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Responsibility for 20 years of depleted uranium contamination dumped on MoD’s doorstep

LONDON: Campaigners today reminded the UK of its responsibility for 2.3 tonnes of depleted uranium contamination in Iraq and Kuwait with an action on the MoD’s doorstep.
8 November 2011 - ICBUW

They are demanding the government take responsibility for contamination in the Gulf and cancel plans to extend the life of the UK’s last remaining DU round, CHARM3. The action is part of a global event marking the International Day of Action on Depleted Uranium, and the UN International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.

Rae Street with letter to MoD Along with the DU dust, campaigners delivered a letter to the new defence minister Philip Hammond, signed by eight organisations including the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Pax Christi, and Campaign Against the Arms Trade, and award winning film-maker and journalist John Pilger. The letter condemns the use of DU, asks the MoD to publicly recognise the risks from DU weapons and calls for a stop to the CHARM3 extension programme.

CHARM3 is the last UK munition to contain the increasingly controversial DU. When DU munitions hit hard targets an uncontrolled release of DU dust occurs. If inhaled or ingested, this dust has the potential to cause cancer. In areas that DU has been used, most notably in Iraq, doctors have reported a substantial increase in the rates of cancers and birth defects within the population [2].

Campaigners outside the Ministry of Defence
Campaigners outside the Ministry of Defence.

Aneaka Kellay, CADU campaigner said: "It is completely irresponsible for the MoD to use weapons that leave toxic remnants that put the health of civilians at risk, particularly given that these weapons would not be acceptable to use within the UK according to our own environmental protection regulations. I hope the new defence minister Philip Hammond sees sense and removes this toxic cold war relic from its arsenal.

DU is increasingly seen as a Cold War relic, which was developed out of fear of a Soviet tank invasion. International opposition to their use is continuing to grow. Campaigners argue that the Soviet threat is outdated and that radioactive and chemically toxic weapons are particularly inappropriate for contemporary humanitarian focused operations.

The propellant charge for the CHARM3 rounds will expire in 2013 and the MoD is developing a Life Extension Programme (LEP) [3] to enable their use beyond 2013. The MoD admits that DU weapons are not ‘safe’ but continue to incorrectly claim that DU poses no risk in order to justify its continued use. It is looking increasingly likely that DU munitions will be subject to an international ban and the UK has an opportunity to take a leading role in this process.

Concerned MP’s have submitted an Early Day Motion to parliament on the CHARM 3 renewal [4]. Internationally DU weapons have been condemned by four resolutions in the European Parliament, including a landslide resolution in 2008, which called for a moratorium on DU's use and efforts toward a global ban. DU weapons have been the focus of three resolutions in the United Nations General Assembly, and the subject of domestic bans in Costa Rica and Belgium.

Notes:

[1] To see a copy of the letter please see http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3981379/DoA%20letter%20to%20MoD.pdf

[2] See A Question of Responsibility - the legacy of depleted uranium use in the Balkans, ICBUW report, September 2010. Available for download here: http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/a/342.html

[3] To see a copy of the FOI request relating to the CHARM 3 round please contact 0161 273 8293 or send an email to info@cadu.org.uk

[4] EDM 2318 Depleted Uranium Weapons Renewal http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/2318

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