|Volume 53 Number 10, April 22, 2023
An emergency protest was held on Wednesday, April 19, in Whitehall, opposite Downing Street, organised by members of International Ukraine Anti Fascist Solidarity and NO2NATO - NO2WAR.
On March 21, the website Declassified UK revealed that the Britain will be sending depleted uranium (DU) shells to Ukraine to be used by the Challenger tanks Britain is sending.
DU ammunition was heavily used in the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia (10 metric tons) in 1999 and in the Iraq wars in 1990 and 2003 (300 metric tons). Large increases in horrific birth defects, leukaemia and other cancers, kidney damage, and mental illness in children have been recorded in areas where the munitions were used. DU weapons were also used by the US military in Syria in 2015.
In 2001, the World Health Organisation (WHO) completed a scientific review that concluded that depleted uranium is both chemically and radiologically toxic. To quote CND Chair Kate Hudson writing for the Stop the War Coalition on March 27, "The severe health consequences have led to the terms 'Gulf War syndrome' and 'Balkan syndrome' entering our vocabulary."
The DU used in battle is spread throughout the environment including the soil and water tables, and remains radioactive for more than 4.5 billion years.
The rich Western countries which dominate and control the UN and its bodies have promised to clean up the DU in Iraq, but have failed to deliver. And while respectable international scientific bodies claim there is insufficient evidence of the human health dangers, the US, Britain, France and Israel have repeatedly blocked funding for research requested by Iraq and the Non Aligned Movement, which represents a majority of the UN General Assembly.
According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, "DNA mutations caused by DU can, of course, be passed from parent to child. Hence, DU contamination from the US-led wars against Iraq in 1990 and 2003 appear to likely continue to cause a persistent national health crisis for future generations of Iraqis."
A 1977 amendment of Article 35 of the Geneva Conventions, prohibits any means or methods of warfare that cause superfluous injuries or unnecessary suffering, and prohibits those nations from resorting to means of war that could inflict extensive and long-term damage on human health and the environment.
The observed impacts of DU in Iraq suggest that these weapons do indeed fall under Article 35, due to their suspected long-lasting effects on human health and the environment.
Article 36 of the Geneva Conventions also obliges any state studying, developing, or acquiring a new weapon to hold a legal review of that weapon.
Thus far, Belgium (2007) and Costa Rica (2011) have passed domestic laws prohibiting uranium weapons within their territories. In 2008, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that stated that "the use of DU in warfare runs counter to the basic rules and principles enshrined in written and customary international, humanitarian and environmental law".
In 2006, the European Parliament strengthened its previous calls for a moratorium by calling for an introduction of a total ban, classifying the use of DU, along with white phosphorus, as inhumane.
It is likely that the people of the former Yugoslavia nations and Iraq will be living with the tragic consequences of the use of DU for generations to come, unless the rich nations come forward to finance environmental cleansing and monitoring on a massive scale.
The organisers of the emergency protest write that "we can try to stop DU weapons being used in yet another NATO-backed war, a war which the entire NATO alliance is prolonging with billions in arms deliveries and active support for the Kyiv government through intelligence and undercover forces operating in the country. We are calling on the British government to reverse its decision to send depleted uranium shells to Ukraine, and ensure that DU ammunition already sent to Ukraine is not used in battle."
(International Ukraine Anti Fascist Solidarity and NO2NATO - NO2WAR)