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Country Reports
Latvia, Landmine Monitor Report 2004


Key developments since May 2003: In April 2004, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that procedures for accession to the Mine Ban Treaty had started. The Ministry and the President subsequently declared that Latvia would accede by November 2004. In May 2004, Latvia submitted a second voluntary Article 7 report, which noted a stockpile of 4,447 antipersonnel mines, considerably more than previously reported. The report also stated that Latvia intends to retain 2,912 mines for training. In 2003, more than 6,437 items of unexploded ordnance were found and destroyed. An Explosive Ordnance Disposal center was established in 2003.

Key developments since 1999: Latvia has declared that it intends to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty by November 2004. It has voluntarily submitted two Article 7 transparency reports. Latvia has voted for every annual pro-ban UN General Assembly resolution since 1996. Latvia reports that mines and unexploded ordnance from World Wars I and II and the Soviet occupation are still found “in considerable quantity.” More than 24,000 UXO, including mines, have been found and destroyed since 1999. Latvia became a party to CCW Amended Protocol II in August 2002.

Mine Ban Policy

The Republic of Latvia has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty, but has indicated that it is making preparations to do so by November 2004. Latvia attended all preparatory meetings of the Ottawa Process and the Oslo negotiating conference in September 1997, but did not sign in December 1997. Latvia on several occasions explained its delay in joining the treaty by citing the need for border defense and the absence of suitable alternative weapons.[1] However, Latvian representatives also said that Latvia possesses just a small number of antipersonnel mines, sufficient only for training purposes.

After Latvia was offered NATO membership in November 2002 and joined the European Union on 1 May 2004, NGOs urged the government to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty without further delay. On 29 April 2004, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that procedures for accession had started.[2] On 22 June 2004, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative informed the ICBL that Latvia expected to join the Mine Ban Treaty by November 2004.[3] In July 2004, responding to a letter from ICBL Ambassador and Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams, the Latvian President, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, declared that Latvia “fully adheres” to the treaty and that it expected to participate in the First Review Conference in Nairobi (29 November–3 December 2004) as a State Party.[4]

On 8–9 June 2004, representatives of the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs attended a regional seminar in neighboring Lithuania. New States Parties Estonia and Lithuania, signatory Poland, and other countries also attended. At the event, Latvia did not make known its plans for accession to the Mine Ban Treaty.

On 14 May 2004, Latvia submitted its second voluntary (pre-accession) Article 7 report. It had submitted its first report on 1 May 2003.[5]

Latvia did not attend the Fifth Meeting of States Parties in September 2003, nor has it attended previous annual meetings, with the exception of the Fourth Meeting of States Parties in September 2002. Latvia did not attend the intersessional Standing Committee meetings in February and June 2004, nor intersessional meetings in 2001–2003. Latvian representatives participated in the Standing Committee meetings in December 2000.

In December 2003, Latvia voted in favor of UN General Assembly Resolution 58/53, which calls for universalization and implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty. Latvia has voted for every pro-ban UN General Assembly resolution since 1996.

Latvia joined the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its Amended Protocol II on 22 August 2002. Latvia attended the Fifth Annual Conference of States Parties to the Protocol in November 2003. It also attended the annual conference in 2002, and as an observer attended annual conferences of States Parties in previous years. On 26 November 2003, Latvia submitted a report in accordance with Article 13 of the Protocol. In December 2002, it had submitted a voluntary Article 13 report.

Production, Transfer, Use and Stockpiling

In December 2003, Latvia repeated that it “does not contribute in any way to the use, production or proliferation of anti-personnel mines.”[6] Export and transit have been prohibited since 1995. A new Law on the Circulation of Arms was passed on 6 June 2002 and entered into force on 1 January 2003; it prohibits the export and transit of antipersonnel mines.[7]

No new use of mines in Latvia has been reported, but criminal use of explosives occurs.[8] In October 2003, two people were detained for illegal possession and sale of two antipersonnel mines and TNT.[9]

Latvia inherited a small stockpile of Soviet antipersonnel mines. Latvia’s May 2004 Article 7 report declared a stockpile of 4,447 antipersonnel mines, consisting of six types. Its May 2003 report had declared 2,980 antipersonnel mines consisting of one type.[10]

The May 2004 Article 7 Report states that Latvia will retain all 2,912 of its PMN-2 mines, under Article 3 of the treaty. During 2003, 36 mines were transferred for development or training purposes (15 Defense Charge 21 and 21 MON-50, both Claymore-type mines).[11] The specific purposes for which mines are retained and were used in 2003 are not reported.

In February 2002, the Ministry of Defense stated that it would take two to three months to destroy the stockpile.[12]

Landmine/UXO Problem and Clearance

Latvia states that there are no known or suspected minefields in Latvia, and no mine clearance programs. However, it reports that in some areas, mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) from World Wars I and II and the Soviet occupation are still found “in considerable quantity.”[13] Press reports indicate substantial contamination in old battle areas including Blidene, Kursisi, Pampali, Zirni, Tinuzi, Pope, Inesi, and in the Zvarde and Cekule ex-Soviet military areas. In Cekule, 240 hectares (2,400,000 square meters) are contaminated to a depth of four meters. The head of the national explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) center is reported as saying that contamination is high enough to warrant setting up a national mine action center.[14] Mines and UXO are also found in other areas, including Riga city, and the number of discoveries has increased recently with the increase in construction work.[15]

In 2003, EOD specialists found and destroyed 6,437 items of UXO. During the first months of 2004, there were more calls to neutralize explosives than in the same period of 2003.[16] More than 24,000 UXO, including mines, have been destroyed in EOD operations since 1999 (1999: 5,000; 2000: 5,215; 2001: 2,300; 2002, 5,700; 2003: 6,437).

The Armed Forces are responsible for EOD operations on land. An EOD center was established in 2003 as a bilateral project with Norway, and also receives substantial assistance from Austria, Denmark and Sweden. Personnel received initial training in Norway and the United States. In 2003, some staff attended training in Geneva for the planned introduction of the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA).[17] There are 65 EOD specialists, and it is planned to increase this number to 95 by 2005.[18] In 2002 and 2003, EOD was reorganized in Latvia. There are now three platoons, in Adazhi, Saldus and Rezekne.[19]

Mine/UXO Risk Education

Latvia’s two voluntary Article 7 reports do not record any mine/UXO risk education programs. The EOD Center, however, reports carrying out risk education. In 2003, 374 children visited the Center, and EOD personnel also visited schools in Latgale and Kurzeme regions.[20] In 2000–2001, the Baltic Center carried out a risk education project, with financing by the Open Society Institute and local NGOs.

Mine Action Assistance

In January–July 2003, five Latvian EOD personnel were part of the Norwegian KFOR contingent in Kosovo. Since May 2003, six EOD personnel have operated with coalition forces in Iraq where, in one week, 8,366 mines and items of UXO were destroyed.[21] Latvian EOD personnel also operated with KFOR in 2002.

Landmine/UXO Casualties

No casualties due to mines or UXO have been reported in 2003 or 2004, as of September. Since 1999, four civilian UXO casualties were identified: one killed from a criminal explosion and one killed from handling UXO in 2002; and a civilian killed and another injured by UXO in 2000. No EOD personnel are known to have been injured or killed by mines or UXO while on duty.[22]

[1] Latvia response to OSCE Questionnaire, 31 January 2002, p. 2. See also Landmine Monitor Report 1999, p. 799, Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 893, and Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 699–700.
[2] Letter from J. Klava, Director of Security Policy Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 29 April 2004, in response to Letter from the Baltic International Center for Human Education and the ICBL, 15 April 2004, and email, 29 April 2004. The ICBL also wrote to the Foreign Minister on 13 November 2003. The Ministry indicated that it is in charge of preparations.
[3] Interview with Amb. Janis Karklins, Permanent Representative to the UN, Geneva, 22 June 2004.
[4] Letter to Jody Williams, ICBL, from Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of Latvia, Riga, 16 July 2004.
[5] See Article 7 Reports submitted: 14 May 2004 (for calendar year 2003) and 1 May 2003 (for calendar year 2002).
[6] OSCE Response, 13 December 2003.
[7] Letter from President Vike-Freiberga, 16 July 2004.; OSCE Response, 20 December 2002, p. 3.
[8] In 2003, explosives were used in 18 cases, and during the first six months of 2004, 26 such cases were registered. Email from Sintija Kajina, Senior Specialist, Bureau of Press and Public Relations, State Police, Ministry of Interior, 22 July 2003.
[9] “Man and his underage son detained for sale of TNT,” Latvian News Agency, 16 October 2003.
[10] Article 7 Report, Form B, 14 May 2004. The six types are: PMN-2 (2,912), OZM-4 (997), MON-50 (19), MON-100 (224), MON-200 (190), and “Defence charge 21, Claymore-type” (105). Previously, only 2,980 PMN mines were reported. Article 7 Report, Form B, 1 May 2003. The discrepancies between the reports are not explained.
[11] Article 7 Report, Form D, 14 May 2004.
[12] Interview with Lt. Col. Guntis Aizporietis, Armed Forces Headquarters, Riga, 7 February 2002.
[13] CCW Amended Protocol II Article 13 Report, Form B, 26 November 2003. See also Landmine Monitor Report 2000, pp. 830–831.
[14] Aija Lulle, “Jāveido nacionāls pretmīnu centrs” (“Mine action center should be set up”), Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze (daily newspaper), 4 August 2003, pp. 1, 4.
[15] Agris Blūmfelds, “Grīziņkalnā skeitparks un ...mīnas” (“In Grīziņkalns skatepark and ....mines”), Rīgas Balss (daily newspaper), 7 November 2003.
[16] Interview with Lt. Col. Guntis Aizporietis, EOD Center, Adazhi, 15 April 2004.
[17] CCW Amended Protocol II Article 13 Report, Forms B and E, 26 November 2003; interview with Lt.Col. Guntis Aizporietis, EOD Center, 15 April 2004.
[18] Aija Lulle, “Mine action center should be set up,” Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze, 4 August 2003, pp. 1, 4.
[19] Viesturs Radovics, “Nesprāgušās munīcijas iznīcinātājiem darba pilnas rokas” (“EOD specialists are busy at work”), Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze, 19 January 2004.
[20] Interview with Lt. Col. Guntis Aizporietis, EOD Center, 15 April 2004.
[21] CCW Amended Protocol II Article 13 Report, Form B, 26 November 2003.
[22] Email from Valdis Kupcis, National Armed Forces, 28 June 2004. See also previous editions of the Landmine Monitor Report.