Association of Humanitarian Lawyers
Weapons Containing Depleted Uranium(DU)
Fri Dec 22, 2006 15:43

Weapons Containing Depleted Uranium(DU)

AHL continues to work on the issue of weapons containing depleted uranium (DU). AHL, in conjunction with groups in the UK, submitted on June 22, 2005 a letter to members of the EU Parliament, and will also submit documents on the illegality of DU weapons. This issue was also mentioned in the Iraq Hospital petitions.

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> Here is their website:
> Cathy
> From: Romi Elnagar
> Subject: Guardian article on DU (Jan. 10, 2001)
> Gulf veterans left in cold
> Balkans troops to be screened for uranium
> Special report: depleted uranium
> Richard Norton-Taylor and Andrew Osborn in Brussels
> Wednesday January 10, 2001
> The Guardian
> The government yesterday bowed to intense domestic and
international pressure by agreeing to screen Balkans veterans for
signs of contamination from depleted uranium used in US anti-tank
> But the announcement infuriated Gulf war veterans, whose
supporters labelled the refusal to offer the tests to troops in
previous conflicts a "vicious injustice". In an embarrassing u-
turn, foreshadowed in yesterday's Guardian, John Spellar, the armed
forces minister, told MPs that British troops who had served in
Kosovo and Bosnia, as well as civilians working there, would be
offered what he called "an appropriate voluntary screening
programme". He said Britain would step up its environmental
monitoring of the Balkans and pool data collected by the UN and
European allies, which have already introduced emergency screening
for their troops. Until yesterday, the MoD had repeatedly spurned the
need for any screening for DU.
> But Mr Spellar insisted there was no evidence linking DU shells
to ill health. He did not offer the new tests to troops in the Gulf
war even though far more of the controversial weapons were fired
there than in the Balkans. Mr Spellar delivered a robust
defence of DU shells, used in British tanks as well as US aircraft,
insisting they provided a "battle-winning military capability". He
said: "Because of its density and metallurgic properties, depleted
uranium isideally suited for use as a kinetic energy penetrator in
anti-armour munitions". At Nato headquarters in Brussels,
Britain and the US joined forces to kill off an Italian proposal,
backed by Germany, for the alliance's 19 member countries to stop
using depleted uranium ammunition until further notice. Mr
Spellar conceded that debris from DU shells might present a "hazard
from chemical toxicity" and a "low-level radiological hazard". Those
risks, he said, arose from dust created when the weapons
> hit targets, but as expended rounds or fragments the hazards of DU
were "negligible". He said Gulf veterans - the cause of whose
illnesses, he added, had not been discovered - had been offered
screening for a "whole body load of uranium". But these tests were
derided as inappropriate by Gulf war veterans and their
medicaladvisers. Malcolm Hooper, emeritus professor of
medicinal chemistry at Sunderland University, described the Ministry
of Defence move as a "cynical betrayal" and "vicious injustice".
The MoD, he said, was testing for high-level exposure to soluble
material, rather than long-term, low-level, exposure to radiation
inside the body. It was indulging in "Mickey Mouse science".
Terry Gooding of the Gulf War Veterans Association said the MoD had
never screened members for DU symptoms. Michael Burrows, senior
coordinator of the association, said: "Mr Spellar said there is an
insignificant danger posed by radiation from depleted uranium, but
> about the dust and the effect it has on the lymphatic
system?" He added: "I can't see that the voluntary screening
will have any benefit whatsoever. The screening that he is talking
about is for uranium, not depleted uranium." Ministers are
expected to await the publication of a report on DU being prepared by
the Royal Society, expected in the summer , before finalising details
of the screening programme. Bruce George, chairman of the
Commons defence committee, who had been threatening to mount his own
inquiry into the affair, warned it was essential that the research
was carried out as quickly as possible. "If it is true that there is
a link between depleted uranium and leukaemia cancer, then people are
going to die," he said. The government's announcement - pressed
on the MoD by Downing Street - follows a spate of leukaemia cases
among Balkan veterans in Italy, France, Portugal and Denmark, though
scientists differ over whether the number is
> exceptional within the total groups. Professor Eric Wright,
an expert on radiation-induced leukaemia at the University of Dundee,
said: "The diagnosis of leukaemia in many of these people is very
soon after the alleged exposure. Whilst you can never say never in
science, this does seems extraordinarily unlikely to be
causal." Norwegian peacekeepers yesterday refused to sign
contracts for service in Kosovo, demanding a clarification of the
risk from ammunition that included DU.

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