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Dutch NGO IKV Pax Christi launch 'Time for Clarity' - a report on uranium weapons

On the 29th of June, IKV Pax Christi organized a seminar where they presented their report on the discussion on depleted uranium (DU), called ‘ Time for Clarity’. In this report, IKV Pax Christi is appealing to the Dutch government to implement a moratorium on uranium weapons, as well as promoting extended field and laboratory research on the effects of depleted uranium on human health and the environment.
8 July 2009 - Wim Zwijnenburg

IKV Pax Christi logo To mark the occasion it was a great pleasure to be able to welcome Dr. Jawad Al-Ali, an oncologist specialized in research on depleted uranium in Basra, Iraq, who gave an alarming presentation on his research work. His project is focusing on the increasing levels of cancer and birth defects around Basra, an area where large amounts of DU were used by the American and British armed forces during both of the Gulf Wars.

His concerns were endorsed by Wim van der Burg of the Dutch military union AFMP, who is pleading for a prohibition of uranium weapons. He stated that the double standards used by the government - namely denying that DU is hazardous while simultaneously warning military staff on how to avoid exposure in situations in which DU is used - are creating confusion amongst the military. Therefore, the government should ban uranium weapons in order to make sure that no harmful effects can affect soldiers and innocent civilians.

Henk van der Keur from the Laka research and documentation centre on nuclear energy, gave a brief history on the DU issue in the Netherlands over the last eight years and described how the Dutch government is being left behind internationally because of its stance on DU. He argued that there is no need for a proven direct causal relationship between DU and ill health before a uranium weapon moratorium is put into place. This is thanks to the huge quantity of data that shows the weapons potentially hazardous effect. He compared DU with the case of asbestos, which also took decades before it was prohibited, but in the meanwhile affected the lives of many workers.

Wim Zwijnenburg of IKV Pax Christi briefly outlined the reasons why this report was written. The long, difficult and complex debate on DU is in need of clarity and should be based on fair and reasonable arguments, taking into account the concerns of citizens from affected areas as well as veterans. Therefore IKV Pax Christi wrote this report, giving an overview of the national and international debate in all its facets. With this report, we hope to invoke a new discussion that will lead to earlier mentioned goals, namely more research and a moratorium on uranium weapons on the basis of the precautionary principle.

Krista van Velzen, Member of Parliament for the Socialist Party, after hearing all the speakers, expressed her view on DU and described her work (and that of other MPs) on this issue in the Parliament. She had called on the government to adjust its view on DU and to take its responsibilities under international law into account.

The seminar was attended by a wide variety of visitors from both civil society and the government. Amongst them were delegates from the Ministry of Defence, Foreign Affairs, peace activists, Members of Parliament, doctors and journalists. They were invited to ask the speakers questions about their presentations or to comment on what has been said. A broad range of questions about the effects of DU and health, the role of the uranium enrichment industry, alternatives for DU and other questions were asked.

This meeting was the beginning of a new effort by IKV Pax Christi to bring different actors such as government officials, NGOs, peace activists and scientists together and put DU on the political agenda. In 2010, the General Meeting of the United Nations will speak out on this issue and we will strive to change the Dutch view on this subject, from scientific skepticism to support for a moratorium on uranium weapons.




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    IKV Pax Christi
    Voorzichtigheid. Een woord dat telkens bij ons naar boven komt bij de discussie over munitie met verarmd uranium. Voorzichtigheid met aannames. Bij het zoeken naar informatie over de mogelijke gevaren van munitiemet verarmd uraniumstuit je op veel stelligheden. Zo wordt er door de één beweerd dat er geen enkel ge-vaar is, terwijl de andermet dezelfde stelligheid spreekt over een explosieve groei van tumoren bij kinderen in gebieden waar gebruik is gemaakt van dit typemunitie. Je kunt dan ook niet voorzichtig genoeg zijn - en internationaal veldonderzoek is geboden - alvorens stellige waarheden te verkondigen. * please email us for the pdf version