International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons: The campaign / Latest news
We urgently need transparency over depleted uranium use
Humanitarian concern over health problems in Fallujah have renewed calls for full disclosure from depleted uranium users.
26 July 2010 - ICBUW
Recent research and a tide of media coverage are indicating that something is very wrong in the Iraqi city of
Marines dismount from Bradley vehicles during attack on Fallujah.
Unfortunately, one major obstacle is standing in the way of these assessments – the refusal by the US to release data on exactly where the weapons have been used and in what quantities.
At present, states that use uranium weapons do not have to disclose quantitative or geographical data about their use – no where, no how much, nothing. There are no norms governing the recording of data and nothing to say that it should be transferred between states. Indeed states are currently under no obligation to assist either each other - or the United Nations’ agencies for that matter - in identifying, marking, assessing, monitoring or clearing sites contaminated by uranium weapons. This is completely unacceptable.
That exposure to uranium weapons has the potential to cause ill health is generally accepted. The main question remaining is how that risk is influenced by military, geographical, social and other factors. More research is urgently needed into civilian populations living in contaminated areas and right now the single biggest obstacle researchers face continues to be the lack of transparency from users.
Transparency was identified as a priority by the UK Royal Society’s Depleted Uranium Working Group as far back as 2003: “The coalition needs to make clear where and how much depleted uranium was used in the recent conflict in
What steps have been taken since then to release this data? In
Given that the main factor in reducing the risk to civilians following the use of uranium weapons is the swift identification and marking of contaminated sites, the current situation seems particularly perverse.
ICBUW has approached the
There are also long-standing questions over the use of depleted uranium in other conflicts. For example,
If states are unwilling to voluntarily release data on the use of uranium weapons, it is beholden on the international community to agree to take whatever steps necessary to develop binding rules governing what happens to these weapons once they are fired.
ICBUW is calling for a resolution on this issue at the UN First Committee this autumn. We hope that states that have pushed for transparency in other areas of arms control such as the Netherlands, and those that have cooperated with UNEP on the issue of uranium weapons, such as the UK, will lend their support because without transparency, civilians will continue to be exposed to the harmful residue of these weapons.