World Depleted Uranium Weapons Conference

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German peace activists Gewaltfreie Aktion Atomwaffen Abschaffen
(Non-violent action for the abolition of nuclear weapons) are preparing a World Uranium Weapons Conference in response to what they describe as a “new and in some ways more prevalent and immediate nuclear threat: the issue of organizing international campaign to enforce existing international laws and conventions against these uranium weapons and their classification as weapons of mass destruction. GAAA Co-Coordinator, Marion Kuepker explains.

 

For some years activists have faced the problem that the U.S. and British government are producing and upgrading their weapon systems containing uranium. With these radioactive weapons the boundaries between conventional and nuclear weapons is becoming completely obscured. Ramsey Clark, former Attorney General of the United States has written that “DU weapons are not conventional weapons. They are highly toxic, radioactive weapons. All international law on warfare has attempted to limit violence to combatants and to prevent the use of cruel unfocussed weapons….Consequently, DU weapons violate international law because of their inherent cruelty and unconfined death dealing effect. They threaten civilian populations now and for generations to come.”



Under pressure from activist groups the military itself was reluctantly forced to admit that huge amounts of uranium weapons (320 t DU) were used for the first time in southern Iraq in 1991, 3 t in Bosnia and 10 t in Serbia and Kosovo. Credible independent researchers believe that 1000 t uranium was used in the bombing in Afghanistan, and that at least the same amount is expected to have been used in the recent war in Iraq. Experts from all allied NATO countries are observing an increase of the so-called Gulf and Balkan War Syndrome amongst veterans, which some link to the use of uranium ammunition. Leading international independent researchers believe that exposure to DU during the 1991 Gulf War is responsible for the majority of the current, ongoing medical problems reported by over 260,000 returning veterans (one-third

of all the troops participating in that war!), a rate with dire implications for future wars and conflicts where these weapons were recently and further intended to be used.



The uranium isotope used in DU has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. DU and other uranium weapons are weapons with indiscriminate effects, causing genetic damage and thus endangering over generations the human race as a whole. Articles 35 and 56 of the Geneva Convention clearly prohibit weapons which are this indiscriminate and catastrophic in their effects on civilian populations, suggesting that their use could legally constitute war crimes.



The governments using DU ammunition deny the link of these weapons with the illnesses and are lobbying hard to make a large, scientifically credible inquiry in Iraq impossible. They even try to conceal information as to which kinds of weapons contain uranium.



Cancer rates in Iraq have increased dramatically over the rates noted before the Gulf War of 1991. A planned study supposed to be done by the UN was turned down in December 2001 under the pressure of the U.S. government. However, scientific magazines have, though infrequently, published the results of smaller independent studies.












This whole situation has created some irritation inside scientific circles and the peace

activist movement. For example,  the results of two recent studies which have already calculated the cumulative dose effects to both Iraqi civilians and Allied and Iraqi troops during the Gulf War if 1991 are not well known among the larger international medical, health and scientific communities; while at the same time, reports by government bodies who use DU ammunition are well publicised, distributed and give the impression that no or little effect exists.



We believe that a World Uranium Weapons Conference is needed to bring together the scientific experts with their independent studies and the peace-, veterans’, and anti-nuclear movements to bring everyone up to date and have the results of their studies and their work combined. The Conference will also include time for the conference members to combine existing information, and to discuss the need for creating, conducting and funding their own additional independent, peer-reviewed, international study on the health hazards caused by the use of uranium weapons worldwide. Specifically, attention must be given to Iraq before the data are lost or corrupted by the occupation. Because many governments have the stated agenda of perpetuating uranium weapons, their conclusions about uranium weapons effects are not reliable or acceptable. The independent international non-governmental movements will therefore be forced to take responsibility for the huge costs of this kind of study, which cannot be done by a single country or organisation.


Ideally such a study should be conducted or co-ordinated by the World Health Organisation. The WHO´s  operations are potentially compromised by its constitutional obligations to the IAEA with its strong obligations to the nuclear lobby. The WHO is not allowed to publish results without the consensus of the IAEA. The results of any study done by WHO on DU or other uranium weapons issues therefore should be highly suspect in its credibility.  It is for this reason up to us, to our movements constantly to review and subject to a public critique all governmental claims on these issues. Full-scale independent peer review of existing data, continued independent study, and a unified plan of action will lead to the evidence needed to enforce existing international laws and conventions against these uranium weapons.



Marion Kuepker can be contacted at Marion@motherearth.org  If you can read German, you can learn more about Gewaltfreie Aktion Atomwaffen Abschaffen at www.gaaa.org . Conference information in English can be found at www.uraniumweaponsconference.de