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Dutch government challenged on their position on depleted uranium weapons

The Dutch government has been challenged by political parties to take a stronger position on the use of depleted uranium (DU) weapons during recent parliamentary debates.
1 October 2014 - Wim Zwijnenburg

Two weeks ago, the Dutch Minister of Trade and Development was asked by the Socialist Party during a debate on the UN General Assembly what the Dutch response was to the call by Iraq for a global DU ban. The socialists also asked whether the Netherlands would acknowledge the potential health effects of DU. Traditionally, the Dutch position in the UN General Assembly has been one of questioning DU's health effects, preferring the term 'possible' health effects instead of the stronger ‘potential effects’. They are the only country that takes this position. 

The Minister claimed she wasn't well enough informed to answer either question, and promised to send the parliament a briefing note on the Dutch position on DU. Her colleague, Minister of Foreign Affairs Timmermans, who was supposed to answer the socialists’ questions, was in New York attending the opening of the UN General Assembly at the time. Timmermans tabled a resolution calling for a moratorium on DU use when he was an MP back in 2010. The resolution was accepted by the majority of the parliament but ignored by the government and it is unclear whether Timmermans’ promotion has changed his views on the issue.

Following news that the US is going deploy A-10 gunships to Iraq and Syria to combat the Islamic State and Al-Nusra, and as the Dutch are providing military support for the US-led coalition, the Socialist Party has also asked in a debate on Dutch military involvement this week, whether the government can assure them that no DU will be used. Given the toxic legacy that US operations in Iraq left behind in 2003, and the ongoing struggle by the Iraqi government to clean-up DU contaminated areas, further use would only exacerbate the health and environmental problems in Iraq.

Furthermore, PAX supports the call by the Cluster Munition Coalition, of which PAX is a co-founder, to urge all states, and specifically the 114 countries that have joined the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), to help ensure that cluster munitions are not used by the United States and coalition partners in the offensive.

PAX has produced several reports over the last three years documenting the impact of DU in Iraq, highlighting civilian concerns and pointing out how difficult it is to properly assess, clean-up and remediate contaminated areas. The reports can be accessed at http://www.paxforpeace.nl/our-work/programmes/depleted-uranium. A new resolution on the effects of depleted uranium will be discussed in the United Nations General Assembly’s First Committee in New York this October.