Campaign Against Depleted Uranium

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US/UK Defeated On DU Vote At  The UN Sub-Commission

Efforts by the US/UK to keep depleted uranium off the agenda of the UN Sub- Commission on Protection and Promotion of Human Rights failed this August  as the Sub-Commission clearly decided that depleted uranium weaponry qualify  as weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and authorized a prominent member,  Justice Y. Sik Yuen (Mauritius) to prepare a study on the topic. The UK  member of the Sub-Commisson tried to have depleted uranium weaponry  deleted from the study, which had been authorized earlier by the Sub- Commission, arguing that DU weaponry are not WMD,but her proposed  amendments and a substitute resolution were defeated, drawing only two votes  — hers and the vote of the member from Norway.

The debate as well as the outcome reinforces the claim made by Karen Parker  and supported by a clear majority of international experts —including 23 of the  26 members of the Sub-Commission — that DU is already banned because it  is incompatible with existing humanitarian law and qualifies as WMD.  The vote to study weapons of mass destruction including DU is the latest  success of UN non-governmental organizations (NGOs), who, beginning in  1996, started a campaign for a strong condemnation of both DU and sanctions. 

Thanks to Karen Parker, Margarita Papendreou, Dr. Beatrice Boctor, Philippa  Winkler and Dr. Gorst Gunther (all representing International Educational  Development/ Humanitarian Law Project (IED/HLP)) Felicity Arbuthnot,  Damacio Lopez and others the United Nations Sub-Commission on Human  Rights adopted a resolution that listed DU among other ‘bad’ weapons. In 1997  the Sub-Commission appointed one of its members, Mme Forero Ucros  (Columbia), to prepare a working paper preparatory to a full study. 

Unfortunately Mme Forero never returned to the Sub-Commission, with many  saying this was because of US pressure. The same year, however, the Sub-Commission moved on the sanctions issue,  and adopted a resolution on economic sanctions — responding again to a  speech by Karen Parker.  Unfortunately, that resolution’s author, Marc  Bossuyt (Belgium) was ill the following year, and was unable to attend the Sub- Commisison’s session. When he returned in 1999, the Sub-Commission  authorized him to prepare a working paper on sanctions, issued as UN  Doc.E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000/33.

Following the departure of Mme Forero, there were changes in the  membership of the Sub-Commission, and the “team” was uncertain whether it  was necessary or useful to go forward with a study on DU and the other listed  weapons, in part because (1) the Sub-Commission had already labeled DU as a  WMD, and (2) the Secretary-General’s report contained substantial portions of  both the Parker Memorandum on Weapons, the submission of the International  Indian Treaty Council and a number of countries, all essentially implying the  same thing — DU weaponry is  incompatible with existing international  humanitarian law and human rights norms.

However, during these three years,  the NGOs at the UN continued to present seminars, films and keep up the  pressure. In 1999, the video documentary “From Radioactive Mines to  Radioactive Weapons” was shown at the Commission. The documentary  linked the health impacts of uranium mining on Navajo miners to the impacts of  DU weapons, and described tests done by Dr Hari Sharma showing the  presence of DU in Gulf War veterans including Ray Bristow. The number of  UN NGOs presenting statements on DU continued to grow. At the 2001  session of the Sub-Commission, one of the most respected members of the Sub- Commission, Justice Y. Sik Yuen (Mauritius) agreed to go forward with the  study.

By Thursday of the first week of the 2001 session, the draft resolution  was tabled (submitted) with 16 co-sponsors.  In the final debate on the draft the US and UK tried to urge that DU is a  ‘conventional’ weapon and therefore ‘legal.’ So the debate really shows that  these two countries are backed into a corner, and the rest of the world accepts  that DU is and always was illegal.”  In the meantime, Karen Parker will be assisting Justice Sik Yuen on this study,  and requests that people collect the latest relevant information to transmit to her at if they are small enough. Larger documents may be sent by  mail. Funds to assist this effort may be made out to Karen Parker directly or to  the Association of Humanitarian Lawyers, and sent to The Law Offices of  Karen Parker, 154-5th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA. Below is the relevent press release from the UN website
Contact: Philippa Winkler 928 774 1765 (USA)

Copies of Karen Parkers Report ‘Depleted Uranium at the UN’  (published by CADU) are still available from the CADU office (see  Resources)

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From CADU News 8: Summer 2001

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Page last updated: 6th December 2002