de Minas Antipersonales,” 17 April 2002, and Diario Oficial la Gaceta, Costa Rica, 17 April 2002.
[2] Statement by Costa Rica on behalf of the Rio Group, 57th Session of the UN General Assembly, New York, 1 October 2002.
[3] See Article 7 reports submitted: 20 February 2002 (for the period: 1996-1999) and 3 September 2001 (for an unspecified period).
[4] Article 7 Report, points 2, 4, 5 and 8, 3 September 2001.
[5] “Declararán a Costa Rica país libre de minas antipersonales,” EFE (San José), 10 December 2002.
[6] Statement by Costa Rica, Standing Committee on the General Status and Operation of the Convention, Geneva, 3 February 2003.
[7] Inter-American Defense Board, “Demining Results,” 30 November 2003 available at www.jid.org/en/programs/demining/results.html, accessed on 11 October 2004.
[8] Statement by Costa Rica, Standing Committee on General Status, 3 February 2003. The OAS explains that the government’s figure for area cleared is higher because it includes some survey operations in the final months of the program that were not supervised in order to conserve resources. In these final months supervisors were summoned only if mines of UXO were found. Email to Landmine Monitor (HRW) from Carl Case, Mine Action Program, OAS, 23 July 2003.
[9] Tim Rogers, “Costa Rica Declared Free of Landmines First Country in the World to Comply with Mine-Ban Treaty,” The Tico Times, 19 February 2004.
[10] Ibid.
[11] “La OEA declara a Costa Rica país libre de minas antipersonales,” AFP (San José), 10 December 2002.
[12] IADB, “Demining Results,” 30 November 2003; OAS, “Mine Action: Removing Landmines,” 12 June 2003.
[13] “Costa Rica Declared Free,” Tico Times, 19 February 2004.
[14] “OAS Mine Action Program: Making the Western Hemisphere landmine-safe,” Resource Mobilization: Projection of Financial Resources/Requirements 2003-2007, p. 6; UNMAS E-Mine Website, www.mineaction.org , accessed 12 June 2003.
[15] Email from Carl Case, OAS, 23 July 2003; “Costa Rica Declared Free,” Tico Times, 19 February 2004.
[16] US Department of State, “To Walk the Earth in Safety,” Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Washington DC, 3rd edition, November 2001, p. 34.
[17] ICBL, “Portfolio of Landmine Victim Assistance Programs,” September 2002, p. 46.
[18] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 206-207.
[19] “Nicaragua and Costa Rica: ICRC Community-Based Mine/Unexploded Ordnance Awareness Programme,” 24 January 2003, available at www.icrc.org, accessed 5 July 2003.