Report on the Hearing in the Belgian Parliament organised by the Commission on Defense of the Chamber of Representatives 20 November 2006 - Brussels
The hearing was organised to give members of the Kamer more information on this theme, as there are a number of law proposals to ban the use, sale, production, transport and storage of depleted uranium weapons. These law proposals have been made by Joseph Arens (CDH), Dirk Van Der Maelen (SPA) and Marie Nagy (Ecolo).
The hearing began with evidence from Henk Van der Keur, of Stichting Laka in the Netherlands, who gave an explanation of the composition and properties of depleted uranium, and a short historical overview of the use of depleted
uranium munitions in the 1991 Gulf war and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. His
presentation focused on the dangers of depleted uranium for human health and the environment. He ended by making a call for a worldwide ban on the use of depleted uranium weapons.
The second speaker was Dr Keith Baverstock, former Head of the Radiological
Protection Division of the World Health Organisation. His evidence focused on
the scientific evidence linking DU to impacts on human health, particularly the
health of the civilian populations living in areas contaminated by DU. Dr.
Baverstock explained that although the WHO and Royal Society published reports in 2001 and 2002 which failed to link health impacts to depleted uranium, neither study paid enough attention to the capacity of DU to cause genetic damage to humans.
Dr. Baverstock stated that he believes there is enough evidence to classify depleted uranium as a substance that will probably cause cancer in humans, according to the standards of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a section of the WHO. Following the precautionary principle, this should lead to a moratorium on the use of the weapons, until further conclusive research can be carried out.
The representative of Mecar, a producer of medium and large caliber ammunition, simply stated that his company did not use depleted uranium in its weapons, and would not use depleted uranium in the future.
The reporter of the Commission was convinced of the fact that uranium weapons can cause cancer.
Although there were no voices raised in opposition to the evidence presented by the experts, a number of questions from the members of the commission, raised issues that could not be directly answered by the experts. These will be addressed in future meetings of the commission. Issues included the role of international law and the international humanitarian law in forbidding DU weapons, the use of DU by other defence companies based in Belgium, and the impact of a ban on DU weapons on Belgian, obligations to NATO (specifically the transport of weapons through Antwerp harbour). The ministry of international affairs and the defence industry would be asked to provide information on these matters.
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