Report on the Belgian Action Day
On the 4th of November 2011, the Belgian Coalition 'Stop Uranium Weapons!'– organised for the 3rd time a peaceful demonstration against the French policy on depleted uranium weapons. The event was organised in solidarity with the French citizens/campaigners living close to the Polygones (firing ranges) in the departments Cher and Lot.
A non-violent action started at 10:00 AM near the French Embassy building, We posted in front of the French Embassy white crosses symbolizing a cemetery of victims of uranium weapons.
A street theatre performance showed the public that the French Ministry of Defence, the Atomic Energy Authorities and arms manufacturer Nexter deliberately ignore peer-reviewed scientific reports that confirm the potential dangers of the military use of depleted uranium.
We asked for a meeting with the French Ambassador or Embassy staff, but no one was available to meet with us that day. This did not prevent us from handing over a letter, a memorandum and a list with demands.
At 2:00PM on the stairs of the Stock Exchange (Beurs) building, Beursplein. banners were attached to the fences, the message ‘for a world without depleted uranium weapons’ drew the attention of the passers-by. Leaflets were handed over with the request to join a letter writing campaign against Nexter, a French weapon producer.
The aim of this action day was to let the French government know once again that it has a responsibility with regard to uranium weapons: their production, testing, sale and maintenance in its arsenal. European and French legislation laying down the basic safety standards for the protection against the dangers of ionizing radiation, prohibits the uncontrolled environmental release of radioactive substances with an activity exceeding 10 becquerels per gram. The use of depleted uranium weapons during armed conflicts violates this legislation because the isotope Uranium-238, which constitutes 99.8% of depleted uranium, has a specific radioactivity of 12,450 becquerels per gram.
In order to protect the health of workers at, and local residents living around the arms manufacturer Nexter, we request that the French government – as a matter of precaution – immediately cease the production, sale and test-firing of depleted uranium weapons.
We demand that France complies with the repeated calls of the European Parliament that NATO and European Union member states take action towards a global ban on depleted uranium weapons. We also demand a more transparent attitude concerning the production, test-firing, international trade and the military use of French uranium weapons.
In Western Europe, France is the only country that currently has the capacity to produce new types of armour-piercing ammunition containing depleted uranium. Officially up to now, France has never deployed depleted uranium weapons in any armed conflicts. It is unclear whether uranium weapons made in France have been used during armed conflicts by other countries.
In the past test firings in Bourges (Cher) and Gramat (Lot) have contaminated the environment with depleted uranium. Local citizens fear that the test-firing of uranium weapons is still continuing.
We call on everyone to write a letter to French arms manufacturer Nexter. You can find a model letter here: http://www.motherearth.org/pages/node/413
Photo credit:Jo Vervoot