Towards a Ban on Uranium Weapons: Report from Day of Action in Geneva 14 November 2005
On Wednesday 9th November, 2005, in Geneva, at the Varembe Conference Centre, close to the UN, there was a co-hosted workshop 'Towards a Ban on Depleted Uranium Weapons', between IPB - the International Peace Bureau, and ICBUW - the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons. The day was chosen to mark 6th November, which three years ago had been set by the UN as the: 'International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.'
Kofi Annan said in a press release for the first observance of the day in 2002 that 'International conventions govern nuclear, chemical and biological weapons but new technologies - such as depleted uranium ammunition - pose as yet unknown threats to the environment. Damage to the environment in war is also an impediment to the restoration of peace and rebuilding society. The lesson to be drawn is that modern warfare needs environmental rules, just as earlier wars highlighted the need to regulate the impact of war on civilians and prisoners of war'.
ICBUW wants to establish those 'rules' with regard to DU munitions.
The workshop, attended by over 40 guests, was opened by Henk van der Keur, of ICBUW, giving an outline of the ICBUW report on the overall world wide increasing opposition to the use, testing, development and trade in DU weapons. Professor Nobuo Kazashi, ICBUW Board member from Japan, gave the background to the movement against DU in Japan and the information, resources and activities being produce there. The growing global concern stems from the knowledge of the increased incidence of cancers, especially among children, and birth deformities in the areas where the munitions have been exploded in battle. Presentations were made on the health and environmental effects of DU munitions by specialists in the fields, including from Dr Keith Baverstock, (formerly Regional Adviser for Radiation and Public Health at the WHO), Professor Michel Fernex of IPPNW (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) Switzerland, Heike Schroder (a researcher on chromosome aberration), and Dr Katsumi Furitsu, (a medical doctor and research worker from Japan).
ICBUW now has a Draft Treaty, drawn up by Manfred Mohr, an international human rights lawyer, which was presented at the conference. The Draft Treaty, calls for, inter alia, a halt to the production, testing, sale, stockpiling, financing, transport and export of these weapons, and a decommissioning of al existing stockpiles. ICBUW also calls for immediate medical assessment, treatment and long term monitoring of all those who have been exposed to uranium weaponry. ICBUW are of the opinion that a treaty banning DU weapons would constitute the best solution for confirming the illegality of DU use. Such a treaty would not only ban the weapons, but would include the prohibition of their production, the destruction of DU stockpiles, decontamination and compensation for victims.
After the presentations, there was a lively discussion on some aspects of the exact whereabouts of the DU bombing by the UK and US (the only countries, as far as is known, definitely to have used DU in conflict) and on the role of the WHO. Representatives of the latter organisation were present at the meeting and promised to look into the matter further.
At the end of the meeting, Mrs Haruko Moritaki, of the NO DU Hiroshima Project, Japan, presented a petition with over 200,000 signatures to Mr Roman-Morey, Deputy Secretary General for the UN Conference on Disarmament. Signatures will continue to be collected until a ban is achieved. The petition is available to download and can be signed on this website.
After the workshop, Colin Archer of IPB, arranged for ICBUW members to attend the Geneva NGO Disarmament Committee meeting. This was most helpful for the ICBUW delegation from countries across Europe and from Japan, to hear something of the structure of the UN and how presentations could be made to different UN bodies, from Colin himself and David Atwood from the Quaker UN office in Geneva. Both promised their support in facilitating meetings and seminars.
The cooperation between IPB and ICBUW worked very well, thanks to the good offices of Colin Archer in Geneva and the whole ICBUW team, notably for this event Ria Verjauw in Belgium, Henk van der Keur from the Netherlands and Manfred Mohr from Germany. Work on particular aspects of disarmament fit well with IPB's focus on 'Disarmament for Development'; it is hoped that this joint work will continue.
Rae Street, ICBUW and IPB, November 05