18 June 2010

Press Release -- Embargoed until 18 June 2010, 9:00 am Managua Time (GMT-7) Managua, 18 June 2010 -- As Nicaragua celebrates completion of its mine clearance activities, Central America becomes the world's first landmine-free region, said the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) today. North and Central America, from the Arctic Circle to the Colombian border, are now free from the threat of landmines.

This success demonstrates that with sustained efforts a mine-free world is possible."Communities in the region that suffered from conflict in recent history are now free from the threat of mines and can move on with rebuilding their lives," said Yassir Chavarría Gutiérrez of the Instituto de Estudios Estratégicos y Políticas Públicas, the ICBL member in Nicaragua.

"As Central America emerged from conflict, over a decade of mine clearance served as a regional confidence-building measure and embodied the Mine Ban Treaty's spirit of openness, transparency, and cooperation." Central American governments, the Organization of American States (OAS), and international donors showed significant political will and demonstrated the importance of international cooperation and assistance in mine action.Of Central America's seven countries, five used to be mine-affected: Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica (the other two being Belize and Panama). All have met their mine clearance obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty, which requires that all known mined areas be cleared within ten years.

Nonetheless, residual mine clearance capacity will still be needed in the region, including in Nicaragua, as there are still likely mines in weapons caches or emplaced in unknown areas."The job is not done now that all the mines have been cleared. Landmine survivors, their families, and communities require lifelong assistance. Government funding that previously supported clearance should now be channeled to victim assistance initiatives," said Jesús Martínez, Director of the Fundación Red de Sobrevivientes, the ICBL member in El Salvador, and a mine survivor himself.Since the wars of the 1980s, mines and other explosive remnants of war have caused an estimated 5,000 casualties in Central America, with most of these in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

While many survivors have received assistance to some extent, thanks to both national and international support, a 2009 study found that the vast majority of survivors continue to be isolated and lack jobs. Since 1996 the OAS has adopted regular resolutions in support of a mine-free Western Hemisphere. Landmines in the Caribbean (Cuba) and in South America (Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, and the Falkland Islands/Malvinas) still need to be cleared. Only Cuba and the United States have not joined the Mine Ban Treaty. President Obama has ordered a review of US landmine policy. The ICBL calls on Cuba and the US to join the Mine Ban Treaty as soon as possible to ensure the Western Hemisphere will forever be free of these inhumane weapons.

"With reinforced political commitment and financial support from donor states, we could soon reach the goal of a mine-free Americas that the OAS has called for since 1996," said Sylvie Brigot, the ICBL's Executive Director. "Now that clearance is finished in Central America, hopefully more focus can be put on Colombia, the most affected country in the Americas and one of the most affected in the world." The government of Nicaragua is holding an event to mark the end of mine clearance operations on Friday 18 June 2010 at 17:00 at the Escuela de Sargento Andres Castro, in Managua. Nicaragua's President and Minister of Defense, as well as high-level army members and OAS representatives, government officials, international and non-governmental organizations will be present.

For more information, contact: In Nicaragua (GMT-7) Yassir Chavarría Gutiérrez, Instituto de Estudios Estratégicos y Políticas Públicas, Mobile: +505 888 73733 - In Paris (GMT+1) Amelie Chayer, International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Mobile: +33 6 89 55 12 81


The International Campaign to Ban Landmines is a global network in more than 90 countries, Co-Laureate of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, working for a world free of landmines and cluster munitions.

The Mine Ban Treaty comprehensively bans use, production, and trade of antipersonnel mines, requires destruction of stockpiled mines within four years, requires destruction of mines already in the ground within ten years, and urges extensive programs to assist the victims of landmines.

Additional information on Nicaragua and other countries of the region is available in Landmine Monitor Report 2009: www.the-monitor.org/lm/2009/nicaragua

Colombia is among the world's states most affected by antipersonnel mines and Chile will likely meet its 2012 treaty-mandatory mine clearance deadline. Ecuador and Peru have made slow progress despite the relatively small amount of land remaining to be cleared, and Venezuela has yet to clear a single mine from six contaminated military bases.

Interview opportunities: Sylvie Brigot, Executive Director, ICBL (English, French) GMT+1, Mobile: +33 6 07 17 27 76 - Yassir Chavarría Gutiérrez, Instituto de Estudios Estratégicos y Políticas Públicas (Spanish, English) GMT-7, Mobile: +505 888 73733 - Jackie Hansen, Program Manager, Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor (Spanish, English) GMT-5, Mobile: +1 613 851 5436 - Megan Burke, Victim Assistance Editor, Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor (Spanish, English) GMT-7, Mobile: +505 8967 5036 - Jesús Martínez, Director, Fundación Red de Sobrevivientes (Spanish) GMT-7, Mobile: +503 7819 3413