BRUSSELS: INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE TO BAN URANIUM WEAPONS

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#632
01/01/1970
Article

(Juny 15, 2005) The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) held a conference at the European Parliament in Brussels on 23-24 June 2005 and called on the European Parliament to implement its 2003 resolution on a moratorium on the use of depleted uranium in European states. The conference was sponsored by the European Parliament's Intergroup for Peace Initiatives and also supported by several political parties including the Greens.

(632.5707) Laka Foundation - The programme for the two-day meeting began with presentations from member organizations from Iraq, the U.S., the U.K., Japan, Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands, each giving an overview on depleted uranium (DU) developments in their countries in the past year. Guests and Members of European Parliament (MEPs) were later invited to take part in a panel debate on the issue in general.

Dr. Jawad Al-Ali, Head of the Sadr Teaching Hospital in Basra, Iraq, reported on the rise of cancer casualties and congenital birth defects in the Basra area - especially in areas polluted by DU. Dr. Al-Ali described the continued spread of contamination and illustrated this using a detailed map of the city of Basra, marked to show where DU was used in the 1991 Gulf War and during the 2003 war. The simple map showed how the areas contaminated by increased from 21 sites following the 2003 war to 57 sites to date. Vehicles and other contaminated equipment are moved from one area by the coalition forces only to be dumped in another public location. Meanwhile the Iraqi people, desperate for materials, strip the contaminated vehicles for spare parts or to sell on the contaminated metals as scrap to factories. As a result the DU is spread far and wide, contaminating homes and exposing entire families to the risks of becoming poisoned.

Dr. Keith Baverstock, scientific researcher and the former Head of the Radiological Protection Division of the World Health Organization (WHO), explained the toxicological aspect of the cover-up on the hazards of DU.

Following detailed analysis of several ways in which DU oxide particles could pose harm to the human body, Baverstock revealed three potential risk routes in addition to the conventional radio toxicity caused by direct irradiation (alpha radiation), namely, chemical geno toxicity, synergy between radiation and chemical toxicities and the bystander route. Unfortunately these scientific insights have failed to make any impact in the corridors of power. The relevant and responsible bodies such as the WHO, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.K. Royal Society, the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) and the European Commission Article 31 Group have roundly ignored Baverstock's findings thus far. Dr. Baverstock remains concerned at this lack of interest and stated, "You may wonder, as I do, how such authoritative and independent organizations, making ostensibly 'independent' assessments of the situation can ignore all the evidence that exists in scientific literature."

During his presentation, Baverstock also referred to recent studies on the toxicity of nickel, which has similar levels of toxicity as DU. In contrast with DU and despite their similarities, this heavy metal (nickel) is considered to be an established carcinogen.

Prof. Dr. Manfred Mohr moved the focus of the discussion on to international law with its various branches: international humanitarian law, human rights law, and environmental law. International law, he explained is not only about articles, treaties and detailed norms, but also mostly about basic principles. The precautionary principle being an excellent example of a basic principle used in both international and national environmental law and also based in the EU normative system. Prof. Mohr explained about the potential opportunities for the law to be used to support campaigners views, adding that the Draft Convention, which he wrote with a Polish colleague, could play a vital role. The main goal of ICBUW is for this Draft Convention, currently being negotiated upon with the UN and nation states, to be adopted as a real Draft, open for signatures and ratification as has occurred with other models like the Ottawa Treaty or the Chemical Weapons Convention. It is important, Mohr declared, that all legal possibilities are worked out in parallel given that they are not exclusive to each other. He added, "we have to stress: ban means in our terms, in our perspective, not to create the prohibition of the use of DU weaponry, which is already there, but to abolish the weapon. And for this, you need to have a treaty, otherwise it is not possible to get rid of certain weapons."

On behalf of EUROMIL, an umbrella organization of trade unions and associations of military personnel, Mr. Emmanuel Jacob expressed support for the goals of ICBUW - EUROMIL already urges governments to ban the use of DU weapons. EUROMIL consists of 34 organizations from 22 European countries from Ireland to Russia, from Finland to Spain.

The panel discussion on the first day and the presentations and discussions on the second day brought interesting issues to the surface that will need to be explored in future debates. Avril McDonald, a lawyer from the Dutch Asser Institute stated that she did not yet believe that the case against DU is watertight, siting the apparent lack of epidemiological research but did admit that the arguments against its use were convincing. Dr. Baverstock responded that many chemicals have previously been banned without ever being subject to epidemiological research.

Photo coverage of the conference is available at www.bandepleteduranium.org
A full report of this conference will be published on the website in autumn.

Source and contact: Henk van der Keur and Lizzy Bloem
Laka Foundation

60th HIROSHIMA/NAGASAKI COMMEMORATION AUGUST 2005

The mayor of Hiroshima, Mr. Akiba Tadatoshi, calls for participation in the peace walk from Ypres to the NATO nuclear weapon base in Kleine Brogel, north Belgium between July 26th and August 9th 2005.

The peace walk, organised by For Mother Earth - Flemish member of Friends of the Earth International, marks the 60th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th 1945.

Mr. Yoshio Sato, a survivor of the A-bomb in Hiroshima will join walkers in Belgium.

In a letter to For Mother Earth, the mayor of Hiroshima writes, "I hope many will join -even for one day- and walk in solidarity with the survivors of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, whose wish is "No more Hiroshimas, no more Nagasakis ever again". See letter from mayor Akiba at http://www.motherearth.org/walk/akiba.pdf

The approximately 250 km long walk designed to increase pressure on NATO member states to work towards a treaty for a global ban on nuclear weapons, as stipulated in Article VI of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

For registration and more information visit:
http://www.motherearth.org/walk/index_en.php

Voor Moeder Aarde vzw, lid van Friends of the Earth International
Tel: +32-9-242 87 04
E-mail: pol@motherearth.org
Web: www.moederaarde.be