Call for New Zealand to Support the International Campaign to Ban DU
“Depleted uranium anti-tank shells - when used - ignite into a toxic, radioactive smoke of Uranium Oxide dust,” says Rob Ritchie, an anti-depleted uranium campaigner from the Christchurch-based DUET [Depleted Uranium Education Team] and the Disarmament and Security Centre.
“Drifting on the wind, this is inhaled even through gas masks. Depleted Uranium (DU) munitions have been used in the Balkans and Iraq, where cancer rates and birth defects show horrifying increases. Now being dubbed the "Agent Orange of the 21st Century", DU is strongly implicated in Gulf War Syndrome, affecting one third of 800,000 veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.”
In March 2007 Belgium became the first country to ban DU munitions through a unanimous parliamentary resolution. New Zealand’s parliament is being asked to follow Belgium's example.
The presentation of the New Zealand petition is also in response to the resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2007 which notes “the potential harmful effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium on human health and the environment,” and calls on countries to report to the UN Secretary-General their views on depleted uranium munitions with a view to further action being taken at the next General Assembly.
“New Zealand should report to the United Nations that uranium munitions cause indiscriminate harm to civilians and to the environment and should be prohibited, as has been done with other indiscriminate weapons such as landmines, chemical weapons, biological weapons and is now being done with cluster munitions” says Mr Ritchie.
“There is however strong resistance from certain governments because uranium is one of the heaviest, hardest metals, making it very effective in armour-piercing anti-tank shells,” says Mr Ritchie. “DU is also cheap, being a waste product from nuclear reactors. However this is no reason to squander the lives of our children and future generations from the effects of this long-lasting and extremely toxic material.”